As everyone probably knows by now, The Cuckoo's Calling is a murder mystery novel by Robert Galbraith, a pen name for the author of the Harry Potter s...moreAs everyone probably knows by now, The Cuckoo's Calling is a murder mystery novel by Robert Galbraith, a pen name for the author of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling. If you come into The Cuckoo's Calling having only read The Harry Potter series, you're probably going to be in for a bit of a shock, as it reads very differently from the children's fantasy books. But if you've read JK Rowling's previous adult work, The Casual Vacancy, you'll begin to see the similarities right away. Written with a high degree of skill, The Cuckoo's Calling can surely drag in places, but it is ultimately a novel that rewards its reader for their patience by delivering a solid murder mystery featuring a worthwhile sleuth.
The Cuckoo's Calling tells the story of Cormoran Strike, a veteran of Afghanistan working as a private detective. At the beginning of the book, he is hired to nvestigate the death of a model, Lula Landry. Her brother thinks there may be something more behind this supposed suicide, and turns to Strike for help. The book then continues with many scenes of questioning witnesses and suspects, leaving little room for action or suspense. As a result, The Cuckoo's Calling is not a book that is going to have you turning the pages in excitement. Instead, the emphasis here is on character, and for the most part, it works. I enjoyed watching the back and forth between Strike and his temporary secretary Robin, a smart young woman with a secret love for mysteries. Some of the people Strike encounters on his way are more interesting then others, but for the most part it's enough to keep the book moving. And the mystery, although it hits a few familiar beats (even I, as someone who doesn't read a lot of mysteries, recognize that), there are enough surprises in it to keep you from getting too comfortable.
It appears that JK Rowling has fine a nice new niche for herself with The Cuckoo's Calling. I found I enjoyed it on a similar level to The Casual Vacancy, and appreciated the fact that it it felt a little more focused. I will be checking out the second book in the series when it makes its way to my library next year.(less)
Solving murder mysteries is an every day occurrence for Detective Hercule Poirot, but how will his “little grey cells” measure up against four brillia...moreSolving murder mysteries is an every day occurrence for Detective Hercule Poirot, but how will his “little grey cells” measure up against four brilliant adversaries? Poirot and Arthur Hastings first learn about the existence of The Big Four when approached by a stranger who unfortunately dies before he is able to reveal the whole truth. Poirot soon finds himself obsessed with unmasking and defeating The Big Four. Will our hero emerge victorious, or will he find himself as one of the Four's victims?
Agatha Christie is the author I usually turn to when I find myself in the mood for a mystery. Unfortunately, it's impossible to write as much as Christie did during her in lifetime without occasionally coming across a dud. Unlike other Poirot novels, the storyline in The Big Four reminded me less of a quirky murder mystery, and more of James Bond. Although I typically applaud authors for trying something new, it's a risk that doesn't always pan out. Hastings and Poirot are unconvincing as action stars, and the elements that normally make Poirot's cases so compelling are noticeably absent. Part of Poirot’s appeal is although we watch his methods, we never see his master plan until it is revealed to us, in all it's impressive intricacy, at the end of the book. In this novel, there is no satisfying build up of evidence for us to follow. Instead there are several mysteries that are solved at a rapid pace. This time Poirot's solutions seem less brilliant than haphazardly thrown together. The fact that he is always right in in his reasoning seems less impressive than contrived.
Another area where the novel falls short is characterization. Christie's books are typically populated with fun, quirky characters who are made more intriguing when you realize that any one of them could be the killer. The members of the Big Four on the other hand never develop much above bland, mustache twirling villains. This is particularly disappointing given that one of the villains is basically an evil Marie Curie, which has the potential to be so much fun. I discovered after reading this, that The Big Four was originally published as a series of short works, which would explain the somewhat choppy nature of the plot, something I found irritating while reading the book. The Big Four ends up coming across as rather repetitive, with far too many scenes of Poirot running to the rescue, and Hastings getting knocked out. The novel has a rushed feeling from beginning to end which seriously weakens the ending.
