Agatha Christie was one of the first grown-up authors I read. I believe I discovered her in my junior high school library and went on to read a whole bunch of her stuff. Nowhere near all of it. I got tired of it before finishing. 20 or 30 of them though. And one thing I remembered from then until I started reading her again about a year and half ago was an orange scarf. In one book there was a woman in an orange scarf. I thought it was The Body in the Library, but it wasn’t. It turns out it was There is a Tide… This is the only thing I remembered about the story. Why? I have no idea. What a stupid thing to remember. The brain is sure a funny old thing.
The story takes place shortly after WWII. A family called Cloade has been done out of their inheritance by a whirlwind wedding followed rapidly by a doodlebug which took out everyone in the house except the wife and her brother. The Cloades had never needed to live within their means and now are quite incapable of doing so. The widow is a scared mouse of a girl who will only listen to her brother who has no sympathy for the Cloades. Enter a strange man who claims the first husband of Mrs. Cloade didn’t die in Africa after all, but is still alive, followed by his demise.
It is a good mystery as the circumstances clear the only people who have a motive for the killing the question of what’s really going on becomes more interesting. There’s also romance although Christie’s romances are rather cheesy and old fashioned – manly men stopping independent young women from continuing to be independent. Considering she kept her career after her second marriage, I don’t think much of that, but it’s a small price for her mystery plots which almost always leave me kicking myself, because I’ll pick up on some of the clues, but still not work out the plot.
And it seems, I can’t stop reading Dame Agatha. Although Dorothy L. Sayers is also on the list, but she only wrote about 20. Lord Peter is a hoot. Have to say I think he’s much better written as the seemingly silly, even foppish nobleman who is really extremely sharp and solves murders than Allingham’s Campion. Wimsey goes on blathering away, but he knows his onions.
This qualifies as a Cozy Mystery and should fit somewhere on the Bingo board, but I’ll pick later. Almost every one of Christie’s counts as a mystery published under multiple titles. God knows why, but it seems like the American publishers couldn’t or wouldn’t accept a British title. It was also published as Taken at the Flood.
I just can’t get enough Christie. I read something else and then I miss Hercule. This was written in 1941 and in addition to the David Suchet version there’s a 1982 Peter Ustinov version. I cannot buy Ustinov as Poirot, but it also has Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg in it, so I’m curious.
From their descriptions they’ve both added drama to the book. In the Suchet one he’s recovering from a collapse and in the Ustinov one there’s a diamond theft added and the victim is on her honeymoon on a tropical island. Not just at a nice hotel near Dartmoor. But enough about things I haven’t seen yet. The book is good. Solidly in the ranks of good, but not brilliant Christie. There don’t seem to be as many suspects as usual, but a wider array of motives.
The mystery takes place somewhere on a little island off the coast of England not far from Dartmoor. Various people are taking their holidays at this hotel including a former actress, her husband, his daughter and his childhood friend, another two couples, a vicar and a businessman. The former actress goes and gets herself murdered and the best suspects have pretty solid alibis. There are a lot of extraneous clues floating around, but which are relevant and which are red herrings?
I have now been book blogging for six months and enjoying it a lot. It has gotten me reading things I meant to, but never got around to in addition to all the mysteries. The challenges and readalongs hosted by various book bloggers has been great. In the past six months I’ve read The Moonstone, The Great Gatsby, A Moveable Feast, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Alexander Pushkin, and will soon finish Bleak House, which I’m enjoying quite a bit. I have found a good many bloggers I enjoy reading, too, even if I don’t have the same taste, I enjoy what they have to say. The only problem has been that there are a whole bunch of blogs I can’t comment on. I don’t know why, but when someone I’ve been reading for weeks or months goes gets sick or has a crisis or loses a pet or a loved one or just says something that strikes me as funny or true, I’d really like to be able to say I’m sorry you’re going through that, get well, or thanks. I love that there are people out there telling me I should read Bleak House or the Moonstone or Graham Greene or John Dickson Carr and not just the latest sparkling vampire or zombie series. If I read you, and you are aware of that (though since I can’t comment you might not be), please know that you have my sympathy in your troubles and my gratitude for your blogging.
