March 30, 2020

A Murder is Announced

 

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Well, it’s official. The Governor here in Maryland has proclaimed an executive order for the next three weeks. I don’t think the libraries will be opening anytime soon and I’m pretty sure book stores haven’t been deemed essential businesses. However, we can all still continue reading our Agatha Christie novels. A little murder will take our mind off the world outside.

This week for Marple Monday we are reading A Murder is Announced. Imagine opening up your newspaper, or even reading on Facebook, that a murder was to take place at your house later that very day! Just as the residents of  Chipping Cleghorn assumed, we also would believe it to be a game or, at the very least, a joke. It was no joke when the townspeople gather at Little Paddocks that evening expecting a mystery game only to find themselves witnesses to a real murder.

Christie, in this novel, shows again her fascination with names. Pay close attention. Her characters seem often to share similar sounding names which is sometimes part of her plot, but I think mostly she is trying to mislead her reader. It leaves us thinking, “Is this important? Is this a clue?”

I am relieved to see Miss Marple makes a much earlier appearance in this book than last week’s selection. I’m still interested in seeing if The Moving Finger is part of the Miss Marple series on television. I wonder if it will play out better on screen than it did on the page. I have a feeling the racist remarks would be removed. At least I’d hope so.

I am enjoying this book much more than I did the last one. The further I read, the more sure I am that I’ve read this book before, though I don’t recall what happens. It seems I’ll have plenty of time over the next few weeks to catch up on all my reading!

Please let me know what you’re reading, even if it isn’t an Agatha Christie book. Let’s get some conversations going and keep each other company. Next week we will read They Do It with Mirrors.

Wishing you all a happy day and good health!

March 29, 2020

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

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“Strange,” he murmured. “We all have the little grey cells. And so few of us know how to use them.”       -Hercule Poirot

 

Today marks sixteen days I have been on the social distancing plan. I haven’t been any further than my own backyard.My husband ventures out to work and picks up anything we need. One thing he was unable to get for me was this week’s book. As I’m sure you are aware the libraries are all closed. You can’t even return books because they’ve locked the return bins.

I was also unable to secure the book online from the library, but did place a hold on it. Just goes to show you how popular Agatha Christie still is 100 years later! So, I did the next best thing; I watched it on the Acorn station. Are you familiar with Acorn? It’s similar to Britbox [I have both] and features movies and television programs from “across the pond.” If you enjoy Masterpiece Theater and Mystery, you will be interested in the programming on these stations.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was well done and featured my favorite Poirot, David Suchet. It was a bit different from the other Poirot stories. This one is basically told by Poirot himself as he reads from the murderer’s journal. See? Apparently writing in your journal daily helps everyone!The story gives nothing away until the very end, and I was surprised. I thought the butler did it at first. When he ended up among the victims I knew I was either wrong or he was a clever killer.

The show was well cast. Hastings does not make an appearance in this one which made me feel rather glad. Though I like the character of Hastings and Hugh Fraser, the actor who portrays him, I think he was miscast. In the books Hastings seems much younger.

The next Poirot book should be The Big Four. I hope to be able to read it, it’s not one that I own. If the book is unavailable, then we will once again discuss the show.

Keep reading and let me know what books you enjoy whether they are Christie or not. I wish you well and stay home if you are able and remember to wash, wash, wash your hands!

 

 

March 23, 2020

The Moving Finger

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Today marks Day 9 of my social distancing. I’ve only been as far as my mailbox since last Saturday. How is everyone handling things out there? I haven’t been bored, that’s for sure! I have plenty to read and numerous shows I would like to catch up on. Since last week I’ve been watching Unforgotten on Amazon Prime. It originally was on PBS, but I missed it. If you are looking for a fabulous show with brilliant writing and an engaging cast,  and I can only assume you all enjoy mysteries, then you must give this show a look.

This past week I’ve been reading The Moving Finger and, I’ll admit, I’m not finished yet. I had a hard time getting into the story and had a really, really hard time with the racist comments. And where’s Miss Marple? I’m on page 92 and her name hasn’t even been mentioned yet.  It’s disappointing. I like Miss Marple and want her to be a part of this story. The Burton siblings aren’t that interesting. And I find it curious that the house they are renting is owned by a Miss Barton. Why are their names so similar? Will that play a part later in the story?

I’m very interested in other opinions about this book. Are you all offended by the way she refers to the Chinese? If you were unfamiliar with Christie’s work, would this cause you to not read further? I don’t think this particular book is going to rank among my favorites.

I don’t have many more pages to go before I’m finished with this one, and I hope it is more engaging for me as it goes on Next up is A Murder is Announced. Until next week, stay well and stay home(if you are able)!

March 22, 2020

Poirot Investigates

 

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My happy place and a good spot to read.

How is everyone doing? I am mostly well, but must admit that I’ve had a few fleeting moments of panic. Today marks the eighth day I’ve been in my house. It has been a blessing to have this Agatha Christie project to keep my mind occupied. Aren’t books wonderful?

