Category Archives: Agatha Christie

The Thirteen Problems – Agatha Christie

I am beginning to think that Agatha Christie, in particular with her Miss Marple stories are actually some of the best crime novels for me. Invariably they are set in the 1930’s or 40’s when they were written which is a period that I love. They also seem to be the perfect match of an initial cosy crime caper that soon becomes something far much darker and as Miss Marple would say herself ‘full of wickedness’. ‘The Thirteen Problems’ seemed like a perfect read between everything else as being short stories of around ten pages each you can read them on the go, between another read, or just when you have ten minutes that need filling with a book.

The opening story of ‘The Thirteen Problems’ called ‘The Tuesday Night Club’ was originally the first published outing for Miss Marple and featured in The Royal Magazine in 1927 (the first Marple novel ‘Murder at the Vicarage’ wasn’t published till 1930) and introduced a collection of characters, including this slightly demure older lady, setting up a regular night when they can share tales of mystery that only they know the answer of and leaving the other members to solve the riddle. Well I think you might be able to guess who does the solving by simply applying human nature she has observed in the village of St Mary Mead. Agatha Christie then used ‘The Tuesday Night Club’ to create a further twelve stories that all interlink, though could easily be read separately and so this collection, which is more like an episodic novel (‘The Tuesday Club Murders’ in America) was formed and what a collection it is.

There are some straight forward murders in this novel, a few of your good old ‘manor house murders’ but what surprised me with this ‘The Thirteen Problems’ was that there is a rather supernatural streak through them. I am sure this was due to spirituality still gripping the nation when Agatha was writing. In fact Marple uses superstition to help someone she believes is going to be murdered at one point. None of them are ridiculous ghostly parodies, but because mysteries are just that people look for other explanations. Mediums appear a few times and the way Christie builds the plot and especially in the suspense creates the atmosphere we all know and love in a good ghostly tale. ‘The Bloodstained Pavement’ is a tale set by the idyllic seaside yet when a woman sees blood on the street no one else can local legend tells a murder will occur, and guess what it does and the missing blood is rather important. Yes, not easy to figure out I can assure you.

I loved every tale in this collection but my two favourites were the spookiest. ‘The Idol House of Astarte’ initially centres around a big house and then moves to the grounds where is it believed a shrine has been made for the goddess who it soon becomes apparent can possess people and make them do despicable things, or is something far more malevolent at work? ‘The Blue Geranium’ might be my very favourite though as a medium tells Mrs Pritchard that blue flowers will be the death of her. Strangely enough within weeks the flowers on her wall paper start to turn blue and yet she is the only one in the room over night and the only one with the key to get in, yet is this ghosts or is someone trying to kill her with fear?

I can’t remember where I saw the quote but someone somewhere has said that all the plots and short tales are so good that they could each have easily made a full novel and honestly that’s the truth. The fact Agatha Christie manages to grab you, hook you in, confuse you and then very easily explain what has baffled you in around twelve pages a time is quite something and the more I read of her the more I truly think that, bar Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, no one can better her for crime plotting. Many people mumble that she simply retells the same story over and over and yet having read quite a few of her stories I wouldn’t agree. There are a couple of tales in this collection where a husband bumps off a wife but the circumstances and indeed the murders are all completely different and the stories told in varying ways, with ‘A Christmas Tragedy’ you think you know who only Christie turns it all on its head, and again and again leaving you guessing.

A book that will: entertain and have you guessing either in greedy gulps or sneaky snippets. A perfect collection of short stories that anyone who loves a good mystery or thirteen should get there hands on. I think this shows just how much of a genius Agatha Christie really is. 10/10

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners;

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie – Miss Marple might be my very favourite of Agatha’s series of books but this stand alone novel  is another firm favourite and sees a slightly different style from Christie’s other books.
Agatha Christies Secret Notebooks by John Curran – reading this collection has made me want to reach for John Curran’s superb book on Agatha which collates her notebooks and plotting and really gets you into the mind of Christie.

I am still tempted by the Secret Notebooks but I have more than enough reading to be getting on with, maybe I could have an ‘Agatha April’ or something in 2011? So who else has read this collection? I am hoping there is someone else out there? If you haven’t then please do! Oh and on a slightly different tangent… this book has made me want to read some classic Victorian and early half of the 1900’s ghost stories, any recommendations?

