Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Camping … Or Should I Say, Writing and Reading

I’m hurrying to finish up an indexing deadline today, because tomorrow we are off on our camping trip!

I mentioned on Facebook that we are going with every car charger known to man, so hopefully the fact that the site doesn’t have an electrical outlet won’t be particularly bothersome. (I know, I know – electrical devices aren’t exactly roughing it, but I have never been a fan of roughing it).

A Writing Weekend!

My intention is to spend the next four days doing at least some writing. I’m bringing the first draft of my WIP, NANTUCKET, with me, and will be marking it up. I’m also planning to start writing a new WIP of mine, ELLA. (In case you’re wondering, my WIP names tend to be the first name of my MC – yes, very unoriginal, but at least I don’t spend ages agonizing what to call my WIP and can plunge right into the writing!)

The netbook is all charged, plus we bought a car charger in case it dies down, so I won’t have any excuses for not writing. I’m wondering whether the sand and beach environment will have a positive effect on my writing …

Books to Read on the Beach

Of course, a holiday isn’t a holiday without books, right? Since I’ve been pretty busy, I haven’t had much time to pick and choose, and there weren’t any new books that I felt like getting as an ebook (also, Kobo’s iPhone app, which I’ve been using, is kind of tricky – it allows offline reading on the one hand, but on the other hand, it requires Internet access first, before you can start reading (after which, true, you don’t need access), which kind of defeats the whole purpose of “offline reading”, if you ask me. And I’m not sure what kind of reception my phone will have on the shores of Lake Erie.).

So I swooped down to the library (well, not really – it was more like, I quickly scanned the paperbacks while my seven-year-old, Dylan, went through his selection of books, deciding which ones he wanted to take out this week).

Here’s what I’m taking with me:

Some Linwood Barclay books. I’ve been meaning to read Barclay’s novels for a while now. Back when I was still reading newspapers, Barclay’s humor column in the Toronto Star was a favorite of mine. I was pleased to discover a while back that he’s been writing mysteries and thrillers.

Too Close to HomeFear the WorstLone Wolf

Too Close to Home:

In a quiet neighborhood, in the house next door, a family is brutally murdered for no apparent reason. You can’t help thinking, It could have been us. And you start to wonder: What if we’re next?

Promise Falls isn’t the kind of community where families are shot to death in their own homes. But how well did Jim and Ellen Cutter really know their neighbors—or the darker secrets of their small town? They don’t have to look further than their own marriage to know that things aren’t always what they seem. Now the Cutters and their son, Derek, must face the unthinkable: that a murderer isn’t just stalking too close to home…but is inside it already.

Fear the Worst:

Tim Blake is an average guy. He sells cars. He has an ex-wife who’s moved in with another man. It’s not a life without hassles, but nothing will prepare him for when his daughter, Sydney, vanishes into thin air.

At the hotel where she supposedly worked, no one has ever heard of her. Even her closest friends seem to be at a loss. As he retraces Sydney’s steps, Tim discovers that the suburban Connecticut town he always thought of as idyllic is anything but. What he doesn’t know is that his every move is being watched. There are others who want to find Sydney as much as Tim does. And the closer Tim comes to the truth, the closer he comes to every parent’s worst nightmare—and the kind of evil only a parent’s love has a chance in hell of stopping.

Lone Wolf:

Newspaper writer, family man, and reluctant hero Zack Walker has stumbled onto some dicey stories before, but nothing like what he’s about to uncover when a mutilated corpse is found at his father’s lakeside fishing camp. As always, Zack fears the worst. And this time, his paranoid worldview is dead-on.

While the locals attribute the death to a bear attack, Zack suspects something far more ominous—a predator whose weapons include arson, assault, and enough wacko beliefs to fuel a dozen hate groups. Then another body is discovered and a large supply of fertilizer goes missing, evoking memories of the Oklahoma City bombing. But it’s when he learns that his neighbor is a classic Lone Wolf—FBI parlance for a solo fanatic hell-bent on using high body counts to make political statements—that Zack realizes the idyllic town of his childhood is under siege. The fuse is lit to a catastrophe of unimaginable terror. And with time running out, Zack must face off with a madman.

A Stephen Booth Novel. I’ve been meaning to check out British novelist Stephen Booth’s mysteries, so when I saw Black Dog (his debut novel) at the library, I thought it might be a good one to start with.

Black Dog

Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. I saw Red Pyramid last month on a trip to Costco. It looked interesting. I haven’t yet read the Lightning Thief series yet (although I do own the entire set X 2 – don’t ask – and they’re all sitting on my TBR shelves). But I decided to put a request in at the library for Red Pyramid; it just came through, so I’m going to take it with me camping!

