One can spend a bunch of time laying out the mystery of the ABC Murders, but since this is a review of the audio edition, I thought I'd focus on that.One can spend a bunch of time laying out the mystery of the ABC Murders, but since this is a review of the audio edition, I thought I'd focus on that.
This version, published by BBC Audiobooks, features Hugh Fraser, the TV Captain Hastings to David Suchet's TV Hercule Poirot, as the narrator. Given that the story is told from Hasting's perspective, this works quite well. Furthermore, his performance is quite influenced by his experiences working with Suchet and the other cast members of the series. Fraser's Poirot is quite Suchet-esque. Similarly, his Japp is evocative of Philip Jackson's portrayal.
Even if you've not seen the classic Poirot TV series, Fraser's reading is entertaining and accessible. Worth listening if you've got a long car ride or commute.
Iris Marle struggles with her sister's suicide. The details never quite added up. Her guardian, who also happens to be the widower, struggles even morIris Marle struggles with her sister's suicide. The details never quite added up. Her guardian, who also happens to be the widower, struggles even moreso, because he has received a note saying that it wasn't a suicide at all.
But if that's the case, that means the murderer was one of their close friends. Was it the ambitious politician? His Lady Macbeth wife? The mysterious lothario who may be dealing in illegal arms? The assistant who secretly longs for her boss' affections? Or was it the young Iris, who would inherit a great fortune?
Late to the party is the investigator Colonel Race, whose presence is only a catalyst to loosing some of the threads of this Gordian knot, leaving much to be desired as the story ultimately unravels. While the logic of the mystery is solid and the mystery reasonable, it doesn't hold together quite as well as some of Christie's other stories. Race himself is largely unnecessary except to provide legitimacy to one suspect's peculiar behavior.
Is it entertaining? Yes. Would I count it among Christie's best? No....more
Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy is on her way home from a shopping trip when her train pulls alongside another. On freak happenstance, as she is watching ovMrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy is on her way home from a shopping trip when her train pulls alongside another. On freak happenstance, as she is watching over to the other train, she spies a tall, dark, man strangling a woman to death.
But when no body is found and no one is reported missing, who will believe her? Only Miss Marple can divine the truth and, with the help of Miss Lucy Eyelesbarrow, she sets out to find the victim, to prove a murder even happened. What they encounter is a wealthy family, trapped within an onerous inheritance contract and, potentially, a plot to winnow down their number so only one descendant can profit.
This was a fun volume and I enjoyed it immensely. Miss Marple's, arguably Agatha Christie's power, is as much in to whom she says things, and what she doesn't say, as to what she actually does. That said, I have a quibble or two with some of the later twists, which feel a bit too convenient for my taste.
That said, you can't really go wrong with Christie, and certainly not with this volume....more
Hercule Poirot has been retired for some time, but when he receives a letter, a challenge from a mysterious A.B.C., he is drawn into a series of murdeHercule Poirot has been retired for some time, but when he receives a letter, a challenge from a mysterious A.B.C., he is drawn into a series of murders where the perpetrator kills not out of a desire to harm some particular person, or type, but simply follows alphabetic sequence. How many letters will fall before Poirot and Hastings can find the killer?
The A.B.C. Murders was the first Agatha Christie novel I ever read, somewhere around age ten or twelve. Up to that point, the only mysteries I had read were some children's adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. This was a revelation that brought complexity, nuance, and emotion into the mystery genre in a way I hadn't read before.
Reading it around thirty years later, I missed so much back then. There is an underlying conflict between youthful energy and aged wisdom as well as some subtle digs at xenophobia or at least the English self-image.
That said, having read it before, I did recall the resolution, so I rather enjoyed spotting the clues along the way, even if the ending was not a surprise. A fun novel and good mystery. ...more
Phryne Fisher is wiling away the postwar twenties in England with little to entertain her. The men are mostly boring and so she uses her quick wit toPhryne Fisher is wiling away the postwar twenties in England with little to entertain her. The men are mostly boring and so she uses her quick wit to keep the players honest. After solving a jewel theft in the Andrews' manor house, she asked to go to Australia to investigate mysterious circumstances surrounding their daughter. What follows is a light, fluffy, mystery with much darker undertones for careful readers.
Kerry Greenwood knows her subject, her other occupation is a defense attorney, and her attention to detail is delightful. The characters mostly leap from the page and if there's any significant complaint, it's that perhaps Miss Fisher is a little too modern for her setting. But that's not to say there wasn't a person like her during the period and Greenwood certainly makes it fun.