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Books of 2010, Harper Collins, Miss Marple, Review, Short Stories

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? – Agatha Christie

When I mentioned I was having somewhat of a rough time reading wise recently Claire suggested that I either turn to Mitford or Christie (wise words indeed) I actually went for ‘The Graveyard Book’ but then when another slump hit almost instantly after I pulled down on of Dame Agatha’s lesser known novels ‘Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?’. It amazes me that people can be rather snobbish about Agatha Christie’s writing because she always, well so far, comes up trumps… even with her lesser known works it now appears. (Oh and mini-fact for you I collect these old Fontana editions of Christies books, I just love the covers.)

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I specifically chose ‘Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?’ as my latest Christie read, and I have a fair few, because it was one I know I have never seen on the telly (though I have heard that it became a Marple TV show despite her not being in the book at all?!?) and so as I opened the book I genuinely had no idea what I was going to be greeted by. When I started reading about golf I thought ‘oh no Agatha’ (I should have guessed from the cover – I know!) but four pages later, or a chapter in Christie terms, Bobby the golfer in question has discovered a body at the bottom of the cliff when his ball goes AWOL. As he waits with the body, his friend having gone to get the police, the man who is not quite dead mutters ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans?’ before taking his last breath.

This is dismissed as a tragic accident however after Bobby’s friend Lady Frances Derwent (or ‘Frankie’) reminds him of the words he lets the deceased’s family know. Soon after strange things start to happen such as mysterious job offers in Buenos Aires and even Bobby being poisoned and so Frankie and Bobby decide to play sleuths leading them into a dark mystery involving the 1930’s upper classes, dark Granges and sinister nursing homes. I will say no more as I don’t want to spoil the utter pleasure this book is to read to get to the final solution (which I didn’t guess). I will say it’s absolutely brilliant stuff; I could barely put it down.

Some people have said this was a ‘light hearted romp’ in Christie’s career and there is a feeling of an adult ‘Famous Five adventure’ about it, well more a slightly hapless duo in this case. Don’t let that stop you reading it though because the characters are superb (especially the wonderful head strong Frankie who calls someone a b*tch within seconds of being gracing a page with her presence) the plot has lots of twists and there are more red herrings that you could find at a fishmongers. Oh and Christie very cleverly and wryly shows you just how easy it was to work it out, even though it’s unlikely you will – seriously, in the final chapters as the lead characters discuss it. This could be my favourite Christie yet! I am quite disappointed that this isn’t the first in a series as I could read much, much more of Frankie and Bobby. 9/10 (And I don’t care if you judge me on giving a Christie a 9, with this book she deserves it!)

Has anyone else read this, or have you never heard of it? Where do you stand on Christie? Is she a cosy writer or a plotting mastermind in your opinion? Which is your favourite (no spoilers though please) of her works?

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Wish Lists, Whims and Sympathy Supplies

I thought the first week would be tough in truth I am not finding not buying books a struggle so far. For those of you wondering what on earth I am on about then do go here. Then again how many bookshops have I actually been in so far, erm, none. I haven’t been avoiding them either I just haven’t had the time so maybe it’s simply that. I will have to drop of a lot of books at the legendary charity shop this week so that will be hard going, I will report back on that one. It could be a bit of a mammoth challenge. Maybe I should call these posts Book Buying Ban Reports or just BBB Reports?

I have found it interesting though seeing how fickle my mind is. I am using the wish list and updating it as I go and already one book has slipped off the radar. Apologies H.G. Wells, I think the addition of ‘War of the Worlds’ was a fickle manoeuvre after seeing the film on TV at Christmas. I also decided that I didn’t really want to have Tom Cruise in my head as the lead character either and that would be the case after seeing the film so very recently. I was feeling proud there were only two books now on the wish list and then realised techincally wanting everything you don’t own by Murakami is more than one book. Even if it was just the technical two after a week it means I will still want over 100 in a year! Moving swiftly on…

Fickleness seems to have applied itself to the mixture and changes everyday on the bedside table. ‘The Day of the Triffids’ was a definite as I wanted to read it before I watched the TV show; the TV show expired on iPlayer and I simply moved on. I did then hear a glowing report about it at book group and so it’s wavering on and off there again. I am really enjoying ‘whim reading’ (I am wondering if I should trademark that) so far. I just potter over have a look at what I own that’s out, coming out or I just fancy and off I go. It feels so liberating and I am already nearly finished with book number six of 2010 already. This I think is what reading should be like.

I would be lying though if I said that books weren’t making their way into the house, which of course makes things a little easier. There have been one or two publishers parcels as well as two ‘sympathy supplies’ which contained some Agatha Christie and an Ivy Compton Burnett.

