Book #1 for 2017 GenreLand: Fiction Better World Books Tasks: - A book with a color in the title - A book under 200 pages - A book by a female writer - A bBook #1 for 2017 GenreLand: Fiction Better World Books Tasks: - A book with a color in the title - A book under 200 pages - A book by a female writer - A book that's been adapted into a movie Read Harder Task: A book published between 1900 and 1950 PopSugar Tasks: - A book by an author who uses a pseudonym - A book written by someone you admire - A book with an eccentric character - A book that's mentioned in another book Book Bingo Square: A Book from the Library Legendary Book Club of Habitica's Ultimate Reading Challenge Task: A script or screenplay Follow the Clues Challenge: Chain 1, Clue 1
This, Christie's first foray into writing for the stage, usually appears on bibliographies with a 1934 date. That was when it was first published, but it was first produced in 1930. Christie had always been fascinated by the theatre, and this had been evident in her stories, so it's not surprising that she would explore the play form herself instead of leaving it to other writers. This is not an adaptation of an already published story, but an original Poirot piece, later adapted to the big screen and also novelized.
I have read the Osborne novelization, probably not long after it first came out. I don't really remember much about it, but of course it's likely that I did subconsciously remember some of the elements of the plot, which might be why this puzzle seemed rather simple to me. It's also possible that Christie meant for the solution to be a bit obvious to the audience so that Poirot, arriving on scene later and putting it all together without the benefit of having actually witnessed certain things, would seem just that much more brilliant.
I regret that I'm not familiar enough with early 20th-century plays to know if this script was particularly notable or innovative in any way. The contemporary reviews I've glanced through seem to be mixed but generally favorable. I think it's extremely interesting that Christie was writing about atomic weapons in 1930 -- and I found the ending particularly satisfying in this regard -- but that's something many reviewers seem to ignore. I'm not sure why.
As I continue in my "completist Christie challenge," I'm looking forward to watching Christie's development as a playwright as well as a novelist. I would recommend this to Christie readers and theatre fans in general, but I will warn you that it's full of typos -- in three different languages, no less. I'm not sure if that's normal for a play that's been around for nearly 90 years, but some readers may find this too annoying to bother with....more
This is not my first re-read of this book, so I can't speak to how surprising the solution is or isn't, but I still found it immenselBook #47 for 2016
This is not my first re-read of this book, so I can't speak to how surprising the solution is or isn't, but I still found it immensely entertaining. Christie's wit is dry and sarcastic, and if you enjoy Cousin Violet's verbal jabs on Downton Abbey, you will find yourself chuckling a lot as you read this.
This is often referred to as Miss Marple's debut, but it is only her novel debut. Before this, she had appeared in at least a dozen short stories, so her character is already nicely established. I don't know that this is the best of the Marples, but it's impressive. The use of the vicar for the first-person POV was brilliant. For one thing, it sets the reader on edge, watching for clues of a The Murder of Roger Ackroyd kind of solution. (view spoiler)[Even I found myself affected, despite knowing full well that the vicar was innocent. (hide spoiler)] Then we get a front row seat for the vicar's internal musings and the signature Christie dialogue between the vicar and his wife. Griselda cracks me up.
I do have a few plotting quibbles, but that's far too spoilerific to discuss here. I did like, though, how one of them seemed to be there specifically to point out how ridiculous it is. It put me in mind of the whole blue-nosed automatic thing in The Seven Dials Mystery. Beyond that, I'll just say that I found a few things a bit farfetched, but I also have to remember that I'm coming at this with another 80+ years of mystery literature to refer to, so I can't really knock Christie for being a bit naive.
I think this book helped define Marple as a sleuth without changing her character from the short stories. It makes for a good transition, and I would recommend this to anybody who's enjoyed the short stories. Marple is also quite different from Christie's other sleuths, so this would be good for somebody who is maybe not so keen on Poirot....more
I finished reading this during Fort Collins Comic Con, so when the food truck vendor asked me to name the first fictional#boutofbooks Book #45 for 2016
I finished reading this during Fort Collins Comic Con, so when the food truck vendor asked me to name the first fictional character to pop into my head (to call when my order was ready), I responded, "Harley Quin." She was pleased with my choice. It took me a minute to realize that we were thinking of very different characters.
Christie's Quin is one of my favorite characters, so much so that I've even written stories with my own harlequinesque character, Hallelujah Kwin. (Only one of them, "The Scrap in the Quarry," has seen print so far.) Quin never got his own novel, but that's one of the things that I love about him: Christie refused to force him into being and wrote Quin stories only when she felt moved to do so. Quin gets to remain delightfully mysterious and vaguely supernatural.