Red Pyramid

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them–Set–has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe–a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

And of course – Agatha Christie! I also picked up a copy of Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel, as a “just in case” precautionary move; you know, just in case all the above turn out to be not quite my cup of tea. I’ll have something old and familiar to fall back on, right? And there’s something about cozying up to a Miss Marple mystery that fits with toasting marshmallows over an open fire …

At Bertram's Hotel

When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service – and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer.

Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day …

Let’s Not Forget Audio!

And for the drive there and back, my husband and I decided to purchase a headphone splitter so we can both listen to an audiobook on my iPod. Our choices?

Jonathan Kellerman’s Gone, Compulsion and Rage. These are all re-reads for me, but new for my husband.

A handful of BBC radio productions of Agatha Christie mysteries. These wonderful two-hour audios are really wonderful; last year I splurged and gifted myself this boxed set of Hercule Poirot’s Greatest Cases, so we have a lot of titles to choose from.

Hercule Poirot's Greatest Cases

I also have a couple of new releases on hand. First up is Janet Evanovitch’s latest Stephanie Plum installment, Sizzling Sixteen. I don’t think I’ll ever read another Plum story in print again, but Lorelei King’s wonderful narrative abilities will keep me listening to each new novel. Evanovitch seems to have stopped with the plotting and/or mystery in her latest books, but she has a talent for a comedic turn of phrase, and with King at the audio helm, I suspect we will enjoy the book just for the dialogue.

And finally, we have the latest Jack Reacher, 61 Hours, by Lee Child. Reacher isn’t really my cup of tea (the only Reacher novel I really enjoyed was the one where it was a team effort – Bad Luck and Trouble – I’m just not really into lone wolf types of novels) but I suspect my husband will enjoy his exploits.

So … I think I’m going to be well-equipped along both the writing and reading front. Just not too sure how I’ll handle the camping end of things!

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks

I really love it when things show up in my life that are such a good match to something I’ve been pondering, or thinking about doing.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about keeping a journal, and I talked about my idea that I might have luck, finally, with journaling if I just let myself write whatever I wanted in it. I wouldn’t demand consistency from myself; I’d just let the journal take shape with all the scraps of my life and thoughts and imaginings that I might think to jot down.

So after writing that post, I did start journaling, exactly as I mentioned: eclectic snippets of this and that. And I discovered myself also jotting down notes about different story ideas too, because they are so much a part of my daily thoughts.

Then, two days ago, I ran into the library to pick up a few holds and, as I normally do, I checked out the “new books” shelves. And I discovered this book:

Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks

I’m pretty sure I gave a gasp of delight. Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks! I’m a huge Christie fan, and as a writer the thought of reading through her notebooks is so very exciting.

I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s such a delight to see how she worked out her story ideas in her notebooks. What’s even more wonderful is the discovery that Christie used her notebooks in much the same way I’ve just started using my own blank journals:

She employed her Notebooks as diaries, as scribblers, as telephone-message pads, as travel logs, as household accounts ledgers; she used them to draft letters, to list Christmas and birthday presents, to scribble to-do reminders, to record books read and books to read, to scrawl travel directions. She sketched maps of Warmsley Heath (Taken at the Flood) and St. Mary Mead in them; she doodled the jacket design for Sad Cypress and the stage setting for Afternoon at the Seaside in them; she drew diagrams of the plane compartment from Death in the Clouds and the island from Evil under the Sun in them.

Part of the pleasure of working with the Notebooks is derived from the fact that when you turn a page you never know what you will read. The plotting of the latest Poirot novel can be interrupted by a poem written for Rosalind’s birthday; a page headed, optimistically, “Things to do” is sandwiched between the latest Marple and an unfinished stage play. A phone number and message break the flow of a new radio play; a list of new books disrupts the intricacies of a murderer’s timetable; a letter to The Times disturbs the new Westmacott novel.(p. 68-69)

Christie didn’t even stick to just one notebook at a time. She kept a batch of them around, never dated anything, and in one notebook there are notes that span 17 years!

This is the notebook habit that I have just started, and Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks is inspiring me to keep on track with my own eclectic form of  journaling.