My big sister Holly came to stay last week (poor thing as it was when the boiler was bust – I felt embarrassed beyond the beyond) and with her she brought me three wonderful Miss Marple novels. ‘The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side’, ‘A Pocketful of Rye’ and ‘They Do It With Mirrors’ are all now in my company. Actually Holly managed quite a feat she bought me three books I didn’t own, and Miss Marple ones at that! They were delivered with the line ‘I know you normally tell us not to buy you books but this year is an exception’ and I was thrilled.

I also had a visit from the lovely Simon T of Stuck-in-a-Book last week who came for tea, biscuits and book chatter. He is doing ‘Project 24’ and only buying 24 books for himself this year however he seems to be buying lots of bookish gifts for others and I was once such lucky person. I now have ‘The Present and the Past’ by Ivy Compton Burnett on the bedside table (a wonderful old copy too). We also had a wonderful chat about all things books, blogs, blogging etiquette and other delightful gubbins such as how much we quite like being ‘the two Simon’s’. I gave him a copy of ‘An Expert in Murder’ by Nicola Upson which I had two copies of for some reason though I forgot to give him the sequel too, have it stored, and Novel Insights is getting some more of my extra’s this week when she pops round, not that she knows how many ha, so I feel I am doing my bit too whilst whittling my own piles and piles of books down.

So far really it’s all rather lovely. How long do you think that will last? What lovely books have you received recently?

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Books of 2009

As the end of the year draws in I find that I become quite reflective. I have actually had a bit of an issue with reading this week and wonder if that is an end of year thing, more on that at some other point. 2009 has been a big year for this blog; it’s also been a big year for my reading. It seems a delightful coincidence that today as I wrap up my best reads of 2009 it is also my 500th post which I think deserves some fireworks…

My original idea of doing my ‘best of’ like I did last year with The Savidge Dozen just wasn’t working. I have read too many brilliant books and so I thought I would instead do two separate top ten’s. The first being my favourite books published or re-issued in 2009 itself which was hard and actually I got down to a final twelve but I had to cut the delightful books Notwithstanding and ‘The Earth Hums in B Flat’ and be tough to make the ten which are (click on each title for full review)…

10. Legend of a Suicide by David Vann – One of the most emotionally raw novels I have ever read. Fictional accounts of a father’s suicide, the events leading up to it and the effects of this tragedy on his son and others around him, based in parts on the authors own fathers suicide. Moving and masterfully written.  

9. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood – The first of two Atwood novels that truly made my year. This dark (and often darkly funny) tale of the future of humanity starts off sounding like something out of a sci-fi novel yet disturbingly slowly reads as a not too distant possibility.  

8. After The Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld – Without question the debut novel of the year for me. A book many are labelling as being a ‘War book’, I wouldn’t 100% agree with that as its so much more. The author calls it a ‘romantic thriller about men who don’t speak’ I would call it ‘a book about the dark truths behind the faces of those we love’ a compelling and moving read.

7. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill – Some loved it some hated it, I revelled in it. Susan Hill’s thoughts on some of her books and the people she met who wrote them. And she popped by and made a comment or two.

6. The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan – A fictional account of those famous Bronte Sisters which sadly didn’t get the Man Booker notice it should have. This brings the Bronte’s to life and you will think of them slightly differently. Made me want to read every Bronte book I could… as yet I haven’t started but a possible resolution for 2010, that or read all of Morgan’s prior works.

5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – The deserved winner from the Man Booker Shortlist and the one I guessed (though I was hoping a certain other book would win, see below). I thought that there had been Tudor fiction overload, I was wrong just as I was wrong that reading a book about Thomas Cromwell that was huge would bore me to death, I was enthralled and enwrapped.

4. Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie – The only way I can think of to describe this book which skips such a huge expanse of time is ‘a war torn epic’. I thought this was marvellous and was thrilled I got to hear her speak about it and even ask her a question; I was a bit in awe.

3. Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran – Definitely the non fiction book of 2009, well published in 2009. Getting a glimpse into the private world of such a marvellous author and how her criminal mastermind brain worked and plotted was utterly fascinating.

2. Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys – Technically not actually released originally in 2009, but thankfully brought back from the past thanks to the wonderful Bloomsbury Group. The tale of Henrietta and the villagers she lives with during the war had me laughing out loud all over the place.

1. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – A book I fell wholly in love with from start to finish. It might not have the biggest plot or be brimming with a huge cast of characters but its simplicity is what makes it so stunning. An interesting look at the life of a woman who is sent to be saved from the poverty in Ireland by being shipped to America, only not everyone wants to be saved. Utterly stunning and quietly intense.

