Book Review: A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

a #murder is announced #christie #marpleVillagers expect a fun game after a Gazette announcement of murder, but when lights flash off, shots ring out, and a masked burglar falls dead, the Inspector and vicar’s wife Bunch call in expert Miss Jane Marple. Was Swiss hotel clerk Rudi framed? Miss Letitia Blackstone houses scatty Dora, cousins Julia and Patrick, gardener widow Phillipa, and paranoid cook Mitzi.

This is set just after WWII, when rationing is still in place, village life is changing – where people no longer know who their neighbours are – and where there is still a mistrust in “foreigners” such as the poor Mitzi, who has (or has not) been through so much in Germany during the war, depending on how much of her wailing you actually believe.

It starts out with an entry in the local newspaper, announcing a murder at 6:30 that evening at Little Paddocks. Naturally, people are curious, so there’s plenty of witnesses that evening as the lights go out, shots are fired and a young man is found dead in the hall moments later. Of course, Bunch knows Miss Marple, and combined with Inspector Craddock who knows her reputation, she is called down to help out. People are more likely to say things to the dotty old woman knitting in the corner than the police after all…..

There’s a veritable cast here, some of whom have very similar names, and the matter of the inheritance of millions of pounds, people pretending to be other people, and it all boils down to “do you really know your neighbour?”.

As usual, a tight little story, where most of the clues are there if you are paying attention (though most people dont), an like the TV adaptations, a great way to spend an afternoon

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

The 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames

Tango in Maderia by Jim Williams


Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

stylesThe Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.

Read on my e-reader, which is fine and dandy, except there are illustrations that dont necessarily make it into the ebook itself – either the proofreaders dont translate the images over, or they dont render in the reader.

This is the first time we meet Poirot who has retired from the Belgian police force, and is living in the UK during WWI. His age isnt given, but he seems to be older than the 30 year old “Mr” Hastings, who has been returned home from the front on sick leave.

Hastings spends his sick leave with old friends, only to find the stepmother remarried to a man no one likes, and subsequently dying from apparent poisoning, several days after Hasting’s arrival. Poirot is living nearby and is soon investigating. Lots of twists and turns, the usual “calling everyone together” at the end, and Poirot thinking he’s giving us all the clues to work it out for ourselves

Book Review: Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

destinationunknownThomas Charles Betterton, a famous scientist, has vanished. Conflicting reports of sightings of the missing man have come in from all over Europe. Then, his wife of six months decides to take a holiday to Morocco for a rest. That’s when a strange and surprising series of events begins to unfold.

I purchased from Audible, and when I started to listen to it, I realised that I had read this a long time ago.

Olive’s husband disappears from Paris, and as a scientist just after the war, his disappearance makes people nervous. Olive travels to Morocco to escape things, but ends up fatally injured in a plane crash.

Meanwhile, Hilary Cravern sits in a hotel room planning her suicide after her daughter has died and her husband has left her. As she has a passing resemblance to Olive (Same height and age, red coloured hair) she is persuaded to embark on a probable suicide mission to find out where all these scientists have disappeared to.

Much of the book is spent then in covering Hilary’s journey and the corresponding search for her in the wide expanse of North Africa

Audible version read by Emilia Fox, who performed a satisfactory role, though her American was a little less jarring than her European accents

Book Review: The 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames

The 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1928, Agatha Christie, the world’s most widely read author, was a thirty-something single mother.  With her marriage to her first husband, Archie Christie, over, she decided to take a much-needed holiday; the Caribbean had been her intended destination, but a conversation at a dinner party with a couple who had just returned from Iraq changed her mind.  Five days later she was off on a completely different trajectory.

Merging literary biography with travel adventure, and ancient history with contemporary world events, Andrew Eames tells a riveting tale and reveals fascinating and little-known details en route in this exotic chapter in the life of Agatha Christie.  His own trip from London to Baghdad—a journey much more difficult to make in 2002 with the political unrest in the Middle East and the war in Iraq, than it was in 1928—becomes ineluctably intertwined with Agatha’s, and the people he meets could have stepped out of a mystery novel.

Picked up as an Audiobook from Audible, and read by the author, who does a decent job of it.

This book’s concept started out as a “let’s follow Agatha Christie’s journeys to the middle east by train” story, but morphed into part travelogue, part history lesson and part Christie autobiography.

