Archive for June, 2020

June 29, 2020

A Caribbean Mystery

 

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I’ve never been to the Caribbean, but I’ve been keen to go since I was about twelve and read an article in Modern Bride magazine about the best places to honeymoon. In fact, I’m pretty excited to go just about anywhere considering I’ve been in my house for roughly 104 days.

The beach, any beach, is my favorite place to be. I don’t think Miss Marple was feeling quite the same way, however. Instead of enjoying the vacation arranged by her devoted nephew, she resumes the same activities she enjoys at home in England, knitting and meddling.

We are given very little information about the sunny beaches, and balmy breezes, but learn a great deal about how tourist love their exotic tropical drinks with umbrellas. There’s plenty going on here, wife swapping, drug taking, an abundance of drinking, and people trying to escape who they are or might become.

Agatha Christie is superior at capturing the essence of her time. As Miss Marple goes along through the years, she embraces the changes around her. Though the format of the books remain the same, which is basically a locked room mystery, the stories are great commentaries on their times. You can read a Marple book and will be able to tell the era without checking the publication date. 0223201237

I must admit I prefer the books that has Miss Marple in her beloved village of St. Mary Mead, but I certainly can appreciate how her world expands over time.  However, that being said, this novel was the first I’ve read of hers where I felt she cheated a little bit. In the end where Miss Marple gives her summary, she reveals a clue that was not known to the reader until that moment. And, of course, it was that exact clue that helped her to identify the murderer. I was disappointed in that.

If you enjoy mysteries and like to dream of sunny islands and fruity tropical drinks, you may enjoy a series called Death in Paradise. It’s an enjoyable show with beautiful scenery. If you watch a lot of shows on BBC you may recognize some of the guest stars. The ninth season has aired and can be seen on Amazon Prime.

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My happy place and a good spot to read 

The next Agatha Christie book we will be reading is  At Bertram’s Hotel.

Stay safe and enjoy the week!

June 22, 2020

Summer Nights

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We are taking a brief pause from Agatha Christie this week until I finish reading A Caribbean Mystery. Actually, I’m still waiting for it from the library so I can read the final pages.

In the meantime, I’ve been catching up on a few shows. You probably know by now that I love television. I’m often teased about the odd information and knowledge I’ve gained from my numerous hours in front of the small screen. I’m convinced, however, that someday these tidbits will win me big bucks on a game show.

I grew up in a tiny little area of South Baltimore called Federal Hill. It’s quite expensive and glamorous now, but in my day it was filled with blue-collar workers, families who’d lived there for generations ever since their ancestors had made the journey from Ireland, Germany or Poland to the States. Television was a big deal. You worked for it. It was your reward for a good report card or for scrubbing the marble front steps without complaint.FullSizeRender (26)

In the summer, our neighbors would collect their folding chairs and settle out front, their feet propped up on the bottom steps and their television settled on the top steps. Sometimes Daddy would hook up our large fan to the extension cord so we’d catch a breeze. After our baths, Mom would braid our hair and my sister and I would sit outside in our baby-doll pajamas to watch a program with our grandparents.

“Hey, hon, what you watchin?” Miss Ag would yell down the block to my grandmother. This would begin a conversation with all the neighbors on what show was on, what channel, and a recap of what had happened. We all drank iced tea and, if we were lucky, Daddy would walk up to Miss Edna’s corner store and get us each a snowball. They are some of the happiest summer memories of my childhood.0731181604

Now I live in a house with a porch. We don’t watch television outside, but I do write out there [I call it my Summer Office] and occasionally we have our meals there at the table. Television watching happens in the Family Room. My children aren’t much interested in the programs I enjoy, so I usually sit and knit or put together a puzzle while I’m watching.

I’ve clocked a lot of TV hours since the pandemic started. Acorn is one of my favorite stations. I love the shows Brokenwood and The Loch. On Netflix I finally finished all three seasons of Broadchurch. My love of David Tennant sent me to Amazon Prime to watch Good Omens.

It was on Amazon that I discovered my new favorite show. Spirited, starring Matt King and Claudia Karvan, is an Australian series that aired for two seasons from 2010-2011.  It’s a wonderful program, full of mystery and romance, but funny, too. The show tells the story of Suzy, a dentist and mother, who leaves her narcissistic husband and moves to a luxury apartment only to discover it’s haunted by Henry, a British punk rock star. It’s similar to the Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but much more interesting. I’ve now seen every episode and I’m not ashamed to say I’m watching it for a second time.

What is on your Must Watch list this summer? Let me know in the comments below. FullSizeRender (54)

Stay safe and I’ll check in with you next week!

 

June 15, 2020

Return After Reading

 

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I am sitting here among the dust, staring up at the widening hole above me. Once there was a ceiling, but that was before my husband thought he could fix the plumbing problem himself. Much to my relief, a plumber – a professional plumber – has been called in and soon all will be right with the world again. Well, at least all will be right with my bathroom and ceiling. I only have so much influence!

This week we were to have discussed the ninth Miss Marple novel A Caribbean Mystery. And, we would have had the online library not removed my book. The day before it was due, I sat down with my tea [because I find you must have tea when reading Miss Marple] and scrolled my iPad to the Cloud Library to finish the last sixteen pages of the book. Much to my surprise, the book had been returned. I immediately went to renew it, but found I had a fourteen day wait.