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Then I had the ridiculous task of finding the ten ‘best of the rest’ which in a year where I read such delights as The Secret Scripture (which lost a point or two for the ending I won’t lie) and the joy Miss Garnett’s Angel and had a Sensation Season was going to be tough. OK, so it’s not quite ten but it’s as close as I could get. The final ten (cough, eleven) are…

10. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – I wasn’t convinced that a thriller based on a child murderer in the time of Stalinist Russia would work for me. I was utterly wrong as I think for me it’s been the thriller of the year. Also thrilling was getting to go to Tom’s house for coffee and questions.

9. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – Proof that sometimes books can be hard work but all that hard work is definitely worth it. Opening with the suicide of the narrator’s sister, this becomes an epic novel of the lives of the Chase sisters and the effects of the Second World War. Also comes with an intriguing novel inside the novel and a sci-fi-ish novel inside that one, are you keeping up?

8. State of Happiness by Stella Duffy – I am a big admirer of Stella and her work and this to me is her best fiction yet (oh but wait for the next one in 2010) despite loving her latest book The Room of Lost Things in 2008. This is a tale about love and ultimately death and it broke my heart and made me cry quite a lot. If you are up for an emotional journey and wonderful writing you simply cannot miss this book.

7. Lady into Fox by David Garnett – Wonderful surreal and touching fable of a husband and how he deals with his wife randomly turning into a fox one day. This is may only be 96 pages long but each page is perfection.

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – Most of the planet with have read this novel so I will simply say a modern classic masterpiece about a dystopian future where we are all under the watchful all seeing eye of Big Brother and should ever be fearful of Room 101.  

5. The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett – My first year of reading Persephone books and this one just took me on a journey that I wasn’t expecting. A sensational tale of rich American heiresses, one whom meekly marries an Englishman for a title and vanishes, the other a forthright woman who wishes to seek her sister out and solve the mystery of what has befallen her.

4. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – A total surprise hit of 2009 for me. I never thought that a ‘sci-fi’ book about a mentally handicapped man and a genius mouse would grab me let alone move me to tears and yet this frankly marvellous book did exactly that.

3. Small Island by Andrea Levy – Really this is a modern masterpiece. A tale of two completely different women brought together through war and adversity. Also a tale of forbidden love, war, racism and hope, a remarkable book I was glad Granny Savidge Reads recommended so strongly and so often.

2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – This book is what I may now consider the greatest nonfiction book I have ever read (so far – though unlikely to be beaten). A true tale of the ruthless killing of a family in America, and a thought provoking quite often disturbing study of their murderers. In parts bleak and horrific, it’s also emotional (I cried at this one too) and yet a darkly fascinating insight into the minds of killers.  

1. East Lynne by Ellen Wood/Armadale by Wilkie Collins – Technically I am cheating but I really couldn’t decide between these two. The epic scope, characters and thrilling plots of each of these was utterly remarkable. In a year where I rediscovered my loved of all things sensational I found these two new favourite books. Both of these are genuine gems of sensation novels and couldn’t have more mystery, twists, dramas or thrills if they tried.

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I have to say I don’t think that minimal short snappy reviews are my fortes so do visit the full reviews, they are much better. Should you be really tough and ask me which out of this final twenty one would be my favourite of the year I would have to go with… Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. I know some people will be surprised after my sensation fiction love in and some of you won’t agree and that’s fine, though don’t push your negative comments below this post (ha, ha, ha), for me it was just wonderful and a true surprise delight in this years Man Booker Longlist read-a-thon. There will be much more Toibin to come in 2010 I promise you. Now I must dash as I have a party to prepare for (attending not hosting) and some resolutions to make… What have been your best books of 2009?

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrea Levy, Books of 2009, Colm Toibin, Daniel Keyes, David Garnett, David Vann, Ellen Wood, Evie Wyld, Frances Hodgson Burnett, George Orwell, Hilary Mantel, John Curran, Jude Morgan, Kamila Shamsie, Margaret Atwood, Stella Duffy, Susan Hill, Tom Rob Smith, Truman Capote, Wilkie Collins

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – Agatha Christie

I don’t think that for a Christmas read you could do better than a title ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’ especially when it’s followed by the tag line ‘and a selection of Entrée’s’ the fact it is written by Agatha Christie only adds to its appeal and charm. It was also slightly ironic that after cooking a huge, and rather lovely, Christmas dinner the pudding was the problem. More on that some other time as really this is a post about a rather marvellous Christmas read, rather than my shoddy pudding debacle.