It's true that Christie's early novels are not her greatest, but The Big Four is the first one of the the early Poirot cases I've come about to fail for me on pretty much every level. It's one strength is it's length. At just north of two hundred pages, it's a relatively quick read. Still, if you're thinking about getting into works by Agatha Christie, I would not recommend starting here at all. (less)
After the events in Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, Jane Austen's believes that her life has returned to normal. Then, while spending...moreAfter the events in Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, Jane Austen's believes that her life has returned to normal. Then, while spending a holiday in Lyme with her family, Jane's pleasant vacation is interrupted by the sight of a murdered man dangling from a noose. The only clue left behind is a white lily. Everyone places the blame on The Reverend, a local smuggler who's identity is a secret. When another body is found, Jane once again finds herself on the case.
I first read Jane and the Unpleasantness of Scargrave Manor a few years back. Despite enjoying the book, I never got around to reading the sequel. When I recently got in the mood for a mystery, I decided that it was time to return to the series. I think what makes these books so enjoyable is the fact that the author takes pains to draw from the real life of Jane Austen whenever possible. Jane is not just randomly dumped on the beach because it's convenient for the plot. The real Jane Austen did spend time in Lyme in 1804. Characters she encounters in this book are drawn from her actual letters, and lines that can be found in her letters in novels are revealed to have their source in conversations and observations that take place during the mystery. These little Easter eggs, illustrated in helpful footnotes, make the book highly enjoyable for a Jane Austen fan. It's clear that these events never happened, but it makes you feel as if they could.
I admittedly, do not read too many mystery books. But when I do, I enjoy books that feature a colorful cast of characters, which this book has in spades. Jane herself is a likable narrator with a strong voice. I think the author made a good choice in utilizing a dairy format. There is romance to be found here as well, as Jane finds herself feeling affection for two different men, retired military man Captain Fielding, and the moody and mysterious Mr. Sidmouth. One flaw I found in this book can be found in the mystery plotline, which occasionally was a little predictable. I also found that when the novel was fully focused on the murder mystery, and less on cleverly weaving in real life elements, that the book became less interesting to me. This is probably partially due to the fact that I am not a huge fan of mystery novels, but I also believe that the storyline was a little on the weak side, and probably wouldn't have been as enjoyable had you taken away the Jane Austen elements,
Jane and the Man of the Cloth is an overall fun read, despite it's weaknesses. Despite my love for Jane Austen, I don't usually read the numerous spin off titles and sequels that have sprung up over time. This is one series that I am oka(less)
After the events of The Girl of the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael and Lisbeth have gone their separate ways, Mikael returning to Millennium Magazine, and Lisb...moreAfter the events of The Girl of the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael and Lisbeth have gone their separate ways, Mikael returning to Millennium Magazine, and Lisbeth traveling the world on the billions that she stole from Hans-Erik Wennerström. Then their separate lives are forced back together again when two of Mikael's friends are murdered, and Lisbeth's fingers are found on the murder weapon. Mikael believes that Lisbeth is innocent, and that his friends' deaths are connected to their controversial book on sex trafficking that Millennium was planning on publishing. But how much does Mikael really know about Lisbeth, and her past?
The Girl Who Played with Fire is the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the second book in The Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson. Although I did enjoy the first book in the series, I had serious issues with the pacing of the book, which took forever to get off the ground, then seemed to continue for chapters after it was already finished. I'm happy to report that The Girl who Played with Fire is a much smoother read all around, although it has it's slow moments. I found the book to be the most compelling when it focused on the characters of Lisbeth and Mikael, and when it strayed too far from them, the story suffered as a result. The Girl with Played with Fire also possesses some truly suspenseful moments, I didn't want to stop listening to my audiobook the closer I got to the end.
The greatest strength of The Millennium Trilogy can be found in it's central characters. Although Mikael at times feels like a male wish fulfillment fantasy (especially with his ability to pick up no-strings-attached female sexual partners), I found him to be an all around solid and likable lead that anchors the story well. Granted, the complex character of Lisbeth Salandar is the real draw here. In The Girl who Played with Fire, the reader really gets to see a new side of her as we learn more about her past. Lisbeth also begins to see how her cold nature has hurt those she cares about. This results in her character being softened somewhat, although she doesn't completely lose her hard edges.