I had seen the TV series first, so the mystery was not a surprise for me. But I do wonder if it would have been anyway. It seemed pretty obvious from my, admittedly omniscient, perspective. That said the book's scant 175 pages keep the pace brisk and none of it is dull, even when you can mostly anticipate the outcome. I look forward to the next one....more
When all of Fabletown's fairest are endangered, it is up to Cinderella, secret agent extraordinaire, to save them.
Morgan Le Fay and Mrs. (The woman aWhen all of Fabletown's fairest are endangered, it is up to Cinderella, secret agent extraordinaire, to save them.
Morgan Le Fay and Mrs. (The woman at the) Ford are murdered and, with Bigby out of commission thanks to the events of Fables Snow White, Mayor Cole asks Cinderella to investigate the case. Using Briar Rose's enchanted car, she chases after the murderer only to find victim after victim, always in pairs, as she fails to stop them from being killed. Meanwhile, in the lost business office, the Mirror has discovered that things are being hidden from its all-seeing gaze and that can only happen for one reason. Will Cinderella be able to save the remaining Fairest in All the Land in time or will she ultimately find the murderer waiting for her in the end?
Bill Willingham put this side collaboration together with a multitude of artists but, despite the occasional clash of styles, they generally work well within the framework of the Fables. style. While I can't say the mystery is the greatest, there are entertaining moments and some fun elements that enrich the overall story.
Definitely worth reading if you follow the series as a whole, but those who've not followed it may feel lost.
Lydia Carlton is a master of a dying profession, fairy doctor. Edgar Ashenbert may be the descendant of an ancient fairy with a dark secret. When sheLydia Carlton is a master of a dying profession, fairy doctor. Edgar Ashenbert may be the descendant of an ancient fairy with a dark secret. When she gets caught up in an intrigue to find the lost symbol of his heritage, will she survive?
It's got potential, I guess. Light & fluffy like shojo tends to be but not wowing me so far. But it's undemanding enough that if someone recommends it to you it's not painful....more
In a horrendous regression from her recent work in the series, Kathy Reichs reverts back to her procedural roots in a story that is obvious, unsurprisIn a horrendous regression from her recent work in the series, Kathy Reichs reverts back to her procedural roots in a story that is obvious, unsurprising, and, frankly, just unentertaining.
Three sets of bones are found in the basement of a pizza parlour (it's Quebecois, with a u!) and they turn out to belong to missing girls. What these girls have fallen into isn't terribly surprising, nor is there really an opportunity to develop mystery, because it becomes pretty clear who the killer is as soon as the limited necessary information is introduced.
That's the real problem with this volume. It takes up 300 pages because Reichs denies Brennan reasonably determinable information or reasonable conclusions based upon already presented evidence solely to keep the book from ending too soon. Instead we get delayed by the stop-start relationship of Ryan, the addition of a friend in distress, and just "things take time" None of it is particuarly entertaining and I thought we had overcome the hitches with Ryan in the previous volume. I suppose I should be thankful that at least our add-on friend/family member was not actually caught up in the plot like so many previous ones.
If you are a completist, go ahead and read this. Otherwise, I think it's time to drop-out....more
Kathy Reichs writes her best dialog to date, but provides a less satisfying mystery in this volume.
Temperance Brennan is finally getting a chance forKathy Reichs writes her best dialog to date, but provides a less satisfying mystery in this volume.
Temperance Brennan is finally getting a chance for a weekend away with her new beau when disaster strikes in the form of a small plane crash and the discovery of a skull leads her into the world of smuggling where she uncovers that some people move more than drugs illegally.
I won't get into a discussion of who her beau is, as that is left up in the air in the last volume. I will, however, mention that him showing up as a romantic lead provides a refreshing counterpoint for Brennan. The interplay is strong and the two provide a needed levity to the serious or data heavy moments. Reichs still does her usual info dumps, but it's (mostly) easier to get through with her partner alongside.
On the other hand, things tie up very neatly (again)in this volume with only one minor distraction from the major plot. Things are too interconnected and that's where it makes you question the world in which Brennan lives. Reichs did a better job of that in Grave Secrets when not everything was connected even when characters thought it would be.
The other concern I have about this book is that Reichs has again turned it into her own personal soapbox. I won't get into the details, too spoilery, but much like Grave Secrets' discussion of stem cells, this book covers an area of controversy and shoehorns an even clumsier diatribe on the topic as Brennan reads a magazine article to her beau on the topic.
Still, this is probably the most enjoyable of her books that I've read, and I'm willing to read another....more
Kathy Reichs provides a logical change of setting, gives us a convincing red herring plot, and manages to integrate contemporary (for 2003) subject maKathy Reichs provides a logical change of setting, gives us a convincing red herring plot, and manages to integrate contemporary (for 2003) subject matter into a book that finishes much better than it starts.
