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Book Review – Third Girl: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie

July 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Three young women share a London flat. The first is a coolly efficient secretary. The second is an artist. The third interrupts Hercule Poirot’s breakfast confessing that she is a murderer — and then promptly disappears.

Slowly, Poirot learns of the rumors surrounding the mysterious third girl, her family, and her disappearance. Yet hard evidence is needed before the great detective can pronounce her guilty, innocent, or insane.…

A near-fatal dose of poison, a blood-stained knife, a revolver, and a family who are not what they seem figure in an extraordinary case that takes celebrated detective Hercule Poirot from a village estate to the bohemian streets of London — in a matter of life and death.

Okay, so I’m still on a mission trying to read outlying Christie books that I hadn’t read before. And I stumbled onto this one – Third Girl: A Hercule Poirot Mystery. Never heard of it? Yeah, me too, and I suspect the reason for that is because it’s not good at all! This is definitely one of the weakest books in the Poirot series. Pity too, since the setting is the Swinging Sixties in London and I thought that was an interesting change for Christie.

In Third Girl, a young woman disturbs Poirot’s peaceful morning by confessing that she *might* have committed a murder, then abruptly runs off after deciding that Poirot was *too old* to help her … What follows is a confusing and convoluted plot where Poirot (teaming up with his scatterbrained mystery writer friend Ariadne Oliver) spends the rest of the book tracking down the girl (Norma Restarick), her friends and family – all to figure out whether the poor little rich girl is actually innocent or guilty or if a *murder* was committed at all. Unfortunately for Poirot, Norma is no help at all, being all flaky and vague and high as a kite all the time… and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about her at all or for her *maybe* crime. Ugh – not even my love for Poirot could save this book for me.

The only good thing I can say about Third Girl is that Poirot solves the case as brilliantly as ever in the end. I particularly loved the business with the *portraits*. I won’t spoil anything, but that was the point where I went – aha! Clever Christie’s back!

Third Girl: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie (William Morrow Paperbacks) is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Paperback edition, and Audible audio edition. *Also available at Amazon UK.

The eBook is also available at B&N.

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Book Review – Black Coffee: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie (Adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne)

February 12, 2012 2 comments

Book Description:

Nearly a quarter-century after her death, Agatha Christie remains the most popular mystery writer of all time. Now, in a celebrated publishing event, fans and newcomers alike are treated to another Christie novel. Created in 1930 as a stage play and faithfully adapted by Charles Osborne, Black Coffee brings back beloved detective Hercule Poirot to exercise his “little grey cells” one more deliciously deductive time…

An urgent call from physicist Sir Claud Amory sends famed detective Hercule Poirot rushing from London to a sprawling country estate. Sir Claud fears a member of his own household wants to steal a secret formula destined for the Ministry of Defense. But Poirot arrives too late. The formula is missing. Worse, Sir Claud has been poisoned by his after-dinner coffee. Poirot soon identifies a potent brew of despair, treachery, and deception amid the mansion’s occupants. Now he must find the formula and the killer…while letting no poison slip ‘twix his low lips.

BLACK COFFEE was Agatha Christie’s first playscript, originally performed in 1930 and made into a now rarely-seen film the following year. Combining her typically beguiling plot and sparkling dialogue with his own faithful narrative, Charles Osborne’s novelisation is ‘A worthy addition to the Christie canon’ (The Spectator)

*

I was very surprised to find a copy of Black Coffee: A Hercule Poirot Mystery since I wasn’t aware that this posthumous Christie novel even existed. Turns out that Christie biographer Charles Osborne (with the blessing of the Agatha Christie Limited) wrote novelized adaptations for three original Christie plays – Black Coffee, The Unexpected Guest and Spider’s Web.

I was really excited to get started with Black Coffee, especially after reading the enthusiastic foreword by Christie grandson Michael Prichard (endorsing the book as “…this Hercule Poirot murder mystery, which to me reads like authentic, vintage Christie…) BUT… after actually reading through this (very short) book, my reaction is mostly a big MEH (plus Did that grandson really read his grandma’s books?) This really isn’t something that I can recommend (unless you’re a huge completest Christie fan who needs to read anything / everything connected with Christie). I mean, on the one hand, it’s cool that people who’ve never had the chance to see one of these plays can now enjoy them. But on the other hand, it’s a pretty weak and disappointing work.