How horrible to read an entire book, a mystery at that, and have it snatched away just when the murderer was to be revealed! A few friends suggested I just read a summary to discover the culprit. Obviously they are not readers, otherwise they would have known that it’s more than just seeing the outcome, a true reader wants to experience the words, every clever one.

It seems then our discussion will be delayed. In the meantime, please tell me what other books you’re reading. I am in the middle of an interesting one. Truly, Madly, Guilty is the fourth book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty. She definitely knows how to write a page turner. You are drawn in by the first sentence.

“‘This is a story that begins with a barbecue,’ said Clementine.'” How’s that for an opening line? You are immediately drawn in. What barbecue? What happened? And still, as I’m in the middle of chapter 13, I don’t know what happened yet at the barbecue, but I’m anxious to find out. Her chapters alternate between present day and what happened months ago at this event. It’s a very clever way to keep a reader interested.

I hope everyone is staying well, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Happy reading!

June 8, 2020

Truly Miss Marple

 

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Last night I was switching between Amazon Prime and Netflix trying to decide what to watch when I came across a documentary entitled Truly Miss Marple: The Curious Case of Margaret Rutherford.

As I’ve said before, though I love the Marple books, there’s not been a film version that I’ve liked.  However, I’ve never seen Margaret Rutherford portray the character. I don’t know that I’d ever heard of her before last night.

The documentary was interesting for many reasons. It made me feel as if a member of a family just started interviewing people and recording it. At one point a person being interviewed stops to take a telephone call and the cameras keep rolling. If you have Amazon Prime and any interest in Miss Marple, this show is definitely worth your time.

Margaret Rutherford was a fascinating character. Her  young life was full of scandal and tragedy. Agatha Christie could have written it! When Margaret was very young her father suffered a breakdown. After being released from the hospital, he went and murdered his own father who was a clergyman. Not long after, while living in India, her mother committed suicide. Margaret was sent back to England to live with her aunt.

In 1961 Margaret starred in Murder She Said, her debut as Miss Marple. It was rumored that Agatha Christie had chosen her for the role, but that was untrue. Christie was not very pleased with the way MGM handled the adaptations of her books. She held no ill-will against Margaret, though, and dedicated The Mirror Crack’d Side to Side to the actress.

The next two films were based on Poirot novels, but the studio rewrote them to suit the Marple character.Murder at the Gallop was released in 1963 followed a year later by Murder Most Foul. The last film, Murder Ahoy was not taken from a Christie novel, but instead written by two screenwriters.

I’m now anxious to see these films. I understand in them Miss Marple receives not just one, but two marriage proposals and she can be seen doing the twist. I think to watch them, though, I’ll need to pretend she’s not the actual Miss Marple.

This week I’m still reading A Caribbean Mystery and enjoying it a great deal. What are you reading? I’m always looking for more good books to read!

June 1, 2020

The Mirror Crack’d – Part 2

 

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“Times change. That is a thing which has to be accepted.”

– Miss Marple, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

 

Last week I talked about women and aging. This week I’d like to take a look at the characters in this wonderful and insightful book. The main characters of our story are Jane Marple, of course, the fading Hollywood actress Marina Gregg, Chief Inspector Craddock, and the tragic Heather Badcock.

When I read a book, I cast every part as if it were going to be a movie. I have watched many episodes of Miss Marple on Mystery, and though I’ve enjoyed the story lines, I feel they’ve never quite chosen the correct actress for the part of Jane Marple. In the 1980 film version of The Mirror Crack’d it is Angela Lansbury who tries on the role. I love Angela Lansbury, but must tell you she was my least favorite Miss Marple. She came off as much too stern and not anyone I’d want to spend time with.

The entire movie seemed miscast. In an attempt to get some big names they lost sight of the characters. An interesting fact is that Rock Hudson is cast as the handsome husband of the actress Marina Gregg [in the book it is noted more than once how ugly he is] and Rock Hudson was born in 1925, the same year as Angela Lansbury.  So at the age of 55 Miss Lansbury was portraying an elderly spinster while Mr. Hudson was still a dashing leading man.

Elizabeth Taylor plays the part of Marina Gregg and Kim Novak as her rival Lola Brewster. The acing was over the top and lost any of the meaning the book held. It reminded me of the show Dynasty.

I have thought long and hard over which actress might do justice to the multi dimensional character of Jane Marple and I believe Helen Mirren would be fabulous. She’s an older woman who would be easily mistaken as frail, but is strong and intelligent. I think she could portray this character the way Christie envisioned her.

In my movie Jennifer Aniston is Marina Gregg with Tommy Lee Jones as her older, less attractive, director husband and the beautiful, younger Kat Graham as her rival Lola Brewster. How wonderful would it be if the film stayed true to the book?

Carey Mulligan as the ill-fated Heather Badcock and Benedict Cumberbatch as her husband Arthur.  Julie Andrews would be the perfect Dolly Bantry, Jane’s best friend. And who better than Emma Thompson as the overbearing Miss Knight? I would love to see Eddie Redmayne reunited with Felicity Jones as Miss Marple’s housekeeper Cherry and her husband Jim. The best part would be Matthew Goode as D I Craddock. I watch everything he’s in!

In 2010 another version was made with Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. I haven’t seen this one yet, though I’m interested to discover if they are more loyal to Christie’s story.

If you have read this book, who would be in your movie? Who do you see as the perfect Miss Marple? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Let me know what you’re reading. It doesn’t have to be a Christie book. Who are you casting as the characters in your book?

Next week we’ll take a look at A Caribbean Mystery. I hope you will join me then.