Moving from her comfort zones of North Carolina and Alberta, Reichs sets this story in Guatemala where Temperance Brennan is excavating victims of the country's civil war. While there, she is asked to consult on a case involving four missing girls which leads into a larger web of corruption.
Reichs still has her normal foibles: large infodump passages, Ryan is shoehorned in though it actually makes some sense this time, and the mystery is easily deciphered. But, after a slow muddle through the first portion, it ends very well and Reichs even manages to build anticipation for the next volume....more
An airplane crashes in the Carolina mountains and anthropologist Temperance Brennan is called in to help with identifying the victims. When she stumblAn airplane crashes in the Carolina mountains and anthropologist Temperance Brennan is called in to help with identifying the victims. When she stumbles upon a body part that doesn't belong to the crash, she encounters a conspiracy that puts her life at risk.
There's been an interesting evolution in Kathy Reichs' writing. She's gone from straight procedural, to more standard Christie-esque mystery, to more of a thriller in this one. It's an interesting experiment to see how she develops her writing. But there's a problem. (view spoiler)[In this book, she recycles the major elements of her first three, ritual killing, cults, and motorcycle gangs. While these elements have varying degrees of impact, it still feels like it's a melange of her previous work (hide spoiler)]
But if one is able to leave that aside, the book as a standalone does a reasonable job of entertaining the reader. Brennan is pretty consistently in character and her decision making serves the character more than the plot, something Reichs occasionally failed to do in her earlier books. A nice diversion and eventually I might get around to book five, but I feel no urgency to race to it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Kathy Reichs stretches herself further, yet doesn't seem to have overcome the flaws in her earlier works. This time, Temperance Brennan is drawn intoKathy Reichs stretches herself further, yet doesn't seem to have overcome the flaws in her earlier works. This time, Temperance Brennan is drawn into the world of motorcycle gangs when she joins the anti-gang unit after a girl is killed during a hit.
While Reichs does improve her depiction of Montreal, she relies on a technique that didn't work last volume. A family member is brought onto the scene who doesn't behave the same as he did in his appearance last novel and, despite being an out of towner, is already involved in the major plot before Temperance involves him. It stretches credibility.
Furthermore, everything is connected. All the major involved characters are somehow directly related back to the plot. It's too convenient. Likewise, she (too) conveniently provides a link back to a killing her home state in North Carolina. Death follows in Temperance Brennan's wake and it's only been three books.
Reichs clearly did a great deal of research on the novel and it shows. Unfortunately, it shows itself by occasional deep information dumps. Sections on blood splatter & motorcycles are shoehorned into the story unconvincingly. It feels like Reichs felt she needed to show her work, or just pad her page count, to make it believable.
There are a few bright spots though. Her depiction of action has improved and Brennan does get some nice character moments. Still, I feel that there are better options out there if you need a mystery to read....more
I'm going to struggle with this review because I didn't give China Mieville enough credit. That's an odd way to start, but I believe it's a fair asses
I'm going to struggle with this review because I didn't give China Mieville enough credit. That's an odd way to start, but I believe it's a fair assessment. After reading, and being disappointed by, The City and The City last year, I thought Mieville was creative but occasionally sloppy.
The eponymous creature is a specimen in a tank in a museum where our protagonist works. When the creature is stolen, all hell breaks loose in London. Was it the Kraken worshiping cult? The magical ganglord? Or someone else? This establishes the foundation of a story that explores the nature of belief, moreso than traditional fantasy elements of magic.
Given the subject, and the mention of religion, it's tempting to think of this as being Lovecraftian. But it's not. It's thoroughly modern and enlightened, and while Mieville retains something of the incomprehensible nature in his tentacled not-quite deity, it's also clear that humanity is the true power in this story, and the most destructive force is humanity itself.
Returning to my opening salvo, Mieville's apparent sloppiness isn't quite misdirection, but because I did not give him the benefit of the doubt, I disregarded clues to the ultimate resolution which is both clever and entertaining. Definitely worth reading and strongly recommended.
This is the second of these "reader" style books I've come across and they're similarly lacking in entertainment for the participating adult. In bothThis is the second of these "reader" style books I've come across and they're similarly lacking in entertainment for the participating adult. In both cases there is no real antagonist and, perhaps it's just a coincidence, I get the feeling that someone was intentionally doing sanitized versions.
Still, pretty good for a child who likes Scooby-Doo and is beginning to read....more
While the book continues to generally hew to its procedurKathy Reichs improves on her first novel, Deja Dead with reduced gore and increased mystery.
While the book continues to generally hew to its procedural conventions, Death du Jour, does actually introduce a series of characters and potential suspects before the evidence and police come upon the answer. The increase in social interaction doesn't eliminate all of the gore. After all, you're reading a book about a forensic anthropologist, there's going to be some. But it tones it down and focuses more on Brennan's role analyzing the effects of trauma on bone and identifying victims. This makes that portion more palatable to those who are less concerned about the effects of knife wounds on flesh and more on how the angle of entry demonstrates the likely height of the killer.