And eventually we come to the realisation that, in fact, this very randomness is her method; this is how she worked, how she created, how she wrote. She thrived mentally on chaos, it stimulated her more than neat order; rigidity stifled her creative process. (p. 74)

I’m still digging into this book, and so far it’s been really wonderful to see how she worked on plot ideas amid other snippets of her life; if you’re an Agatha Christie fan and a writer, too, I think this is definitely something you might want to check out. The only thing to keep in mind is that there are, as author John Curran warns, hints to the endings of various of her works scattered throughout. Since I’ve read almost all of Christie’s novels, this isn’t a problem for me; if you haven’t, each chapter very considerately includes, at the beginning, a list of books for which the solutions have been revealed.

Audiobook Appreciation

I’m done with this most recent clump of deadlines! I don’t think I’ve worked at quite a pace like this for a long while – it’s been three to four weeks of fourteen hour days. I am very, very thankful for my audiobooks – I think they kept me sane in the midst of all those deadlines.

Audiobook Treasure Trove

headphones I was lucky enough to come down with a head cold for Christmas and Boxing Day, so I had a grand time those two days: I got to loll around while everyone took care of me, and to top it off, on Christmas Day, I discovered a virtual audiobook treasure chest! I spent most of Christmas Day and Boxing Day lying on the couch, listening to some great audiobooks and snacking on the most delicious foods.

If you live in Ontario, you might be able to take advantage of this audiobook treasure chest yourself. The Ontario Library Service Download Centre is available to all library patrons of participating Ontario libraries, and it is just wonderful. There are loads of audiobooks available for download, much like you would for Audible. The files are deleted at the end of your checkout period, but you can checkout each audiobook for one or two weeks, which is nice.

So far, in the past two weeks, I’ve listened to Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent, Ellen Degeneres’ The Funny Thing Is, The Green Witch and The Grey King from Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, and The Bunnicula Collection by James and Deborah Howe.

Other Listens

The Price of Butcher's Meat

Over the past three weeks, I also enjoyed the audio versions of Reginald Hill’s The Price of Butcher’s Meat (I listened to the British version, which is called A Cure for All Diseases) and Exit Lines. I’d already read A Cure for All Diseases earlier last year and loved it (my review is here) – it translated superbly into audio.

I also played several Agatha Christie audios while I was working – I find I can do “rereads” in audio, as well as memoirs and nonfiction, while I’m working; I somehow have the ability to follow along while getting my work done at the same time. Audiobooks don’t work well for work if they’re audios of books I haven’t read yet, though.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Links, Poirot Investigates and The Big Four helped me get through a lot of otherwise tedious work, so I’m very thankful for them!

Curtains for ThreeAnd finally, I listened to Rex Stout’s Curtains for Three, a trilogy of three Nero Wolfe novellas. I must admit, the first few times I listened to audiobook renditions of Nero Wolfe novels, I had a hard time getting used to the narrator, Michael Pritchard, because he didn’t sound quite like I always imagined Archie Goodwin would sound. But Pritchard’s voice has grown on me, and now my idea of Archie Goodwin sounds exactly like him! I like the way that worked out.

Coming Up

Thanks to the Ontario Library Service Download Centre, I have some more goodies waiting for my hearing pleasure this coming week:

About Face

About Face, by Donna Leon. I’ve been wanting to read a Commissario Guido Brunetti book for a while, and since this one was available for checkout, I decided to give it a try. I only just started listening to it last night, and it promises to be a good story.

Silver on the Tree

Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper. This is the final book in The Dark is Rising series. The version I have is narrated by Alex Jennings, and I started listening to a bit of it yesterday as well. I’m looking forward to finishing my reread of the series in audio.

image

So Long as You Both Shall Live, by Ed McBain. This is my first 87th Precinct mystery; it’s a little bit challenging keeping track of all the names in audio, and the story line behind this one isn’t quite to my taste, but I will definitely be looking into reading more of the 87th Precinct series.

Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson. I’ve had Bryson’s memoir on my shelf for ages; when I saw it was available at the OLS Download Centre, I decided to check it out, as I really enjoy listening to memoirs in audio.

And from my local library:

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield. The audio version of The Thirteenth Tale came highly recommended – I seem to recall lots of people recommending it on Google Wave. So I thought I’d take the plunge and give it a first read in audio instead of in print.

I recently bought the following, which are waiting for me to get to them:

The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan. This is Book 1 of the Wheel of Time series – I began reading the series ages ago, but stopped at around Book 6 or 7. I recently received a review copy of the final book in the series, The Gathering Storm, which is written by Brandon Sanderson based on Robert Jordan’s extensive notes, so I thought it would be a good thing to reread the series. I’ve had so much luck with rereads in audio, I decided to give the audio version a try.

