Perhaps it’s a bit strange why, during hectic days like these, I opted for a detective novel, which is full of questions and mysteries, to read in-bet...morePerhaps it’s a bit strange why, during hectic days like these, I opted for a detective novel, which is full of questions and mysteries, to read in-between my activities. But then books like Christie’s give me comfort because of their certainty. In these books, the truth will be revealed, the culprits will pay, and order will be restored, despite likely at a different equilibrium.
Christie was the master of the genre. After And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, subsequent authors cannot introduce something really new to the whodunnit plots—they merely have to think of the details of who, how, why. Some can only, almost hopelessly, devise murders as gruesome as possible to capture the readers’ attention. And perhaps throw in some references to the Templars/Da Vinci/a secret order, while they’re at it.
I have forgotten how many, and which, Christie’s books I have read. I had the feeling that I’d read After the Funeral previously, but in need of some comforting entertainment, I still chose to pick this copy that my dad owns. And luckily, even if it’s true I’d read it before, I didn’t remember who did the crime. So this (second?) reading still gave me a fresh satisfaction when Poirot pointed his finger, or perhaps his moustache, to the real culprit.
Another thing that hit me home after I finished the book—a revelation so late—was the notion that explains why oftentimes we look at a photograph of ourselves, and think, “Why do I look different in this picture?” We of course compare the picture with the reflected image we see every day in the mirrors. Indeed, when we do look at our photograph, we are looking at a different version of ourselves.
Our bodies, our faces, are never really quite symmetrical. A photograph takes a picture of us with the appearance like other people would see it—not reversed, from the front. But a mirror reverse your back to front*, and then your right and left, and, really, it’s not really you that you see in the mirror. And you know from your own experience how a thing can look quite different by looking at it from a different angle, or when you reverse it on the mirror—an old trick of artists drawing faces to check whether their drawings are ‘alright’ is to hold their work in front of the mirror.
And now I know why I always look better in the mirror. Siiiiigh.
(*This is perhaps quite surprising, but you can try to read a nice book about right/left, Chris McManus’ Right Hand Left Hand.) (less)
The Prince of Bohemia, out of boredom, tried his hand on adventure, along with his faithful Master of the Horse; involving himself - and his royal ser...moreThe Prince of Bohemia, out of boredom, tried his hand on adventure, along with his faithful Master of the Horse; involving himself - and his royal servant - in danger. But when his actions brought a devastating sadness to the colonel, the prince wanted to redeem his mistakes. Could have been made a great movie, but my 21-st century eyes demand more detailed descriptions of events like the duel in the last chapter.(less)
I like a lot of comics, but many of them I only read once before I put them away on my shelves. Perhaps one day when I have no other book to read at h...moreI like a lot of comics, but many of them I only read once before I put them away on my shelves. Perhaps one day when I have no other book to read at hand, I will re-read them; but there are also comics that interest me so that I read them again and again in a matter of days after purchase. Under the Rose is one of them.
I only follow a hunch, actually, when I bought the first volume: I didn’t know the author, never heard of the comic, the synopsis at the back of the book didn’t tell much except that it’s a story of a boy trying to solve the mystery of his mother’s death, and the front cover only showed a boy in a black suit and a Victorian maid holding his shoulders in a manner we could say unusual for a servant towards her master. But something drew me to it, and that something did not disappoint me.
Although never stated clearly, the artwork (which deserves two thumbs up, in my opinion) set the story in Victorian era. Grace, the only daughter of a marquis, smeared shame on the name of her family, whose glory was failing, by becoming the mistress of an earl. (The translation says a count, something that perhaps belongs to the author or translator not realising that the title is not used for English nobility.) The earl himself, Arthur, had been married and had had four sons from his legal wife, Anna. (The fifth child, a girl, died at birth.)
Grace bore Arthur two sons, Linus and Lawrence, which she whisked away to their grandfather’s house. A mother of two, a mistress of an earl, Grace was above all a poet and a socialite: refusing to be tied by rules, surrounding herself with admirers and people of prominence. And one day, she fell in what was declared as an accident from the earl’s manor. Her death made the earl decided to adopt Linus and Lawrence and brought them into his household.