I had never heard of the regular event in publishing called the ‘Christmas Christie’ until I read the wonderful ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ by John Curran earlier in the year but indeed she did write many. Naturally hankering for some perfect Christmas this book with its fabulous title had to be high up on my list. What could be better than some murder under the mistletoe whilst munching on chocolates and mulled wine?

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is actually a collection of some of Agatha Christie’s short stories. Five of them are tales of Poirot ‘The Mystery of the Spanish Chest’, ‘The Underdog’, ‘Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds’, ‘The Dream’ and the title tale itself. The last one ‘Greenshaw’s Folly’ stars Miss Marple, my favourite Christie character, herself. The title tale is indeed very Christmas filled and is murder meets great theft containing three brilliant plot twists within 60 pages which I think is remarkable. ‘The Mystery of the Spanish Chest’ had be baffled as to how six guests could eat dinner with one of their spouses murdered in a chest in the same room, again so, so clever. ‘The Underdog’ is a very interesting tale of women’s intuition and how having it cannot prove a thing, even if it might (note I say might not it is) be right.

The latter three were interesting clever, highly readable and slightly annoying in one. As though it was very interesting to see Christie use one specific plot device (which I cant say or you wont need to read them and they are charming) and change it so much in three ways I did feel it was a shame to have them be the last three tales as it could have been mixed up more. It did show what a genius of murderous mayhem she could be and how many ways one thing could be reworked; I would have just placed a few different methods in between. It’s a small critique though as I didn’t guess any of the endings in any of these three and they all kept me reading until the small hours of this very Boxing Day. All in all it was a truly delightful classic Christmas Christie collection (loving that alliteration) and I couldn’t have asked for more.

How were all your Christmases, did you all have a delightful day? I do hope so, do report back please with your Xmas tales. I had a marvellous day, bar the Christmas pudding nightmare (don’t ask). Dinner was a delight and I had wonderful presents but oddly only one book, though I do know another has been ordered. Apparently I am a nightmare to book buy for, as if. I mean really that’s so untrue.

Isn’t it interesting that though I love Christmas Day it is actually Boxing Day that’s my favourite since I started hosting Christmas myself? I think because everything is done and we now simply have those delicious parsnip and turkey sandwiches, left over chocolates and wine etc and can all relax from the hype. It is also tradition that we go to the cinema on Boxing Day which I love. Tonight we are off to see a film with a bookish twist that shaped my reading in a rather major way. I shall be discussing it in more detail tomorrow. I wonder if you can guess, its quite elementary my dears…

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Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks – John Curran

A theme seems to be occurring when it comes to my reading habits. I always say that I am not the biggest fan of non fiction and then I read one each year and it completely takes my breath away (well almost) with its brilliance and soon becomes on of my favourites if not my favourite book of the year. This happened last year with ‘The Mitford’s: Letters Between Six Sisters’ by Charlotte Mosley, I utterly adored it couldn’t put it down and yet at the same time didn’t want it to end. This has happened again this year with ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ by John Curran.

I heard about Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks on one of the many book podcasts that I download each week. These notebooks were a recent discovery when Christie’s family allowed Greenway, Christie’s holiday home, to be taken over by the National Trust. They had never been on display, they were a mix up of several plots, daily to do’s, shopping lists, character ideas, lists of books (made me love Agatha even more) she wanted and other thoughts with no chronological order. That is where John Curran, an Agatha expert and friend of Christie’s grandson, came in and this book is the results of four years work trying to decipher some of Christie’s handwriting “often like short hand” and working out what notes related to what books and when.

The discoveries are really very interesting. It seems that Curran’s (and probably most readers of her work) image of Agatha sat endlessly typing murder after murder, book after book with the killer planned at the start isn’t quite so. In fact as you get to read her notes, which John has painstakingly transcribed, you find she would often chop and change the killer as she went. The idea for a book might ruminate for years and start from a simple observation as ‘a stamp’ the notes then look at how such an everyday item could cause someone to commit murder. Who knew that a certain famous Poirot scene was originally meant for Miss Marple? Which books didn’t have the endings you and I might have read? Which short stories then with new characters and a subtle plot twist or motive change became a play or a novel? You can find all these things out and much, much more.