Similar to The Girl of the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played With Fire is concerned with misogyny and crimes against women. We see this in the storyline involving sex trafficking, as well as within the investigation of the murder itself in the way that a female detective is treated by her fellow officers. I felt that Larsson handled these themes quite well. Unlike The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, with plenty left to be resolved in the thrid and final book in the trilogy, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I plan on picking it up the next time I'm in the mood for a thriller. (less)
Lucy Kahn has done the unforgivable in marrying David, a Jewish man. That’s why Lucy and David are surprised when the two are invited to a weekend at...moreLucy Kahn has done the unforgivable in marrying David, a Jewish man. That’s why Lucy and David are surprised when the two are invited to a weekend at Lucy’s family’s estate. Know as “the farthing set,” Lucy’s family is one of the most influential in England. Things take a dark turn when one of the guests, Sir James Thirkie, is found murdered with a Jewish star pinned to his chest. Suspicion is immediately thrown upon David due to his heritage. Did the true murderer place the star their to draw attention towards David, and who would do such a thing?
After hearing good things about Farthing from other book blogs, I decided to give it a try. This is partially based on the fact that it is an alternate history novel, which is a genre that I would like to explore a bit more. One aspect of the novel that I ended up finding interesting is how the alternate history aspects snuck up on the reader. At first, the novel appears to be an Agatha Christie-like murder mystery with a colorful cast of characters. When you learn that Sir James Thirkie is famous for negotiating peace with Hitler, it becomes apparent that this 1940s England is not the one that we’re familiar with. The author does a really good job of balancing these two genres. As the mystery becomes more complex, the curtain is drawn backfurther on the alternate history elements as this England continues to diverge from ours. This results in a satisfying amount of tension that builds over time. You want to know who the murderer is, as well as how things will end for Lucy and David.
Farthing utilizes two different narrators. Lucy Kahn is the obvious protagonist of the novel, but many of the mystery elements are spearheaded by Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard. Both characters come off as quite likable, as well as end up as more as they seem as first. Lucy can appear very young at the beginning, but when it counts, she comes off as quite competent. One thing I enjoyed about Carmichael was the fact that out of all of the policemen we meet during the novel, he is the only one that is able to consider all possibilities, instead of relying on knee jerk reactions. There is a twist involving his character that I saw coming, but that didn’t make it any less satisfying. I felt that both main characters were realistically drawn, and that the same can be said for much of the rest of the cast.
Farthing is a satisfying novel that examines murder, and prejudice during an alternate England during World War II. It is also the first novel in a trilogy. Given how certain events ended, I’m quite curious to see how the series will continue. I chose to listen to Farthing as an audiobook, which was exceptionally well done. Different narrators were chosen for each protagonist, and both of them did a very good job in bringing the story to life.(less)
With a happy marriage, two children, and a successful business, Charlotte Kinder’s life is near perfect. Then she discovers that her husband has been...moreWith a happy marriage, two children, and a successful business, Charlotte Kinder’s life is near perfect. Then she discovers that her husband has been cheating on her. One divorce and several unsuccessful dates later, Charlotte’s life is far from perfect. The one place she finds solace is in the books of Jane Austen. So when her children leave for a two week vacation with their father, Charlotte decides to take a vacation too. She travels to Penbrook Park, a country manor that promises to offer the authentic Jane Austen experience, complete with Regency style dress and food, and a handsome suitor. Then Charlotte finds a body, leading her to wonder what’s part of the game, and what’s real.
I first read Shannon Hale’s Austenland back when it was published in 2007. Despite not having much of a taste for Jane Austen-spin offs (although I do enjoy her novels), I found myself falling in love with the book. So when I heard that a companion book was in the works, I eagerly awaited it’s publication. Similar to Austenland, Midnight in Austenland is about a Jane Austen-obsessed woman with romantic problems. Both books tell of their adventures in Penbrook Park, combined with flashbacks to the protagonists’ past. Each woman finds finds romance and personal strength, all while taking part in the ultimate Jane Austen LARPing experience.
After reading Midnight in Austenland, I have to admit that I did not find is to be quite as enjoyable as Austenland, although the experience overall was quite positive. The novel is filled with giggle-enduing humor, as well as a colorful cast of likable characters (“Miss Charming” from Austenland makes a triumphant return). One issue I had is I didn’t find Charlotte to be as likable as a heroine as Jane, but I enjoyed watching her grow and develop into a stronger character. Also, there were times when her awkward nature could be endearing. I found that the romance this time around wasn’t quite as satisfying as in Austenalnd, but I ended up liking it a lot more than I suspected I would. The Murder Mystery plot line does a pretty good job of setting Midnight in Austenland apart from it’s prequel. One thing I found interesting in Midnight in Austenland was how often the line between the roles that the visitors and actors of Penbrook Park had to play and the people behind the role playing was blurred. This also added well to the mystery storyline, as you could never be sure what was part of the game, and what was real.