My local library is now closed, so I read this book online. I prefer an actual book, but it did seem to me that it took less time to read on my iPad. How do you prefer to read?

This week’s selection, Poirot Investigates, is a book containing fourteen short stories. Poirot may have been an excellent investigator, but I apparently am not. I did not realize this was not a novel. This will be our last short story selection, I would like to keep our reading to novels for now.

That being said, I do enjoy short stories and have a published my own in a few anthologies. This was the first time I’d read any of Christie’s Poirot short stories. I liked them very much, but I think I prefer her Poirot novels. My favorite story from this book was The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge. I think Agatha Christie was quite fascinated with actresses because she uses them in many of her stories.

This past week I also had the opportunity to watch the 1974 Sydney Lumet version of Murder on the Orient Express. I do love that movie, but it is for Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall and Jacqueline Bisset, definitely not Albert Finney’s Poirot.  As I’ve said before, David Suchet is the perfect Poirot.

Next week we will read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Until then, stay well, stay in your house, and keep reading to lift your spirits!

March 17, 2020

The Body in the Library

 

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What to do when a  platinum blond is found dead in your library?  It would be unbelievable, especially if you knew no one who might fit that description. The Colonel and Mrs. Bantry felt quite the same way upon hearing the news.

In this second Miss Marple mystery, Agatha Christie takes us away from St. Mary Mead and off to a hotel by the seaside. When murder lands on your doorstep, or in your library as the case may be, there is no better friend to have than Jane Marple.

Mrs. Bantry is more excited than she probably should be and wants her dear friend Jane to play detective with her. Once checked in at the Majestic Hotel they find more than one person that are not shedding any tears over poor Ruby Keene’s death.

In addition to the murder, there is another mystery to solve with the disappearance of Girl Guide Pamela Reeves. Are they somehow connected?

Miss Marple bases her theories on parallels of everyday life in St. Mary Mead, and though they seem to not have much to do with the case, in the end it is through them she is able to piece together what happened and find the culprit.

Did you find this story as interesting as Murder at the Vicarage? I must say I was at first disappointed to leave St. Mary Mead, but was soon enough engrossed in this mystery. I also thought it interesting that the two victims had such similar last names, Keene and Reeves. I’m not sure it had anything to do with the story, it just caught my eye.

I’m still trying to get my hands on a copy of The Tuesday Club Murders [also known as The Thirteen Problems] but even the library couldn’t find me one. Next week we will read The Moving Finger. I think for now I will stick with novels and leave the short stories for another time.

Please remember to comment below. Have a wonderful week and remember you can read while practicing social distancing. Oh, and wash your hands!

March 16, 2020

Murder on the Links

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I’m snuggled here in my office, doing my part at keeping my distance from others. I guess I’ve picked a good time to start reading Agatha Christie because it seems there will be plenty of time for at least the next two weeks.

How did everyone enjoy this week’s Poirot mystery? This was the first time I have read Murder on the Links and I really enjoyed it. I have not yet seen the show, but plan on doing so this week.

My first thought was that the story would be about golf, and must admit was thankful that wasn’t the case. I was able to guess the true identity of the victim, but was totally surprised at the conclusion. Towards the end of the book I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Yesterday afternoon I watched a very entertaining show on Amazon Prime about Agatha Christie. The Mystery of Agatha Christie with David Suchet  was fascinating. He took the viewer on a tour of Agatha’s life by interviewing her grandson Matthew, and her biographer Laura Thompson among others. I especially enjoyed the interview with artist Tom Adams who created the covers of many of Christie’s novels.

In one segment David Suchet drives an almost identical car to the one that was found the night Agatha went missing in 1926. He and Laura Thompson park in the location where Christie’s car had been found and discuss the theories of her disappearance. All the information was extremely interesting and I highly recommend this program if you haven’t already seen it.

I am most interested in your thoughts about Murder on the Links and hope you will comment below. Next week’s book is Poirot Investigates.

Enjoy your week and keep yourself and your neighbors healthy by staying home and reading!

March 9, 2020

The Murder at the Vicarage

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Be careful what you wish for. We’ve all heard that time and again. The Reverend Clement should have thought it through more carefully before he wished Colonel Prothero would meet his maker sooner rather than later. Things for the reverend become worse when the body of  Prothero, the church warden, is found in the vicarage.  Words are a  dangerous thing.

The suspect list is long. Who wanted to see Colonel Prothero dead? Who didn’t? Was it really Lawrence Redding, or did he confess to a crime his lover actually committed? Anne Prothero, the colonel’s wife, is in love with Redding as is her step-daughter Lettice. Each has much to gain from Prothero’s death. But what about the mysterious Estelle Lestrange? Who is she and why has she been visiting the colonel? Then there’s Archer  and Miss Cram and Doctor Stone and even Reverend Clement’s own nephew Dennis is under suspicion.

In this first story featuring Miss Jane Marple, we are introduced not only to the elderly spinster whose hobby is human nature, but to the town of St. Mary Mead. Christie brings us, the reader, into a gentle countryside filled with quaint shops and fragrant gardens then exposes us to the dark thoughts to those who live there. Agatha House 6

“Murder at the Vicarage was published in 1930, but I cannot remember where, when or how I wrote it, or even what suggested to me that I should select a new character – Miss Marple – to act as the sleuth in the story.” -An Autobiography.

