Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

13th June 2012

*I bought this book (and want every one of these with the new covers put out by Harper Collins).

From the back cover (because I’m still exhausted from New York):

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

Toward the end of the spring semester, my students and I read an ESL version of Death on the Nile. Keep in mind, we read this on the heels of two other detective novels: one, a sort of Sam Spade, down-and-out detective novel and Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. My students did not take kindly to Monsieur Poirot. After the other detectives, they couldn’t understand why Poirot kept allowing people to get killed. “2 bodies!” “5 bodies!” they’d exclaim. “And he doesn’t give us any hints!”

As an avid mystery reader, this would also be my complaint about Poirot. So pompous, and he keeps things so close to his chest, proclaiming again and again that he knows the killer without letting on what exactly gave him the idea. Ah, Poirot, you madden me. Yet, I’m still a sucker for it. This mystery in particular was one I enjoyed just because the victim was so dastardly. When his past comes to light, and the suspects express their happiness for his untimely end, you can understand why. Each passenger has an express reason to want the victim dead, and the end result is one I was both surprised and pleased with, in terms of mystery telling. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery quite like this one.

Also, in contrast with Ms. Marple, whose exploits are very often close to home, Poirot is the exotic traveler, unfamiliar with his surroundings, yet in his element all at once. I read a few other Poirot toward the end of last year and wasn’t sure if I’d continue with him or not, but Murder on the Orient Express has changed my mind. I’ll still be grumpy about my own limitations and inability to determined the killer, and I’m sure I’ll complain about Monsieur Poirot as well, but as Lawrence Block says on the back of this book, “Agatha Christie is something special.”

Audiobook Review: The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

24th August 2011

Agatha Christie continues to astound me. I am sure you guys have noticed my Shelfari sidebar and the fact that it keeps flashing more Agatha Christie titles, but I can’t help myself. First, I listened to And Then There Were None. Then I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Secret Adversary. This week I listened to The Man in the Brown Suit, on your many recommendations.

The woman was a versatile writer, which may just be the understatement of the last half a century. The Man in the Brown Suit, in case you are a non-mystery-reader (we can still be friends), I have to tell you up front, is more of a romantic jaunt, in the literary sense of the word. After finishing it yesterday, all I wanted to do was drink buckets of champagne and interject the words “loads” and “simply” into every sentence.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anne Beddingfield is raised by her anthropologist father, a well-known academic but a poor man more wrapped up in the dead than the living. After he dies, Anne refuses a more “suitable” arrangement and determines to find adventure like she has read in the (most likely salacious) The Perils of Pamela. Adventure finds her when a man on the train platform near her falls to his death after seeing something behind Anne that frightens him. The doctor who tends to the man wears a brown suit, and after he leaves hurriedly, Anne has her suspicions as to whether or not he is actually a doctor. The plot thickens, as they say, and hot on a clue, she knows she has found her adventure, setting off for South Africa, only to wind up with much more than she ever bargained while traveling with a hodgepodge group: Suzanne Bailey, Sir Eustace Pedler and his suspect secretaries Padgett and Rauburn, and Colonel Race.

The novel is told from Anne’s recollections but also from the diary of Sir Eustace Pedler. Ah, Sir Eustace, he likes his domesticity and hates to be put out. While Suzanne and Anne exist, he is put out. They just don’t act as women should, yet he admits he doesn’t really understand women. He complains a lot, about the weather, his secretaries, and South Africa, yet he is absolutely loveable and quite an important figure in the novel.

Anne – and Emilia Fox, who did a marvelous job narrating – have me wanting to walk around affecting an accent. Anne is full of grit and doesn’t frighten easily. She is practical in many ways, but she knows her life is not meant to be dour and domestic. She is, in many ways, a precursor to Nancy Drew. She is the girl we – or at least, I – want to be.

Between the two, there are hijinks aplenty, and the novel is part travelogue, mystery, and romance all in one. There wasn’t a single second I was disappointed in this book…until it ended.

Read this: and dream of the wilds of South Africa, train travel, and refinement. Maybe have a cup of tea to revive you when you realize you’ve never had such an adventure.

P.S. If you aren’t big into audiobooks but would like to try them out, I would say start with Agatha Christie. The books lend themselves very well to the format, and they are just such fun to listen to!

