Not a particularly good book or mystery. The biggest surprise is how much better Agatha Christie became with her later books. Miss Marple is already dNot a particularly good book or mystery. The biggest surprise is how much better Agatha Christie became with her later books. Miss Marple is already delightful here, but not much else in the book is memorable. The characters are paper-thin and drawn with disdain. The use of first person narration (by the vicar) is most unfortunate. It forces the author to jump through ludicrous hoops to put her point of view character on the spot to record the events (and police interrogations) of the story. In short, if this were the only Miss Marple mystery, you'd never see her portrayed (and often masterfully) in movies or on TV. ...more
These are the Edwardian equivalent of Michael Crichton books or Irwin Allen disaster movies. The stories show London suffering under a series of calamThese are the Edwardian equivalent of Michael Crichton books or Irwin Allen disaster movies. The stories show London suffering under a series of calamities: an impenetrable and choking cloud of smog; a new strain of diptheria; a paralyzing winter storm; explosions in the London Tube; a deadly tainted water supply; and a cleverly manipulated financial collapse. The author is at his best in contriving terrible circumstances to afflict the city and imagining the effects they have on a variety of citizens. There is a formula to the stories-- some smart gentleman has been warning for years that a certain danger could come to pass, but his warnings have been ignored. Fortunately, the same individual has also come up with some solution to the disaster, if only the powers that be are willing to implement it. There's not much to the characters, and there are moments of unintentional humor (such as the characters who go out in the lung-clogging smog and light up cigarettes). Nonetheless White's imaginative disasters are genuinely interesting and the stories are entertaining....more
This out-of-print book has been widely recommended on the Internet and it does not disappoint. The title character is a precocious 14-year old girl, wThis out-of-print book has been widely recommended on the Internet and it does not disappoint. The title character is a precocious 14-year old girl, who uses sex and amazing insight into the psychological and emotional weaknesses of others to manipulate the adults around her. The description of the "Amorous Narcissist" personality type (from Wikipedia, citing Psychologist Theodore Millon) sums up her character quite well: "Sexually seductive, enticing, beguiling, tantalizing; glib and clever; disinclines real intimacy; indulges hedonistic desires; bewitches and inveigles others; pathological lying and swindling." Elizabeth comes from a long line of witches ("cunning folk"), which she believes gives her special powers and wisdom. The only person Elizabeth truly cares for is Frances, a witch ancestor who speaks to Elizabeth from the mirrors of the house.
What really makes this book work is Elizabeth's "voice" in the first person narration. The writing is knowing and assured, and brilliantly skewers those around her with contempt. The book is short and a very quick read.
The book's main drawback is that, for all her pathological self-centeredness, Elizabeth really has a mundane and straightforward goal. [Mild spoiler alert]: (view spoiler)[She just wants to lead a pleasantly hedonistic life and only lashes out at those who threaten that state of affairs. Although this was true to her character, I couldn't help but wish that she'd had some graver, more villainous motives for her actions. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more