The plot is vintage Christie, yes (the classic English ‘locked room’ mystery), but it’s written so dryly and bare-bones that I never felt like I was reading an actual novel (according to the Amazon.Com review, apparently, Charles Osborne was so faithful in his adaptation that what he did was simply “string the dialogue and stage directions together in paragraph form”) I can understand wanting to be ‘respectful’ to Christie, but maybe someone else with more imagination and literary flair should’ve taken a stab at adapting this? How about developing the characters beyond what they were supposed to do via the stage direction?

It also really threw me that the identity of the murderer is practically revealed before the victim even falls dead (maybe that trick worked in the actual play, with other actors distracting the audience, but reading it on paper did NOT). Talk about killing all the suspense. I mean, isn’t the point of a murder-mystery to keep the identity of the killer a secret and have the big reveal as a surprise?

The only thing I liked about Black Coffee is that Poirot  at least acts and sounds like himself, and there’s a considerable nostalgic pull to that.

Black Coffee: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie, adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne (William Morrow Paperbacks) is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Paperback edition, and Mass Market Paperback edition. *Also available at Amazon UK.

The eBook is also available at B&N.

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Book Review – After the Funeral: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

When Richard Abernethie, the master of Enderby Hall, dies his heirs assemble at the vast Victorian mansion to hear the reading of the will. It is then that Cora, Abernethie’s sister, comes out with an alarming proposal: “But he was murdered, wasn’t he?” The next day Cora is found brutally bludgeoned to death in her home.

None other than Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot is summoned to Enderby in pursuit of the murderer. Suspects abound including a wayward nephew unlucky with women and horses, a favorite and seemingly blameless sister-in-law, two feuding nieces, a nosey housekeeper, and a disingenuous art collector.

Poirot must conjure all of his deductive powers in order to unmask the killer and his final conclusion is a brilliant and unexpected as ever. After the Funeral is classic Christie at her best.

*

So, after getting reacquainted with Agatha Christie‘s Miss Marple recently, I thought I’d touch base again with her great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot – a character I have admired since I was a kid 🙂 I borrowed After the Funeral: A Hercule Poirot Mystery from the library as its one of Christie’s books that I don’t recall reading before. I guess there’s something to be said about a mystery book being just all about the mystery, since I did enjoy this one even with a practically retired Poirot not being a major player (he mostly just sits in a chair doing his heavy thinking).

After the Funeral is a clever little mystery, and Agatha Christie definitely kept me guessing until the big reveal. It’s written in the usual Christie style – she presents us with the case of the Abernethie family gathered together for the reading of patriarch Richard Abernethie’s will, and one of the heirs blurts out “But he was murdered, wasn’t he?”. Of course that nitwit ends up murdered herself and that’s when things get interesting. Virtually everyone present in the will-reading is a suspect (with strong motives and doubtful alibis), and Christie knows to throw her readers red-herrings right and left to confuse us. Like I said, I was really surprised when the identity of the murderer was revealed in the end (*I have to admit that it does take some suspension of disbelief as to how Poirot solves the case, and the solution does hinge on a peculiar aspect of the English upper class [Spoiler]).

This isn’t one of Christie’s best, but it’s an entertaining mystery (with Poirot’s “little grey cells” getting a good work-out). And I do love Christie’s way with the English language – writing stuff like: “Miss Gilchrist’s memory seemed to be almost wholly culinary.” So clever and elegant at the same time. Admittedly, I’m massively  non-objective about this book with all my Poirot-love, so I’m definitely reviewing this book with rose-colored glasses on.

After the Funeral: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie (HarperCollins) is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover edition, Paperback edition, and Audible Audio Edition. *Also available at Amazon UK.

The eBook is also available at B&N, Kobo books, and Apple iBooks


For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of After the Funeral by other bloggers:


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Reviews – Miss Marple Mysteries ‘The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side’ & ‘The Murder at the Vicarage’ by Agatha Christie

September 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, I had only been planning to read just one of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mystery novels, but as many of you know, another Miss Marple mystery was released as a freebie, and I wasn’t about to turn that down 🙂

Book Description:

The quaint village of St Mary Mead has been glamourized by the presence of screen queen Marina Gregg, who has taken up residence in preparation for her comeback. But when a local fan is poisoned, Marina finds herself starring in a real-life mystery — supported with scene-stealing aplomb by Jane Marple, who suspects that the lethal cocktail was intended for someone else. But who? If it was meant for Marina, then why? And before the final fade-out, who else from St Mary Mead’s cast of seemingly innocent characters is going to be eliminated?