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris. I have the first seven books in paperback, but haven’t read the Sookie Stackhouse series at all; a while back, I decided to give the first book a try in audio. I haven’t found myself in the mood for it yet, but I know I will soon – from what everyone’s been telling me, I’ll probably be hooked once I give it a try!

I also have two Audible credits to spend, and I’m thinking I’ll probably splurge on more Rex Stout and Reginald Hill.

So there you have it – audiobooks have managed to keep me on the reading track even while I was submerged up to my neck in deadlines! And yes, I’ve been feeling like a kid in a candy store …

Coming up this week: my giveaway winners! No, I haven’t forgotten about my giveaway. The winners post will be coming soon.

Photo credit

Review: The Mysterious Mr. Quin, by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Mr. Quin, by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Mr. Quin A conjurer of skill with an instinct for detection, Mr. Harley Quin has an almost magical flair for appearing at the scene of the most remarkable crimes. But is it just a trick of light that haunts his shadow with a ghostly apparition? Is it fate that invites him to a New Year’s Eve murder? And what forces are at work when his car breaks down outside Royston Hall, an isolated estate with a deadly history?

The Mysterious Mr. Quin is a collection of 12 short stories featuring little Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Harley Quin, a mysterious man that Mr. Satterthwaite meets for the first time in “The Coming of Mr. Quin”, the first story in the collection.

Unlike Christie’s other mysteries, the stories involving Mr. Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite are not always pure mysteries, although in most of them, a puzzle presents itself to Mr. Satterthwaite, who, with the help of Mr. Quin’s questions and general guidance, eventually hones in on the solution. Most assuredly, though, these stories are not at all like Hercule Poirot exercising his little gray cells, or Miss Marble using her knowledge of village life to unravel the mystery.

The Mr. Quin stories are among my favorite Christie stories. Mr. Quin represents a touch of otherworldliness, a gentle dip into the world of the paranormal. At the end of the collection, while we still cannot say with any certainty who Mr. Quin really is, we do have a pretty good idea that he is not like other men, that he is not really human.

I am also very fond of dapper little Mr. Satterthwaite, that keen observer of life who, under Mr. Quin’s guidance, begins to find in himself the ability to see beneath the surface and understand the true reality of a situation. There is a kindness and gentleness to him that’s very appealing, and there is something so charming in his delight when he encounters the mysterious Quin in each story.

As with most of Christie’s works, there’s often more than a hint of romance. The stories also have a more modern feel to them; for example, in one story, involving an illegitimate child, the child’s mother is depicted as an admirable woman, rather than one who’s wandered down a wayward path. In another tale, a character is encouraged to seek out the woman of his dreams, despite the fact that, unlike him, she is a member of the upper class.

My favorite story is probably “The Man From the Sea”, involving a mystery that’s not about crime as much as it is about life and love; it’s probably better described as a love story that’s wrapped in a cloak of mystery.

In this reread of The Mysterious Mr. Quin, I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Hugh Fraser, a superb reader who brings all the characters to life.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

Back from Holidays!

I’m back! And of course, feeling rather like I could use a little break. Isn’t it funny how that works?

I had a grand time in Nova Scotia, and it was fun blogging about it occasionally. Thank you to everyone for your comments – I can’t tell you how lovely it was to hear from each of you. It was almost like you came with me on holidays.

The air conditioning people have just left; our new air conditioning unit is now installed! Our old air conditioner died on us when we turned it on for the first time this year about a week before we left on holidays. We had to endure a bit of a heat wave during that week; it wasn’t very pleasant, so it’s so nice to know that we’re prepared again for whatever temperatures summer might bring us.

Traveling with Audiobooks

Audiobooks made our 19-hour drive back from Nova Scotia (spread over two days) a rather fun event. While we were away, my husband had picked up a small battery-operated iPod dock. So, while the kids were engrossed in their movies on their portable DVD players, we listened to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself (Notes from a Big Country) together.

We could only listen for a couple of hours at a time, though; my face would start to hurt some time around the two-hour mark, probably because of the giant grin I wore more or less the entire time. This is a very funny book, and a perfect choice for audio.

We also listened to several BBC Radio productions of Agatha Christie mysteries: Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile, Miss Marple in A Murder is Announced and then Poirot again in Five Little Pigs. These dramatizations are perfect for a road trip, as they are well acted mysteries each about two hours long.

I would have liked to listen to Janet Evanovich’s Finger Lickin’ Fifteen during the drive, but that had to be done through headphones (the language not being appropriate for certain little ears) and it was much more fun sharing the audio experience with my husband during the drive.