The book isn’t just John’s transcriptions, there are some wonderful pictures (as you can see above)  of the notes she had written with crossings out (which actually meant she had used the notes not that they were rubbish. This book isn’t just about her notebooks, though naturally they are predominantly the subject of the book. He also interweaves her personal life from making hair appointments to having her grandchildren to say and being part of ‘The Detection Club’ a group of the finest detective fiction writers with a secret initiation ceremony. Her disappearance isn’t much mentioned but this is more about the process behind the books and what went on in Agatha’s head.

I have to say I don’t think you have to be a huge Agatha fan in order to read this, though if you are this book is pure gold. If you are interested in how the minds of authors work and in particular one of the great British authors (who has sold over two billion copies of her books worldwide) ever then this is also fascinating. There are a couple of glitches in the book. One, which you can overcome, is that it does give a lot of the books endings away. My thoughts on that are just leave those books a while before you read or re-read them as she has so many ‘you could read one a month for seven years’. The other small glitch for me is Curran’s slight case of repetition; I think in the first hundred pages I had read the same quote three times which seemed to be hammering a point home a little too much. This is minor though as I found Curran a really interesting and enjoyable guide through these notebooks, he was never too clever or condescending just very enthusiastic which we all know is highly contagious.

Ooh, I must mention, well show you, the delightful end papers which are a selection of the notebooks and look gorgeous (my Gran could remember lots of them) I think…

This is a wonderful book that I adored, and I freely admit that I am quite a hard person to please with non fiction yet this won me over almost instantly. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of the year It has also made my previous desire to read all Agatha Christie that I can a much bigger desire. I am quite tempted to read The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding next week! Oh, which brings me to the point that this book has finally won me over to Poirot and not just because of the notes, but also the two previously unpublished short stories he features in. A must read in my humble opinion.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Books of 2009, Harper Collins, John Curran, Review

The Body in the Library – Agatha Christie

I realised that actually The Body in the library isn’t the second Miss Marple written by Agatha Christie after I picked it up from my Christie post the other day. I also realised I have completely broken my ‘read things in order’ rule I like for a series of books as I had already read At Bertram’s Hotel (actually the eleventh), 4.50 From Paddington (which I always think is the first but is actually the eighth) and then the actual first Marple novel The Murder at The Vicarage. I was slightly narked at myself but I needed a Marple and Christie fest and didn’t have The Thirteen Problems so I just went with it.

The title ‘The Body in the Library’ kind of gives away just what is coming in the opening pages. Yes that’s right, the Bantry household awakes to find that there is indeed a body of an unknown platinum blonde in their library. No one in the household has seen the young girl before and it takes some time for the police to track her down. However it doesn’t take that long for Miss Jane Marple to appear on the scene as Mrs Bantry, a close friend, sends a chauffeur round for her pronto phoning ahead before ‘the recognised time to make friendly calls to neighbours’.

The police having met Miss Marple and her amateur sleuthing naturally want her gone as soon as possible. She doesn’t leave until she overhears that the victim was a dancer at the Hotel Majestic in Danemouth and before long Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple just so happen to take a small holiday there. So who was this girl, how did she end up in a strangers library in St Mary’s Mead and who took her there and killed her? Well you will have to read this joyous romp to find out.

Reading Agatha Christie this time round and taking slightly longer than the normal one sitting I noticed the wry humour she has that I spotted after seeing ‘The Spiders Web’ on stage the other week. Even from the wonderful opening paragraph there it is “Mrs Bantry was dreaming. Her sweet peas had just taken a first at the flower show. The vicar, dressed in a cassock and surplice, was giving out the prizes in church. His wife wandered past, dressed in a bathing-suit, but as is the blessed habit of dreams this fact did not arouse the disapproval of the parish in the way it would assuredly have done in real life…

Those of you who read regularly will know I love village life and old ladies who are either a bit doolally or gossip and in the book we have both. Again the rye wit comes through in lines such as when we meet one of the villagers “Miss Wetherby, a long nosed, acidulated spinster, was the first to spread the intoxicating information”. Or when one woman in the village defends another to Miss Marple “Selena Blake is the nicest woman imaginable. Her herbaceous borders are simply marvellous – they make me green with envy. And she’s frightfully generous with her cuttings.’

I really took stock of Agatha Christie’s writing this time whilst try to hunt the killer and motives and it added immensely to my latest Christie reading. There was only one draw back and that was about half way in I suddenly remembered the TV version and so didn’t need to guess the killer as I remembered. If it hadn’t been for the great writing I wouldn’t have carried on but I found myself wanting to continue observing Christie’s characterization, red herring and clue dropping and scene setting. A truly wonderful read, I shall have to have a Christie moment much more often.

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