Introducing Flash Reviews here at MsBookish.com, in which I will occasionally group together shorter reviews in a courageous attempt to reduce the height of my to-be-reviewed pile (not to be confused with my to-be-read pile, which no amount of derring-do on my part will have any discernable effect on).
I’ve been listening to a LOT of Agatha Christie in audiobook format lately. There’s just something so incredibly comforting about listening to Poirot or Miss Marple demonstrate their brilliance and solve yet another case. It’s the kind of thing that makes you sigh and think, ah, yes, all’s right in the world …
In many ways, the audio version of a book is a great indication of the strength of the story the author is trying to tell. Stephen King has written:
There’s this, too: Audio is merciless. It exposes every bad sentence, half-baked metaphor, and lousy word choice. (Listen to a Tom Clancy novel on CD, and you will never, ever read another. You’ll never be able to look at another one without gibbering.) I can’t remember ever reading a piece of work and wondering how it would look up on the silver screen, but I always wonder how it will sound. Because, all apologies to Mr. Bloom, the spoken word is the acid test. They don’t call it storytelling for nothing.
As it turns out, Dame Christie wrote some very nice dialogue indeed, and she most definitely told a good story. Throw in a skilled narrator like Hugh Fraser, who narrates many of the Christie audiobooks, and what you’re likely to get is pure delight.
The following titles were all titles that qualify as “re-reads” for me (first listens, but re-reads nevertheless); in most cases, I remembered “whodunnit” a while before the actual unveiling of the culprit. I found that this didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all, which is perhaps as good a reason as any to give a Christie novel a re-read.
Murder is Easy, by Agatha Christie
It was just Luke Fitzwilliam’s luck to be stuck next to a dotty old woman like Miss Fullerton on the London-bound train-although he found himself quite entertained with her tall tales about a series of perfect murders in the quaint village of Wychwood. But when he reads the next day of the freak accident that killed her, too, Fitzwilliam’s amusement turns to grave concern. A visit to the isolated village confirms his worst fears. For Wychwood seems to be divided by an eccentric lot of locals: those who are in on a dark and dangerous secret-and those who don’t live long enough to share it. (Amazon.com)
My thoughts: This is one of Agatha Christie’s “standalone” mysteries, so don’t expect either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple to show up (or Tommy & Tuppence or Mr. Quinn or even Superintendent Battle, for that matter). I think once a reader falls in love with a series detective like, say, Poirot, it’s difficult to beat back the flames of expectation that surely, those extravagant black mustaches must show up in the story some time?
Still, this is a nicely crafted story, featuring Christie’s version of a serial-type killer. As is usual with many of Christie’s books, there’s a romance thrown in for good measure and the denouement is quite quick-paced and thrilling (although I couldn’t help but feel that the good Poirot or Miss Marple would not have let things get quite so hairy before stepping in). I listened to the audio version narrated by Hugh Fraser, and he was very good, as always.
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie
A dentist lies murdered at his Harley Street practice…The dentist was found with a blackened hole below his right temple. A pistol lay on the floor near his outflung right hand. Later, one of his patients was found dead from a lethal dose of local anaesthetic. A clear case of murder and suicide. But why would a dentist commit a crime in the middle of a busy day of appointments? A shoe buckle holds the key to the mystery. Now — in the words of the rhyme — can Poirot pick up the sticks and lay them straight? (Amazon.co.uk)
My thoughts: This was a marvelous re-read for me, as I continued to wonder “whodunnit” almost right up to the point of Poirot’s unveiling of the murderer. There were quite a few twists and turns, and a rather big red herring that threw me right off the track. Poirot is in on the action from the very beginning; this is something I like very much. Again, the version I listened to was narrated by Hugh Fraser; he really is perfect for the medley of characters encountered throughout the course of this mystery.
A Pocket Full of Rye, by Agatha Christie
After wealthy financier Rex Fortescue’ s sudden death, grains of rye are inexplicably found in his pocket. The coroner’s verdict is death by poisoning, yet only one of the dead man’s relatives seems upset. The others all have motives to want the old man dead. When two more members of the Fortescue household are murdered, Miss Marple enters the case. But is one bizarre clue — the pocket full of rye — enough to solve the strangest case of her career? (Chapters.ca)
My thoughts: This Miss Marple mystery is actually reminiscent of a Hercule Poirot mystery that I had listened to earlier in the year, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (not the abridged regular audio version, but the wonderful BBC Radio dramatization). There are quite a few somewhat similar elements, and so perhaps because of my recent re-read/listen of the Hercule Poirot story, I was a little bit muddled. That’s probably just my excuse, of course; the point being, it took me quite a while to remember who the bad guy was.
As can happen with a Christie mystery, Miss Marple showed up later in the scene rather than earlier; I prefer her to show up earlier but still, it’s a great whodunnit for the cozy mystery lover. The audio I listened to was narrated by Rosalind Ayres, who gives Hugh Fraser a run for his money.