I don’t know what I’ll do when I finish Dame Agatha. I think I’m maybe halfway through her works and while I enjoy other books of the type, I haven’t found anyone who works for me as consistently as Christie. I can’t figure it out either. She’s not a great stylist. Her characters except for her major detectives are more types than characters, but her plots — her plots keep me guessing. And so far, the conclusions have all been satisfactorily tight. I’m reading them somewhat chronologically, and I gather she kind of lost it at the end, which is sad, but it does leave a lot of great work if you like mysteries mostly without violence.
Easy to Kill starts with a little old lady in a train telling a young man of independent means just back from theEast about all the murders in her village. Naturally, he doesn’t believe her, but next thing he knows she’s been run over followed by the death of the person she said would be the next victim. Being young and at a loose end, he decides to investigate. There’s a romance and Superintendent Battle arrives at the end, but really he’s just there to mop up. I was pleased with myself for figuring it out, though only a few pages before the reveal, but still.
This counts for Cruisin’ Through the Cozies and Golden Age Mystery Bingo, though I’m not sure which square yet.
Once again I have shirked my greater reading responsibilities (though not completely) and read another cozy mystery. Ms. Agatha Christie was really very good at these. Body in the Library dates back to 1942 and is an early Miss Marple. I think her second full-length story. And I did not guess at all. Once again though I was asking some of the right questions. (‘Why did they do that?’ I thought. ‘They didn’t need to.’ But they did, which was a critical point.) In the end it all falls into place.
I also enjoyed this episode of Marple. Damn, that show’s uneven. They stuck very close to the book until the end and I liked what they did differently. Plus I love Joanna Lumley. I could watch her in just about anything. And the clothes were great, the scenes were well done. Even in the worst episodes (Sittaford Mystery, anyone?) I love seeing old favorite actors, but when they get it right it’s so much better.
So, I wasn’t going to post for a while because I’m hacking away at The Luminaries, but two things happened. First, I slipped an Agatha Christie in there – Towards Zero which features Inspector Battle rather than Poirot or Marple. A good one, not one of the greatest, but a good, solid mystery with a conclusion I didn’t guess although I had worked out some of the clues, I just didn’t add them up properly. One aspect of the plot seemed very familiar, but I can’t remember where else I read that so I don’t know if she’s repeating herself or someone else thought up the same thing.
The second was a challenge posed by Roof Beam Reader. Ulysses Readalong – definitely a book that can use some company, but I’ve just read the Moonstone and am reading The Luminaries. I had thought to read some short, modern works to get my count up a bit, not another giant tome. Plus he’s only giving us 3 weeks. 3 weeks! Not even a month! 40 pages a day of Ulysses doable? Nope. But startable. And maybe once started, I will go on and finish. I’ve had a copy forever. And I might even know where it is. I guess I have some time to think about it as we’re not supposed to start until the 15th. Which is good, because I might be able to finish The Luminaries by then.
So, I’ve been meaning to read Wilkie Collins forever. Even started The Moonstone once. And November does seem like a perfect time. I’m hoping that reading along will encourage me to keep going. I wanted to buy this beautiful copy, but it’s hard to justify when the ebook is free.
This readalong is nice and casual. One check-in, mid-month. You can sign up here, if you like.
I’ve read Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons while working on The Luminaries, which I’m liking a lot so far.
I also decided I’ll make a page for 19th century books. I’m not going to set any kind of time limit on it. Just fill them in as I go and maybe when I’ve got a substantial number I’ll make a real effort at it. It may be difficult to find things for the early years, I don’t know. But I think it will be interesting if I keep at it.
I enjoyed this though not quite as much as The Pursuit of Love. Fanny is again the narrator and you follow her story and that of Polly Hampton. The Hamptons are not quite as amusing as the Radletts, who make occasional appearances throughout, until Cedric arrives and transforms everyone. He is rather a stereotype, but a lively one. To be read for the wit and charm, rather than for anything one might feel for the characters or the plot.
Last week I read By the Pricking of My Thumbs, a late Tommy and Tuppence mystery. I’ve always liked Tommy and Tuppence as characters even though the plots of their books usually include spies and criminal gangs which were always a weakness of Christie’s. She could really nail a story about a small group of characters with their various desires and jealousies, but is vague in the extreme when it comes to organized crime. The book is interesting at first because of the uncertainty there has been a crime committed and if so, what it is. Tuppence in this case goes off on her own instincts to find out. These keen instincts utterly fail her at critical moments which enables the plot to come to its exciting if dubious conclusion. Still, I enjoyed the book.