Now, the main character is Linus—but I cannot say he’s agreeable. Spoiled, rude, full of anger, Linus was soon to be a misfit in Arthur’s house. It seems like he hated his mother for not spending enough time with him and his brother, and for living such a luscious life, but he decided to investigate his mother’s death for an end I still cannot fathom. Perhaps he was just overcome by envy of the serene and happy life in the earl’s house, and he wanted to make their lives as fucked up as his was.
Linus was to be surprised by some of his discoveries. First, Grace hadn’t been Arthur’s only mistress. There’s a commoner, Margaret, who also bore him two sons, and lived not far away from his manor. The sons went along well with Arthur’s legitimate children, and it appears that before Linus came, everyone had lived peacefully and loved each other without really questioning Arthur’s keeping mistresses and siring children out of wedlock, except perhaps for his wife Anna and Arthur’s sister, Morgause. (Yes, yes, Arthur and Morgause. Will get back to that later.)
Second, Grace apparently was loved by everyone in the household, even Margaret and her sons. Servants would swear how Grace had offered, and given, great love, help and consolation to everyone, even to Anna. Was there anyone who would want to murder her?
Third, it turned out that Grace was not truly happy; she found comfort in and was addicted to alcohol and opium—which perhaps explains why Arthur got so mad when he found out that Linus often took opium pills to alleviate pains. Could this have something to do with her death? Are there things that the people living in the manor still hide?
Now—about the allusion to Arthurian legends in this comic. Arthur, Morgause – and it just so happened that Linus was the fifth son just like Mordred. I am itching to know whether the allusion is just something of fancy or really means something. Morgause seems to know something, or at least suspicious, of the true paternity of Linus. Will have to wait for the second volume to know all the answers.
Interesting characters (I just really love Albert, the womanizer first son), intriguing mystery, nice artwork, the development of a setting and world that do not feel naïve (as in ‘Oooh I want to make something that looks Victorian! And dark! And Gothic! But to hell with research and details!), drive me to write this long review. In short, I highly recommend Under the Rose.
PS2 There is a supernatural element showing up in the story, when William, the second son, saw an apparition that led him to a place of the dead body of someone deeply involved in the case. Very Victorian literature. (less)
The translation aside, this book is disappointing: the case might be 'sensational' and 'sadistic', bu...moreNumber one, the translation caused me a headache.
The translation aside, this book is disappointing: the case might be 'sensational' and 'sadistic', but the way the case is solved did not satisfy me. I think that there are still questions left unanswered. And seriously, those ghosts are unnecessary, something like disturbing Holmes' world of logic. The ghosts would fit a Professor Challenger story, but in Italian Secretary it only boiled down to raised eyebrows (of the reader, which was me, that is).(less)
Urm, yeah, when I came across this book, it looked promising. Wow! Science, detective story, and art meshing into one book for children! But I was not...moreUrm, yeah, when I came across this book, it looked promising. Wow! Science, detective story, and art meshing into one book for children! But I was not impressed by the mystery solving that leaned more on mere hunches than true logical reasoning.(less)
Somehow I found reading the Indonesian version more interesting than the original English. But a fascinating plot anyway. The kind of book that makes y...moreSomehow I found reading the Indonesian version more interesting than the original English. But a fascinating plot anyway. The kind of book that makes you "Ooooh... I should have known!" when the mystery is unraveled.(less)
Horatio, the scientist cum sleuth is back with his third adventure, in which some shadowy figures are trying to build a machine that will destroy the...moreHoratio, the scientist cum sleuth is back with his third adventure, in which some shadowy figures are trying to build a machine that will destroy the Tseiqins in London once and for all. Although Horatio has a bitter relationship with the Tseiqins, now he has to decide whether he is cruel-hearted enough to let every one of them slain without mercy. And although Horatio thinks he doesn't really care about humanity, he has to face an experience in which all his morals and values are tested.
My favourite quote: "An atheist?" "Worse. A scientist."(less)