I read this as part of the Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge, so I made some attempt to read them in publication order. However, a few were clearly published out of the stories' logical order, and then several of the stories first appeared in this collection. I don't agree completely with the order Elena Santangelo suggested in Dame Agatha's Shorts, but what I've worked out below is sort of a combination of her order and publication order.
"The Coming of Mr Quin" is apparently the first Quin story, and it is one of the best for showing how Quin works as Mr Satterthwaite's investigative catalyst. I think it also demonstrates the "daughter of time" effect far better than the Josephine Tey novel of that name.
Then skip ahead to "At the Bells and Motley," which seems very clearly to me to be the second Quin story. It's another tale of clarity from a later perspective.
Then you can come back to this collection for "The Sign in the Sky." It's a clever little puzzle, but it's a shame Satterthwaite is a bit dense in this one.
Now you can go back to "The Shadow on the Glass," a spooky tale that really stays with me. And then onto "The Soul of the Croupier," a Monte Carlo romance; "The World's End," which provides an interesting setting and assortment of lovers and suspects; and "The Voice in the Dark," probably the weakest entry with an ending I didn't quite buy.
I read "Harlequin's Lane" next, but after reading the four "new" stories, I have to agree with Elena that you should save it for last. So, "The Face of Helen" is a bit far-fetched but a great, timeless story. "The Dead Harlequin" is a nifty locked-room puzzle that demonstrates Christie's fascination with the art world. "The Bird with the Broken Wing" felt a little disjointed (if you will pardon the phrasing) to me, but it's certainly an interesting use of a Ouija board as a plot device. "The Man from the Sea" is almost pure romance, sweet but very dark. Then "Harlequin's Lane" finishes off the volume with a mystical, tragic flourish.
There is a lot of tragedy in these pages, and if you are sensitive to scenarios of suicide, you might want to give this a pass, or at least approach it with caution. I get the impression Christie was drawn to this character when she was feeling particularly melancholic. The stories are also very 1920s in style and written while she was still quite young, so if you go into this expecting a standard detective story, you are apt to be disappointed. But if you are feeling broody or gothic, this might be just the thing. ...more
Book #13 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A book that takes place on an island
This is an all-Poirot collection of short sBook #13 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A book that takes place on an island
This is an all-Poirot collection of short stories, and of course, they are not arranged in publication order. I know for certain that the titular story had the latest publication of this bunch, and it features Poirot's valet George (a Jeeves sort of character) instead of Hastings as his assistant. (Personally, I prefer George to Hastings.) I liked this locked-room puzzle, and I found it interesting that Christie used hypnosis as a plot device and snuck in some discussion of the subconscious and "feminine intuition."
"The Affair at the Victory Ball" seems to be the first Poirot story after The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Here we see the beginnings of Christie's fascination with the Commedia dell' Arte, which I should probably read, considering how much I like her Mr Quin stories. Not knowing much about Harlequin and Columbine and company, I'm sure I missed a lot, but I still was able to pick up on some of the clues.
After this, the publication order seems to be roughly this: "The King of Clubs" - I found this one generally confusing. Possibly because I know nothing about the game of bridge, and possibly because of some intentional ambiguity on Christie's part. Didn't I just read another story set at a villa named Mon Désir? I will have to look back through them and see if I can locate it. "The Plymouth Express" - Possibly her first train-based story. Christie employs some good misdirection here. "The Market Basing Mystery" - Another good example of misdirection, with some additional twistiness. "The Submarine Plans" - Overly convoluted and muddled, I think. "The Adventure of the Clapham Cook" - Lots of great twists in this one. Quite possibly my favorite of the lot. "The Cornish Mystery" - A bit of a sad tale, but with a neat trick at the end. "The Lemesurier Inheritance" - This is another story that makes me wish I had a better grasp of English estate law. But at least I was able to suss out what direction Poirot's mind was going with the "curse."
The quality was a little uneven in spots, but overall pretty solid. I would definitely recommend reading "The Affair at the Victory Ball" first and "The Under Dog" last, but I don't think it much matters what order the others are read in....more
Book #5 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A book that takes place on an island - A classic from the 20th century Personal ChBook #5 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A book that takes place on an island - A classic from the 20th century Personal Challenge Categories: - A book set in a capital city - A book set on an island - A book featuring Scotland Yard
Like The Big Four, this is a collection of short stories that were previously published in magazines and share a larger story arc about espionage. This book, however, is far more coherently organized and features Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who are more naturally suited to the spy-thriller genre. They also play off of each other in a manner that is more rewarding than the Poirot/Hastings relationship. Tommy and Tuppence have always been my favorite Christie sleuths, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed this immensely.