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

15th August 2011

Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley are old friends who haven’t seen one another since the war. Broke and out of work, the two form The Young Adventurers, Ltd., a business in which the two will advertise in the paper as “willing to do anything.” Before they can even place an ad, a Mr. Whittington hires Tuppence, but when she gives her name as “Jane Finn,” a name Tommy overheard in the cafe, Tuppence is swiftly ushered out. She and Tommy place an ad for Jane Finn after things seem a bit fishy, and they receive two responses, one from a “Mr. Carter” who works for the British government, and one from Julius Hersheimmer, an American who claims he is looking for his cousin. Who is his cousin? None other than the elusive Ms. Finn who hasn’t been seen since a spy entrusted her with documents as she was evacuated from the Lusitania.

What follows is a madcap adventure, full of false identities, poison, double crossings, suspicions, a mysterious Mr. Brown, and all sorts of other tomfoolery. In many ways, I was reminded of M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series; however, there is much more meat to the mystery here, and Agatha Christie kept me guessing. I did, indeed, point my finger to the right crook, but it took me quite a while to get there.

This was the first Tommy and Tuppence novel, and I am eager to follow them into their next foray. I am pretty confident it will be high fun!

P.S. Read this book for free on your computer or ereader, thanks to Project Gutenberg.

P.P.S. Anytime I see the word “adversary,” I think of this scene from What Women Want…

 

#fridayreads take me away…

8th July 2011

#fridayreads take me away is a weekly meme to celebrate the start of the weekend and the glorious day of reading whatever the heck you want. I’d love for you to join!

What is Friday Reads/#fridayreads? Readers around the world join together in community to support one another and celebrate the simple joys of reading. Readers can win prizes for participating commenting on the Friday Reads blog, the Facebook page, or tweeting your book with the #fridayreads hashtag.

What is #fridayreadstake me away? It is a new meme for readers/bloggers. I have noticed different readers/ bloggers apologize for a certain book or phase of reading. I say, read. Period. Whether it’s a magazine you’ve saved up for Friday afternoon or evening or a mystery, romance novel, sci-fi, bodice ripper, or New York Times bestseller, Friday is about doing what we love most: reading.

How does it work?

-Figure out what your Friday/weekend read will be

-Blog about why it’s perfect weekend reading and why you recommend it

-Grab my button and add it to your post

-Come back and add your URL to the Simply Linked URL box

-Visit participating blogs to see what they recommend

-Enjoy your weekend

What if I don’t have a blog?

Tell me what you’re reading anyway. Let me know if you need a great suggestion. I’m full of them, and I’m bossy, as are a lot of other people around these parts. 🙂

 

**psst – tell your friends about #fridayreads take me away. if we can get enough participants, i plan on doing a giveaway.


 

Audiobook review: And Then There Were None

30th June 2011

*You can purchase the audio from Audible or the print version from Indiebound.

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;

One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Indian boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Indian boy left all alone;

He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Ah, folk songs and nursery rhymes. So sweet. So simple. So nice to fall asleep to… Wait, no they’re actually not. Ten people die in the one above – and pretty nastily, might I add. Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty – well, we know what happens to them. Rough stuff, peeps. Best not to think about it.

Agatha Christie, though, oh ho, she thought about it, and the rhyme above now scares the pants off me, thankyouverymuch. You see, ten people, introduced in the first chapters of the book, are all heading to Indian Island, under very different pretenses. Invitations to see old friends, offers of employ, and free vacations to check out a new place have all been issued to lure these particular guests. Yet, when all the guests arrive at the house on Indian Island, no hosts are present. Instead, each guest has a room with the above nursery rhyme hung on the wall, and there are ten little china Indian figurines centered on the dining room table…until they begin disappearing as rapidly as the guests die off.

And that, my friends, is how to set the scene. No one else is on the island, and there is no hope of getting off it, leaving the ten people to think about just what they did to land themselves in such a deadly predicament, each hoping against hope he or she will be the one to survive. [insert scary echoing laugh here.]

I listened to this on audiobook as a way to get myself to the gym. Not only did I go to the gym, I stayed on the machine much longer than normal then decided to return to lay out by the pool and listen. I have read a lot of mysteries in my time, so I kept waiting for the moment when I would figure out the identity of the murderer. Not gonna happen. Not only did I not guess, but I was blown away by the ending of this book and listened to it a couple of times in disbelief that my mystery-genius-ness failed me. And Hugh Fraser? He was excellent in keeping the characters separate without driving me crazy with different pitches. It’s difficult to describe, but he gave each character a slightly unique inflection while still not disrupting the flow of the reading. I have already added some of Hugh Fraser’s other narrations to my wish list on Audible.com.

I know some of you out there are big Agatha Christie fans. I read several in high school, but it was a pretty (cough cough) long time ago. Any recommendations on which I just have to read next? And have audiobooks made you do anything out of character recently? After all, it’s the last day of June, which IS Audiobook Month…

jenn aka the picky girl