My purpose in writing these posts each week is to get some discussion started on the works of Agatha Christie. It’s my hope that we can talk about the stories and characters, whether you are reading the books, or watching the programs. I’m interested in all points of view. I am particularly interested in discussing the similar conclusion to this book and that of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Did anyone else notice it?

Join me here next Monday where we will look at The Tuesday Club Murders.

 

 

March 8, 2020

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

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How nice would it be to take a rest and recover after an injury at an old friend’s beautiful country estate? That sounds relaxing to me. But what if you knew accepting such an invitation would involve you in a murder? If you were Arthur Hastings, friend of Hercule Poirot, you most certainly would be involved.

It is Hastings that brings Poirot, and us the reader, to Styles Court. Hastings’s days of relaxation are cut short when his hostess, Emily Inglethorp, is murdered in her bedroom. John Cavendish, Hastings’s friend and the step-son of the victim, is only one of many suspects.

I won’t spoil the outcome for you, but the story, in my opinion, is well plotted and the characters come to life giving us, the reader, a true sense of  time and place. Each character is presented in a way that leads us to believe they must have committed the horrendous crime, but then they are quickly exonerated only to be cast in the light of guilt once again. Though I’d read this mystery before, I had forgotten who had committed the murder and enjoyed being surprised at the end.

Hercule Poirot is an interesting character who is uniquely and completely sketched out. His egg-shaped head and tiny, neatly trimmed mustache are firmly planted in our own grey cells.  Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, Alfred Molina, John Malkovich and Kenneth Brannagh have all taken a turn playing the Belgian detective. My favorite will always be David Suchet. I believe his portrayal has been the most consistent with Christie’s character.

What did you think of The Mysterious Affair at Styles? Do you prefer the book to the film adaptation? Who is your favorite Poirot? Next week we will meet here again to discuss The Murder on the Links, Christie’s second Poirot mystery.

March 2, 2020

Mondays with Miss Marple

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Village life is so quiet and dull, or is it? Bodies seem to drop quickly in St. Mary Mead, and Miss Marple catches clues that slip by the local police. Bitten fingernails and lovelorn looks are almost always ignored by those in charge of the crime scene, but are never dismissed by Jane Marple.

I’ve just finished, once again, The Murder at the Vicarage. I believe I enjoyed it more this time than the first time I read it. Though I’d read a few Poirot mysteries, it was years later before I ventured onto the Miss Marple books. I had plenty of busy-body older ladies in my own neighborhood and had no desire to read about one.

How wrong I was! I can’t imagine not ever reading these wonderful stories, and now I love Jane Marple to bits. Like the Poirot books, I am rereading these in the order they were published. Afterwards I’m rewarding myself by watching the televised versions.

A few nights ago I watched The Murder at the Vicarage with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. It’s from 2004 and I could watch it on the Acorn station. However, last night I realized they’ve removed the shows with McEwan as the main character and only a few episodes with Joan Hickson as the lead were available. I’ll need to check out Britbox.

Christie’s cast of characters are always intriguing. They are relate-able in their struggles and many times remind me of people I know, which, of course, is how Miss Marple almost always solves the cases. She relates the current circumstances back to other incidents that have occurred in her village.

Like Rev. Clement, who feels insecure over the age difference between him and his wife, we’ve all dealt with feeling of insecurity so are immediately drawn to him and the predicament he is in once the body is discovered. Agatha Christie has a way of making us feel sympathetic to nearly all her characters. None of them are wholly good or bad and that’s what makes them interesting.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Miss Marple, books or programs, and each Monday I will be here ready to discuss another book. This week I’m reading The Body in the Library. Hope we will all meet here again next week!

March 1, 2020

100 Years of Poirot.

 

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The little grey cells of Monsieur Hercule Poirot have been entertaining readers for one hundred years now. The most famous Belgian detective in the world came to us in Agatha Christie’s first published novel. I’m sure many of you have read about the way the mystery came to be written.

“I had been dared to write a detective story; I had written a detective story; it had been accepted, and was going to appear in print. There, as far as I was concerned, the matter ended. Certainly at that moment I did not envisage writing any more books.”   -An Autobiography.

And so it was that we met Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Poirot has appeared in thirty-five novels and at least fifty short stories. I must admit my love for the little detective began with a movie. Murder on the Orient Express still remains one of my favorite films. None, in my opinion, can top the cast of Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall and Jaqueline Bisset. Don’t even get me  started on the Kenneth Branagh remake. That mustache! Please!

To celebrate Hercule’s 100th birthday I am not only reacquainting myself with the Poirot mysteries I’ve read, but also delving into a few I’ve missed. I’m beginning with that very first one, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I hope you will read along and join me here each Sunday to discuss the book and any film adaptation that’s been made. You can find a great many of them on Acorn and Britbox.

Happy reading!