Another interesting feature of this collection is that Christie used Tommy, Tuppence, and their young assistant Albert to explore the methods of other classic detectives, including Poirot. Of course, I have read plenty of Poirot and Holmes as well as some Thorndyke, and I think I've even read a Father Brown. Though I suppose it couldn't hurt to re-visit Father Brown, since it was apparently very long ago and did not make a lasting impression on me. I must admit I am a little disappointed in myself that I'd never even heard of some of the other sleuths mimicked in this collection. So you will probably see me adding the following to my reading list in the near future: Desmond Okewood, Tommy McCarty, Thornley Colton, Edgar Wallace, The Old Man in the Corner, Inspector Hanaud, Inspector French, Roger Sheringham, and Dr Fortune. It should make for an interesting study.
I also like that this book gives an interesting look at the culture of 1920s London through the eyes of an adventurous and witty young couple. If you enjoy the London-based storylines in Downton Abbey, you are sure to find this book a real treat....more
Book #34 for 2016 Habitica's Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that you've already read at least once Old Firehouse Books SummerBook #34 for 2016 Habitica's Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that you've already read at least once Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A book that's been on your shelf for more than five years
Ah, Bundle and Battle, together again! This made me want to go read The Secret of Chimneys again. It's a pity Christie didn't do more with these characters. But given how this novel ended, I guess I'm not surprised.
I was expecting this to be a quick re-read, but I was amazed at how much time I spent chasing down odd vocabulary words and trying to figure out what kind of "automatic" pistol Stevens had managed to procure for Jimmy. I'm pretty sure it was an ACP .455, which appears to me to be a semi-automatic, despite its name. I'm also pretty sure that Christie was poking fun at pulp thriller writers of the day when Jimmy made it clear that he wanted a "blue-nosed," full automatic pistol. And I think it's more than a little sad that a century or so after the ACP was introduced, so many people are still using "automatic" and "semi-automatic" interchangeably.
But I digress. I was also amazed at how little of the plot I remembered. The plot twist really got me, even though I avoided some of the red herrings and, really, I ought to have known better. Some of the explanations regarding the origins of the Seven Dials Club weren't completely satisfying, but if not examined too closely, they make for some cleverly constructed clues.
I really enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout this book. There was a distinct P.G. Wodehouse influence, and Christie's snarky asides and gift for snappy dialogue were delightfully evident. There's even a fun little subplot of romance, complete with a proposal scene that puts Jane Austen to shame. I'd recommend this to anybody looking for a light-hearted mystery romp set in the late 1920s....more
Book #27 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Category: A book set in Europe
Apparently Dame Agatha herself considered this one of her weakest efforts. My guessBook #27 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Category: A book set in Europe
Apparently Dame Agatha herself considered this one of her weakest efforts. My guess is that she felt like she was cheating a bit by up-cycling "The Plymouth Express," a short story published in 1923, when she needed some quick cash. Okay, so maybe it's no masterpiece, but I can't bring myself to judge this book harshly. While "The Plymouth Express" was a little on the predictable side, it was clever in its own way, and Christie took this opportunity to let that bud of a plot bloom into a novel with enough intertwining subplots that there was room for some nice red herrings. Had I not already read the short story, I'm not entirely certain I would have been able to figure this one out.
I liked the Lenox character, and I really enjoyed the Riviera high-society scenes. Not because the lifestyle appeals to me, because I'm sure I'd hate it. But because it's so visually rich and colorful. Sort of like Vegas, but classier. And it's always interesting to get Christie's contemporary perspective on that way of life. I have to admit, though, that some of the ethnic references, while I doubt they were intended as slurs, were off-putting.
I'm also not sure what to make of Miss Grey hailing from St-Mary-Mead in Kent. (Miss Marple's St-Mary-Mead is not in Kent.) My guess is that Christie was working on Miss Marple's world-building but hadn't really gotten to that level of detail yet and thus did not really pay much attention to it. But there are various other explanations as well.
I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for reading Christie, but all the same, I don't think it's a bad starting point. Just not ideal. And if you are already a Christie reader, you'll have to determine for yourself if first reading "The Plymouth Express" is a good idea. It does spoiler the novel pretty thoroughly, but it's also interesting to compare as you go. Only you know which approach you'll like better....more
Book #4 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A book from the library Personal Challenge Category: - A book borrowed from the liBook #4 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A book from the library Personal Challenge Category: - A book borrowed from the library Habitica's Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: - A book published before you were born
I am working my way through the Agatha Christie Perpetual Challenge to read all of her mystery fiction (and some of her other works) in publication order, so this book presented me with a bit of a dilemma. It wasn't published in its novel format until 1927, but the individual stories of which it is composed were originally published several years before that. However, only one of those stories ("The Chess Problem") was ever reprinted on its own later, and even it would be a bit of a task to track down in its short-story format. At this time, it just made more sense for me to read the stories in their ultimate novel format but in their original publication order.