Eames attempts to do a trip between England and Baghdad, previously done several times and almost completely by train by Agatha Christie (and much on the Orient Express). This book is the result of when Eames tries to recreate this trip. The Orient Express, as was, was shut down in the 1970s, and has been recreated in part by some willing investors who, as a labour of love, have gathered the remaining rolling stock and put on some level of service. Lack of rolling stock, multiple local and global wars, and shifting borders (and that England is no longer a regional strong man in the area) has meant that such a trip undertaken by a solo Englisher is no longer really possible.

However, Eames does as he can, describing his various adventures through Europe and the Middle-East, and some of the more interesting people he meets. He goes through what remains of Yugoslavia, and finds out how some people are coping 10 years after the war that split the country in three.

His attempts to reach Baghdad on a bus with a motley crew of Westerners is tense, where noone really knows who is who, the English continue to have a stiff upper lipped colonial approach to travel, the Americans can be dodgy and everyone is trying to guess who the CIA agent is. This part of the trip reflects the tension and conflicting views of the potentially coming war. Eames’ journey concluded on a bitter sweet note in Baghdad in 2003, with post-9/11 tensions running high and the Allied airplanes beginning to do bombing sorties in the skies.

At the end of the book is a !more straight! version of Christie’s trips in the Middle-East in her guise as the wife of an archaeologist and her continuing work as a worldwide known writer – several of her books, including “Death in Mesopotamia” and “Murder on the Orient Express” were written during her second marriage.

So a decently narrated audiobook, that manages to conjur up an exotic travel experience that is now faded with the passage of time and the vagaries of people’s attitude to others

Book Review: The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

the murder of roger ackroyd #christieVillage rumour hints that Mrs. Ferrars poisoned her husband, but no one is sure. Then there’s another victim in a chain of death. Unfortunately for the killer, master sleuth Hercule Poirot takes over the investigation.

Sent to me as a twitter prize by the lovely people at Harper Collins to mark a republish (different cover to one shown, but I cant find the latest image).

This is number 4 in the Hercule Poirot series, and it finds him retired in the countryside and keeping a low profile – so low, he doesnt appear for the first few chapters. The story is narrated by the local doctor and starts with the apparent suicide of Mrs Ferrars believed to have poisoned her husband the year before. Then Mr Ackroyd is found murdered in his study just a few days later. There are plenty of suspects – everyone is hiding a secret from Poirot and it takes him some time to work out just who did it.

If you’ve ever watched the TV adaptations, or read this before, the killer of Ackroyd is well known. However it’s Christie’s presentation of the narrative (as written in chapters by the doctor who has an eye on writing a book in the future a la John Watson about Sherlock Holmes) that keeps it all going. One advantage of Poirot books is that they are rarely (I dont think *ever*) written from the perspective of Poirot himself, and therefore we are safe in the knowledge that we are given the same information as Poirot, and it’s just that everyone has their own interpretation on the information.

So: lovely edition of a book I havent read for a long time, and enjoyable to see how it completes, even if you do think you know who did it!

Book Review: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, by Agatha Christie

christmaspuddingThe Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An English country house at Christmas time, with its crackling log fires and fine food, may seem an incongruous setting for a crime—but a sinister note left on his pillow tells Hercule Poirot everything is not as it seems.

The great detective plays his cards close to his chest—until the discovery of a young woman lying in the snow, a Kurdish knife in the centre of a crimson stain on her white wrap, spurs Poirot into revealing his hand.

6 short stories (5 with Poirot, 1 with Marple) and most of which are well known. Didnt know Greenshaw’s Folly or The Under Dog so they were new to me. First published in 1963, Poirot is getting old and tired, but it’s still a while before the end of “Curtain”.

The stories are short, and I think that some were perhaps a little too short – the denouement came too quickly and I wasnt necessarily convinced

Book Review: The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

the moving finger #crime #christie #marpleThe placid village of Lymstock seems the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. But soon a series of vicious poison-pen letters destroys the village’s quiet charm, eventually causing one recipient to commit suicide. The vicar, the doctor, the servants—all are on the verge of accusing one another when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar’s houseguest happens to be none other than Jane Marple.

With all the adaptations going around, it’s sometimes hard to remember if you’ve actually read the book or not

This is a Miss Marple story, though she does turn up late and is hardly in the story at all.

This is a story of Burton (and his sister) taking a house in the country after his flying accident. Soon they have received a poison pen letter accusing them of not being brother and sister, and not long after this people start dying. Burton has most of it worked out, even if he doesnt realise it, before Miss Marple arrives and ties everything up into a neat bow.

Once again, a short neat little story and a quick read to while away an afternoon or two. The numerous TV adaptations have, perhaps, taken a little shine off the story but not much