Although Midnight in Austland can’t measure up to Austenland, it remains an enjoyable novel filled with great humor and a sweet romantic storyline. I’m happy I decided to pick this up. If anything, it got me excited for the Austenalnd movie which just completed filming.(less)
Charles Unwin works as a clerk in a large detective agency. One day, he finds himself promoted to the level of detective, only Unwin was pretty happy...moreCharles Unwin works as a clerk in a large detective agency. One day, he finds himself promoted to the level of detective, only Unwin was pretty happy just being a clerk. As Unwin tries to straighten out his new life, more mysteries pop up. Where is Sivart, the detective that Unwin served as a clerk for? Who is the mysterious woman who has taken over his old job? Why has Sivart's old supervisor been murdered? And what information lies in chapter eighteen of his guidebook, The Manual of Detection?
The Manual of Detection is a genre bending novel that tells a hard boiled detective story with plenty of fantasy elements. It also didn't quite work for me. I'm not saying that the book was poorly written, or that the setting wasn't original and fascinating. The issue here mostly boils down to taste. Whereas I really enjoy fantasy novels, I am significantly pickier about mysteries, usually sticking to a couple authors I enjoy. With The Manual of Detection, I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and the problem with doing that is you sometimes don't like where you end up.
First off, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the protagonist, Unwin. I understood that he was a clerk, and wanted to go back to being a clerk, but beyond that I never really understood him. I wasn't that fond of the secondary cast of characters either, with the exception of Unwin's overeager narcoleptic assistant. When it came to the story, which actually covered topics that I have interest in (such as dreams), I found it often didn't keep my attention very well. There were some moments I did take to, such as a scene where Unwin is roped into a poker game where the players wager secrets, but most of it I found dull. I did enjoy the setting, a mysterious unnamed city where it's possible for a criminal to steal a day off the calendar, as well as the concept of the agency itself, with it's many segregated levels of employees. I listened to The Manual of Detection
The Manual of Detection didn't quite work for me, I suspect there will be others that will feel differently about this melding of fantasy and noir. I probably won't be reading any other novels by Jedidiah Berry.(less)
2013 has been a year of transition for Kelley Armstrong. She has put out four novels: two (The Rising, and Wild Justice) which end series, and two (Om...more2013 has been a year of transition for Kelley Armstrong. She has put out four novels: two (The Rising, and Wild Justice) which end series, and two (Omens, Loki's Wolves) which start new ones. I'm embarrassed to admit, despite the fact that I consider myself to be a pretty big fan, I haven't gotten around to any of them yet. I decided to start my journey with Omens, seeing as it's basically her flagship series, replacing the highly popular Women of the Otherworld books.
Admittedly, if you've only read Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, you might find yourself scratching your head over Omens. Yes, it's a series with paranormal elements, but they're nowhere near as prevalent as they were during WotO series (at least, for now). Instead, the book reads more like her Nadia Stafford books, her more straightforward crime series, with hints of the supernatural lingering in the background, giving the book a creepy, almost Gothic feel. Also, unlike most of the WotO books, Omens is clearly a series book, and not as stand alone. Yes, the main story for the book is resolved, but there's tons left for future volumes.
I'm happy to report that I am quite pleased with Omens. I flew through it in four days, which is impressive considering it runs close to 500-pages. This is probably due to Armstrong's writing style, which is incredibly easy to read. The book stars Olivia, an independently wealthy twenty-something who's happy life is destroyed when she discovers that she was adopted, and her real parents are two of history's most notorious serial killers. Next to the smooth writing, my favorite thing about Omens would have to be Olivia. She's incredibly easy to route for. Yes, she grew up privileged, but she never comes across as snobbish, and she has a fierce streak that's fun to watch. Armstrong also plants the seeds for a future romance with the lawyer Gabriel. It strikes me as interesting that Armstrong's romantic leads are often morally ambiguous (hell, Clay was a self professed sociopath). They aren't the type of people you should necessarily like, but you end up being really drawn to them anyway.