*

I borrowed The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side since I wanted a change of pace from the Swedish crime novels I’ve been reading – and this is one of the few Agatha Christie books I missed out on (I went on a Miss Marple/ Poirot marathon when I was in the seventh grade so I’ve read a lot of them).

Well, I have to say that this isn’t going to be one of my fave Miss Marple books for sure – it just fell short of the quality I had expected from the legendary author. In The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, we can see that a convalescing Miss Marple is getting on in her years. It doesn’t help Jane Marple’s spirits that she also has to contend with an extremely trying full-time nurse/companion who insists on treating her like a helpless child. It’s an ironically good thing then that a local murder drops into Miss Marple’s lap to give her the necessary shot in the arm (so to speak), especially as Inspector Craddock (the Scotland Yard cop who does most of the legwork) respects her crime-solving skills and keeps her in the loop.

The mystery in The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side revolves around the glamorous movie star Marina Gregg who has moved into sleepy St Mary Mead (specifically to Gossington Hall, the setting of a previous Marple mystery The Body in the Library). A local fan is poisoned during a fete at Gossington Hall, and all signs seem to point to Marina Gregg as the intended victim. As the suspects are eliminated during the investigation, unfortunately, so does the unknown murderer also increase the body count. But not to worry – Miss Marple is on the case!

The mystery itself isn’t up to par to what I know Agatha Christie was capable of, but what I did appreciate from this book was how it portrayed England on the cusp of change – with new housing projects rising, the influx of a new working class of women, the appearance of modern amenities (for example, the horrors of the vacuum cleaner!), but Miss Marple was right in her observation that as things change, so do people stay fundamentally the same. A particular funny touch for me was when Jane Marple was doing her research on Hollywood movie stars and she was reading the movie magazines – she could have just been reading about current movie stars in our gossip rags too!

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (A Miss Marple Mystery) by Agatha Christie (HarperCollins) is available on Amazon as a Kindle Edition, Paperback Edition and Audible Audio Edition.

You can also get the ebook at the Kobo Books, B&N, and Apple iBookstore.


Book Description:

Colonel Protheroe, local magistrate and overbearing land-owner is the most detested man in the village. Everyone–even in the vicar–wishes he were dead. And very soon he is–shot in the head in the vicar’s own study. Faced with a surfeit of suspects, only the inscrutable Miss Marple can unravel the tangled web of clues that will lead to the unmasking of the killer.

Miss Jane Marple has arrived on the scene, and crime literature’s private men’s club of great detectives will never be the same.

*

It’s so cool that HarperCollins decided to give this away for free, right? (it’s still free by the way) I was pretty happy since this is another of the Miss Marple books I haven’t read, and turns out that this is the first full length Miss Marple mystery too!

In The Murder at the Vicarage, the vicar Leonard Clement (who is also the narrator in the book) finds the murdered Colonel Protheroe in his study. Unfortunately for the local police, Colonel Protheroe was the kind of man who was universally loathed and had many enemies – so there are basically too many suspects: there’s Mrs Protheroe, Mrs Protheroe’s secret lover, Colonel Protheroe’s daughter, a local poacher, a mysterious woman newly arrived at St Mary Mead … the list goes on and on. It’s a good thing then that one of the local gossipy old ladies lives next door to the vicar and takes a healthy interest in the proceedings (since she might just solve the case before the authorities!)

Although Jane Marple had appeared in some short stories prior to The Murder at the Vicarage, this is the first actual novel that introduces her. Unfortunately, I think I liked this novel more for the nostalgia factor than the quality of the mystery. The mystery itself is not as well developed or complex as later Agatha Christie books, and the way Miss Marple solved it in the end was so implausible (!) –  I couldn’t believe how she’d solved it in the first place. It was like one wild conjecture after another. One note, I really liked the narrator (the vicar) though – he was this sweet genuinely kindly older man who was so in love with his young wife, and he was one reason I kept on reading (plus, I wanted to appreciate the freebie!)

The Murder at the Vicarage (A Miss Marple Mystery) by Agatha Christie (HarperCollins) is available on Amazon as a Kindle Edition, Hardcover Edition, Paperback Edition and Audible Audio Edition.

You can also get the ebook at the Sony eBookstore, Kobo Books, B&N, and Apple iBookstore.

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