It's not all roses though. While Reichs does bring more social interaction into it, there are a few too many convenient coincidences to hold the plot together. I won't get into detail for fear of spoilers, but let's just say that it feels like murder follows Temperance Brennan the same way it followed Jessica Fletcher. It's understandable why they relocated the TV version to DC to allow the characters more freedom of movement.
Still, I liked this one and will keep reading....more
Shallow, trashy, tawdry, and titillating in a way that appeals to 14 year-old boys (well 14 year old boys inI won this book in a First Read's giveaway
Shallow, trashy, tawdry, and titillating in a way that appeals to 14 year-old boys (well 14 year old boys in the late 80s, I suppose), if you know what Heavy Metal and pulp fiction are then you know exactly what you're going to get in this volume.
Women are objectified, the hero is virile yet chivalrously chaste (in that order), unless the woman in question is a prostitute and then she's clearly begging for it, and cliched dystopian conspiracies abound. As much as I didn't like the book, I can't really bring myself to hate it.
It's like the parable of the scorpion and the frog, Heavy Metal Pulp: Pleasure Model: Netherworld Book One knows what its nature is and I can't really blame it for doing a good job of being itself. Even if the itself in question is something I don't particularly like.
It's hard to develop a conclusion about Thomas Pynchon's latest book in much the same way Pynchon doesn't really develop a resolution to Inherent ViceIt's hard to develop a conclusion about Thomas Pynchon's latest book in much the same way Pynchon doesn't really develop a resolution to Inherent Vice.
A hippie-noir about a stoner detective, Doc Sportello, caught in the mostly typical dealings of Chinatown/L.A. Confidential, California. Vice treads a twisted path through any number of players, all of whom are caught up in the nascent machine of post free-love society.
Pynchon knows his protagonist, gives him enough honor to be noir yet enough drugs to be lost most of the time, but the character's incoherence disorients the reader as well and at times one is left to wonder just who is to whom and how.
There are admirably understated themes of paranoia and control, but the underlying sense of community and certain characters' lack thereof, are perhaps the most pervasive. While Sportello and his niche are left behind in the sixties, the rest of society has moved on into an unsettling and isolating place where everyone is together alone.
**spoiler alert** An unfortunately predictable but otherwise acceptable procedural novel.
Kathy Reichs' protagonist annoyingly shifts between real wor**spoiler alert** An unfortunately predictable but otherwise acceptable procedural novel.
Kathy Reichs' protagonist annoyingly shifts between real world-ish depiction and purely literary. For instance, the character is a recovering alcoholic, but the issue has no impact on the story aside from occasionally wanting something to drink (well, aside from the amusement factor of having an alcoholic named Temperance). Yet, there are a number of cases where the decisions the protagonist makes serve plot purposes in lieu of reasonable characterization.
Similarly, Reichs sets the story in Montreal, which should provide some flavor, but uses an expatriate protagonist who thinks like an American, yet isn't uncomfortable in locale. It creates a blander than expected final product.
The actual plot, stereotypical serial killer, is well covered, if grisly. Reichs, as noted above, follows the procedural model where suspects aren't really trotted out for consideration as much as arrests are made which eventually turn out to be false leads. It's more realistic than a traditional murder mystery, but also leaves the villain anonymous and lacking in character until the final reveal....more
Is it odd that I liked most everything about this aside from the mystery? I guess I should start from the beginning.
Stieg Larsson begins with a disgraIs it odd that I liked most everything about this aside from the mystery? I guess I should start from the beginning.
Stieg Larsson begins with a disgraced reporter who is hired to investigate the death of an industrial family's heiress in the guise of writing a history of said family. As he researches, he encounters the titular character who is talented but damaged.
The two protagonists dig deeper into the victim's life story, they discover that all is not what it seems and to what lengths a family might go to hide its secrets.
The characterization is admittedly uneven, the commentary a bit meta at points, but the stark depiction of the Scandinavian existence brings you into Sweden in a way that Kathy Reichs has not managed to do with Montreal in her Temperance Brennan series. You feel the cold and isolation as characters ponder their fates.
Where Larsson really misteps is the mystery itself. First is introductory notes for each section which announce the theme of the work. It's clear that these will fit into the story but, sadly, not in a surprising manner. Once you begin amassing clues, the likely options quickly diminish and each additional clue further points in the same direction.
That said, the book just feels different, perhaps because of the author's native setting, perhaps because what emotions he allows his characters to have are genuine and visceral, and provides something that makes it worth reading.