I wouldn't say that Omens is necessarily a perfect read. The way the mystery plot is tied up in the end can feel a bit rushed. Still, I enjoyed it quite consistently and look forward to continuing the series with Visions, which is set to come out in August. (less)
In one of Agatha Christie's most iconic mysteries, ten very different individuals are called to stay at a mansion on Indian Island. When they sit down...moreIn one of Agatha Christie's most iconic mysteries, ten very different individuals are called to stay at a mansion on Indian Island. When they sit down for dinner, a recording announces their greatest secrets, each one of them has committed a murder and gotten away with it. Then, one by one, they begin to die. With no way on or off the island and no one present but them, they come to two horrible conclusions: the killer must be one of them, and there is no way for them to escape.
I've been an Agatha Christie fan for a few years now, picking up her work whenever I get in the mood for a good mystery. But after multiple people have expressed shocked that I hadn't read And Then There Were None, arguably Christie's best known work, I decided that it was time that I gave it a try. I was surprised at first, as it has a decidedly different feel than Christie's other works, which often feature a central detective (such as Poirot), or at least a protagonist that severs as a detective. Instead And Then There Were None features no real central character, and each person on the island does his or her fair share of detecting. To me, this heightened the feeling that the killer could be anyone.
If there's one thing that And Then There Were None does astoundingly well, it is establish a feeling of paranoia on the island. As members of the party are slowly killed off, the remaining survivors become more and more panicked, wondering who the killer could be, and if they will be next. The fact that the island is so isolated (a boat is needed to bring them to the mainland, which does not return for the duration of their stay), only adds to the panic and trapped feeling, creating an almost horror-movie atmosphere. This is further enhanced by the nursery rhyme element (each person is killed in a method described in the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians”), which makes the story even creepier. The mystery plot is also top notch, really one of Christie's bet. And Then There Were None may be a slim volume but that's because it is free of filler, and every line is important. I also like how each character has an air or mystery around him or her. Did they really commit a murder? If so, how could a seemingly normal person do such a thing? To me, this is the most effective in a delicate woman who is accused of killing a child, truly a horrible act.
To me, And Then There Were None is really one of Christie's best works, and I highly recommend it to fans of the author, and fans of the mystery genre in general. I'm glad that I finally picked this up.(less)
While Enola Holmes was growing up, there was one message her mother repeated to her over and over again: “You will do very well on your own, Enola.” T...moreWhile Enola Holmes was growing up, there was one message her mother repeated to her over and over again: “You will do very well on your own, Enola.” This theory is put to the test on Enola's fourteenth birthday, when her mother vanishes. Enola initially reaches out to her two older brothers, Mycroft and the detective Sherlock Holmes, who come to the conclusion that their mother ran away of her own accord. Unwilling to accept that she was abandoned, Enola decides to launch her own investigation, but her brothers would rather see her at a boarding school, like other girls her age. Enola flees her home, but how long can she remain hidden from England's most famous detective?
The Case of the Missing Marquess is the first book in the Enola Holmes mysteries, which focus on the life of Sherlock Holmes's much younger sister. The reason why The Missing Marquess is so successful is due to the character of Enola herself. Due to a very hands off upbringing, Enola is surprisingly self sufficient for a young woman of her era. At the same time, as she was raised in a rather isolated manner, she is completely unaware of the expectations for a girl of her age. I loved the fact that Enola managed to be so intelligent and tough, yet vulnerable at the same time. It makes sense that someone raised with little affection from her family would yearn for nothing more than to be loved and accepted by her mother and two brothers, and it is heartbreaking when the three of them give so little affection.
The Case of the Missing Marquess should hold interest to fans of young adult/middle reader historical fiction. It's quite accessible to people who are familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle's work, as well as new fans. I enjoy how characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories (such as Inspector Lestrade and Sherlock himself) were woven into this tale. They appear in a few scenes, but this is really Enola's story. The Case of the Missing Marquess also does a good job of establishing the historical setting. This is most noticeable in the scenes that establish the poverty present in London. The book's one drawback is that the actual mystery story (involving, as you can probably tell from the title, a missing marquess), is somewhat weak, and pales in comparison to the larger story of Enola's missing mother (which I suspect will span multiple books). Otherwise, it's a very strong historical fiction novel.