Dame Agatha herself was not pleased with The Big Four, but I am inclined to cut the woman some slack. Her mother had just died and her husband was being a total asshat, and she had to produce something for publication. These stories were handy for smushing, so she smushed them. And it shows. But they were still a fun departure for M. Poirot and his faithful Captain Hastings, and I am not going to begrudge her (or them) that. Are they far-fetched and over-the-top? You betcha. But I'm okay with that. I had more of a problem with the villains being cardboard stereotypes. But even then, that's part of the old spy-thriller formula. Christie was just doing her job.
I also wonder where she was in her developing contempt for her little Belgian when she wrote these stories. I know at some point she desperately wanted to kill him off and focus on other characters, but as Doyle discovered with Sherlock Holmes, that is not such an easy thing to accomplish. There are clear, self-aware parallels in these stories between The Big Four villains and Moriarty; the final showdowns on the Continent; Countess Vera Rossakoff and Irene Adler; and Achille and Mycroft. I know she was tired of Poirot by the time she introduced Ariadne Oliver, but I suspect she was already headed that direction when she wrote these stories. (view spoiler)[Why else would she pack him off to the countryside to grow vegetable marrows? Lucky for Poirot fans, he didn't stay retired long. (hide spoiler)]
I had a good time reading this book again, and I would recommend it to any Christie fan who can keep it in its proper perspective. It is not a book I would recommend to anybody trying Christie for the first time, as it really is not typical of her larger body of work....more
Book #12 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A classic from the 20th century - A book that takes place on an island Personal CBook #12 for 2016 PopSugar Challenge Categories: - A book set in Europe - A classic from the 20th century - A book that takes place on an island Personal Challenge Category: - A book with footnotes
I first read this novel when I was about 12, and I figured out whodunit pretty easily. So a big :-P to everybody who accuses Christie of not "playing fair." It's actually pretty obvious, but maybe only if you're a kid who doesn't know the "rules" of the mystery game. Every time I read this book I'm even more impressed with how clever she was in her misdirection. To me, that's the real game -- playing completely fair but using such deft legerdemain that nobody notices just how fair you're being. And Christie is so gifted at this that even though this was my third reading, there were still things I didn't remember and didn't figure out quickly if at all.
I also wonder if the character of Caroline was what got Christie going down the path that eventually led to Miss Marple.
This is one book I would recommend to somebody wanting to give Christie a try. True, it is unusual for Christie in some aspects, but in others it is quite similar to her other novels, so it's a good way to tell if you'd like to read more. I also like that it presents Poirot from a non-Hastings perspective and provides him a new "Watson" -- and one who is already familiar with the Hastings narratives, at that. It's a fun kind of meta....more
Ah, classic Christie dialogue! This certainly had that cinematic feel to it, like it was written specifically for the film-makers of tBook #8 for 2011
Ah, classic Christie dialogue! This certainly had that cinematic feel to it, like it was written specifically for the film-makers of the '40s and '50s, and Christie was just ahead of her time. This was a fun, vaguely political adventure with all sorts of red herrings strewn about and a great sense of the romantic.
Yes, the story relied heavily on coincidence, but what artfully contrived coincidences! As a modern reader who has seen Christie's twists borrowed and re-worked countless times over the years, I will admit that they didn't fool me for long. But it was very comforting to watch the intrigues play out in their traditional setting. ...more
As much as I like Poirot and Marple, there is just something about these non-series adventures of Christie's that I find hugely enterBook #5 for 2011.
As much as I like Poirot and Marple, there is just something about these non-series adventures of Christie's that I find hugely entertaining. This story was steeped in atmosphere and was clearly influenced by Doyle and Haggard. Christie's knack for red herrings was evident, and the dialogue was a Golden-age delight.
The book is not without its flaws, however. Some of the things our Anne the Adventuress failed to notice really were painfully obvious, and the role of sheer coincidence was often a little too prominent. And while I realize the characters are a product of their time, it was still very difficult to reconcile such a strong female protagonist with her tamed-shrew attitudes towards male-female relationships. ...more
Book #3 in the Perpetual Agatha Christie Challenge. It was interesting to see the old-style police work with the crude beginnings of CSI. I think it'sBook #3 in the Perpetual Agatha Christie Challenge. It was interesting to see the old-style police work with the crude beginnings of CSI. I think it's important to note that Poirot does not reject the concept of CSI -- merely the idea that minute physical evidence by itself can close a case....more