I experienced The Case of the Missing Marquess as an audiobook, narrated by the talented Katherine Kellgreen. The one drawback to the audio format is it makes it more difficult to decode some of the ciphers Enola encounters, but I feel as if the quality of the narration makes up for it.(less)
At eighteen, Mary Quinn is almost a full fledged member of The Agency, an all female spy organization. When a man is murdered at the building site for...moreAt eighteen, Mary Quinn is almost a full fledged member of The Agency, an all female spy organization. When a man is murdered at the building site for the clock town at the House of the Parliament, The Agency is hired to gather intelligence. Mary agrees to take the case, despite the fact that it will require her to masquerade as a working class adolescent boy, a role which forces her to remember her time living on the streets in poverty. The case becomes more complicated when Mary runs into James, just returned from his time in India. It soon becomes obvious that the two must work together again, causing Mary to juggle the murder case along with her painful memories of her past, and her feelings for James.
Y.S. Lee is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Just like with her first book, I practically flew through The Body in the Tower. A Body in the Tower has many of the same elements that were so enjoyable about A Spy in the House such as a feisty heroine, a fun mystery plot-line, and satisfying romantic tension. At the same time, there are many differences between the two books. Most of the feminist undertones from the first book are gone. Instead we are given a peek into life for the lower class in Victorian London. The historical elements seem stronger, as the author appears to be giving us more background information on the time and place. This slows down the pacing at times, but I didn't consider this to be a problem. Mary's journey feels more personal, as the case forces to face her past and Chinese heritage. To me, this made the book feel more tense. I could almost feel Mary's discomfort over her new position. The romance still has much of the satisfying banter between Mary and James, but it feels changed. Mary and James are beyond mere flirting now, and it's obvious that they have real feelings for each other, but there is something holding each of them back.
There are many things I enjoy about this series. I love how May is a complex character that grows form book to book. I love how James, while charming, is not perfect himself, and must struggle with the consequences that come from his own stubbornness and refusal to see the world in anything but black and white. As I said with my review of A Spy in the House, I cannot comment on the accuracy of these books, but I do feel as if the author does a good job making Mary's London seem real to the reader. The one thing that does bother me about this series is the fact that the third book, The Traitor in the Tunnel, does not come out until 2012! I cannot imagine having to wait over a year for the final book in this trilogy. I want to read it now! (less)
Retired detective Hercule Poirot can't help but find that life has become a little dull. When he receives a panicked letter from a billionaire named P...moreRetired detective Hercule Poirot can't help but find that life has become a little dull. When he receives a panicked letter from a billionaire named P.T. Renauld, asking for help, he jumps at the opportunity. Only by the time Poirot and Arthur Hastings arrive at Renauld's home, the man has already been murdered. And even the great Poirot is surprised when a second man is found murdered in a similar fashion. Can Poirot and Hastings track down the murderer before it's too late?
Murder on the Links is an early Agatha Christie novel starring Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings. Admittedly, sometimes it really feels like an early Agatha Christie novel, as the characters aren't quite as memorable as in some of her later novels, and the end twist seems to lack the necessary punch. Still, Murder on the Links does have a satisfyingly twisty turn-y plot filled with plenty of really great surprises, and is ultimately a good mystery story. This makes up for any of the books shortcomings.
One thing I always forget about the older Christie novels is that they're narrated by Arthur Hastings. Hastings does a good job at providing the everyman's point of view. Like the reader, he attempts to solve the mystery for himself and follow Poirot's seemingly bizarre trail of clues. He also has a habit of falling in love with every attractive young woman he encounters, which provides a nice amount of comic relief. Another interesting character this time around is Monsieur Giraud, a French detective that serves as a bit of a rival for Poirot. Giraud sees Poirot as being old fashioned, while Poirot criticizes Giraud for relying too heavily on physical evidence, forcing it to fit unlikely solutions. Giraud is also a thoroughly unlikable character, so it's satisfyingly at the end when Poirot emerges from their rivalry victorious.
Murder on the Links is a fun, and short early mystery by Agatha Christie. From the start, the book moves quickly, making it a very fast read. Although it's far from the strongest of her novels, the mystery plot is really enjoyable to read. I would recommend this book to established Agatha Christie fans. (less)
Hercule Poirot, retired master detective, has decided to take a vacation to the seashore. Here he discovers Arlena Marshall, a devastatingly beautiful...moreHercule Poirot, retired master detective, has decided to take a vacation to the seashore. Here he discovers Arlena Marshall, a devastatingly beautiful woman who appears to have the ability to draw the attention of every man in the room, and the fury of most of the women. Poirot knows that evil is in the air, an evil that results in the murder of Arlena Marshall.
Evil Under the Sun is one of the many Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie. Although I'm not a huge mystery fan, every now and then I get in the mood and the first place I reach is for a book is Christie. Evil Under the Sun follow a similar pattern. Poirot goes on a vacation (it amazes me how many Poirot books take place while he is on vacation. The second this man ventures too far from his home, a murder is bound to occur), and becomes acquainted with a colorful cast of characters. Then, a murder occurs and Poirot must work with the local authorities to determine the culprit. Poirot succeeds by his superior intelligence, and his ability to see how seemingly insignificant details fit into one seamless whole.
Evil Under the Sun is one of better Christie novels I have read. It's expertly plotted, and filled with plenty of twists and turns, including an ending that I did not see coming. Like always, I can determine the reasoning behind many of the little details, but not the whole picture, even when Poirot himself is pointing out the signifigant details. The book is short (just over two hundred and twenty pages) and moves relatively quickly from the start. I found the cast of characters this time around to be a lot of fun. My personal favorites were the talkative Mrs. Gardner and her more subdued husband. Their interactions made me laugh. One character I did have issues with was Rosamund Darnley, an independent business women. I enjoyed following her throughout the book, but was disappointed with the resolution of her story. I know that this is mostly my twenty-first century mindset, which doesn't always mesh well with books written in the early 1940s, especially when it comes to the deception of female characters.
Although Evil Under the Sun is not my favorite Christie novel (that belongs to Murder on the Orient Express) I found it to be a really fun read. Hercule Poirot will always remain my favorite detective, and I enjoyed tyring to solve this case with him, even if I couldn't really keep up.(less)
Twelve-year-old Mary has been sentenced to death by hanging due to her crimes as a thief. Before she can meet her fate, she is rescued by a representa...moreTwelve-year-old Mary has been sentenced to death by hanging due to her crimes as a thief. Before she can meet her fate, she is rescued by a representative of Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, a school dedicated to giving women independence in a world where their options are very limited. Mary accepts, and later becomes a teacher for the school. But at seventeen, Mary finds herself yearning for a more fulfilling career. It's then that she learns that the school is actually a cover for The Agency, an organization of all-female spies. They invite Mary to become a member, and send her out on her first case, to play paid companion to a rich daughter in a family where everyone seems to have a secret.
Although my first love has always been fantasy, historical fiction was more or less my second love when I was in my late teens. Since then, I've backed away for historical fiction in favor of paranormal/urban fantasy, but every now and then a novel comes out to remind me why I loved this genre so much in the first place. A Spy in the House is one of those novels. Much like Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart Trilogy (a favorite of mine during high school), A Spy in the House tells about an independent young woman living in Victorian England who finds herself caught up in a mystery. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this book was because Mary was such an likable protagonist. Intelligent, and assertive, Mary also has the habit of being a little too impulsive and rash. Beyond being a historical mystery, A Spy in the House also has a satisfying romantic side plot. Those who appreciate romance centered around quick banter, will find the relationship between Mary and James to be a lot of fun.
The book's main focus, even more so than the mystery plot, appears to be showing the reader what it was like to be a woman living in England during the mid-1800s, and those who struggle against these restrictions. As a result, the book has feminist leanings, which I really enjoyed. Although I cannot really comment on the accuracy of the book (my knowledge of Victorian England is pretty basic), I feel as if the author did a great job of transporting us to Mary's London from her descriptions of everything from the sights to smells. One thing that surprised me about this book was the fact that the mystery plot did not revolve around Mary investigating a murder, and is instead focused more on gathering intelligence. Given that Mary is on her first job for the agency, this seemingly less life threatening position made sense. At the same time, I couldn't help but be impressed by the fact that Lee made gathering information so exciting. A Spy in the House is very fast paced. I flew through the book over just two days.
A Spy in the House is a well-written, fast paced novel filled with great characters and suspenseful situations. Easily the best historical fiction novel I've read all year, I look forward to reading the second novel in the series, The Body in the Tower, once my library gets a copy.(less)