I did, however, start Finger Lickin’ Fifteen last night, and so far it’s off to a good start; I must admit, though, these days I enjoy the series only in audio. Lorelei King is a suberb narrator, and her reading of the Stephanie Plum series has made the more recent books fun for me again.

My husband enjoyed the audiobooks so much, he started listening to Tilt-A-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein at the hotel we stayed at part-way through our trip home. The audio version is read by Jeff Woodman, who is a very good narrator (he does such great voices, and even his female voices sound, well, like women).

This Week at Ms Bookish

I came home to a rather large stack of new books still patiently awaiting their Incoming! posts, plus some new additions, so I’ll be buckling down this week in an attempt to make a dent in the pile. I also have a few reviews to write (for example, I’ve finished all of Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak mysteries but haven’t written any reviews yet).

I’ll also be getting back on track with my daily writing goal of 2000 words. I didn’t write at all while I was away, despite early intentions to do so, but I’m itching to get started again.

And I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the book blog world again. I’ve missed reading everyone’s posts and the fun of commenting and Twitter!

Flash Reviews: The Agatha Christie Audiobook Edition, Part 1

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

Murder is Easy 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.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie

One, Two, Buckle My ShoeA 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.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

A Pocket Full of Rye, by Agatha Christie

A Pocket Full of RyeAfter 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.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

Audiobook Review: Death in the Clouds, by Agatha Christie

Death in the CloudsA woman dies in her seat in an airplane en route to London from Paris. If not for Hercule Poirot’s quick eyes, her death may have been attributed to a wasp sting. Luckily, though, Poirot spots a half-hidden venom-tipped dart, and accident turns into murder. A search of the plane reveals a South American blowgun. Suddenly, everyone on board is a suspect.  Surprisingly, however, no-one has seen a thing. How could the sight of a dart blown out from a blowgun have escaped everyone’s eyes?

This audiobook version of Death in the Clouds, by Agatha Christie, is narrated by Hugh Fraser, who is a wonderful narrator for Christie’s Hercule Poirot books. While Fraser has played the part of Captain Hastings, Poirot’s sidekick (who doesn’t appear in this particular mystery) on television, in audio format he is a perfect Poirot, and also handles the voices of all the other characters very well, both male and female.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Christie’s works in audio lately, and it’s very clear that her focus on dialogue in her books translates very well into audio. The mysteries are always entertaining and with a superb narrator like Fraser, the action is easy to follow.

Having read all of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries back when I was a teenager (Christie was a love handed down to me by my mother – I have memories of being sprawled on my mom’s bed, both of us deep into a Christie mystery), I usually remember who-dunnit at some point in the telling of the story, but that never takes away from my enjoyment. In Death in the Clouds, I had a vague intuitive sense about the murderer fairly early on, but even when I was certain of it, I couldn’t remember the how. Christie’s mysteries are great, I find, because of this – even if I remember the who, I don’t always remember the how or the why.

According to the Agatha Christie site, “In 1935, the year this novel was published, a regular London-Paris air service began – using converted bombers for the aircraft.” It was interesting to learn, from the descriptions of the murder scene in the book, that back then airplane interiors were designed more like train compartments, with people seated facing each other – another reason why it was puzzling that not a single person had seen the murderer killing the victim.

Death in the Clouds deals with exotic things like blowguns and venom-tipped darts, but at the core is, as always, Poirot working his little gray cells. Of course, in our day and age, forensics would be miles ahead of Poirot, but sometimes one craves a nice cozy mystery where the detective uses only his brain. The road to the murderer’s identity, motive and means is intricate, with lots of red herrings thrown in. And of course, at the end there’s the famous Poirot denouement scene.

I wouldn’t say that Death in the Clouds is one of Christie’s better Poirot mysteries; some things get a bit too convoluted and credibility is stretched somewhat. If you haven’t read the book before, the unveiling of the murderer will probably come as quite a surprise. All in all, (and especially with Hugh Fraser narrating), this was a very entertaining listen.

Where to buy:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Audio Partners, 2005, CD

More Library Decadence

After my recent Library Loot post, I really didn’t think I could have that many more hold requests at the library coming in. I haven’t had a chance to read ANY of the books from that batch, with the exception of an audiobook, a BBC Radio Production of Agatha Christie’s The Caribbean Mystery (it helped get me out of work-brain back into me-brain every night before bed).

Frankly, the only reason I haven’t succumbed to temptation is that I know myself too well – I am weak when it comes to books, and if I pick up something and get engrossed in it, I’m in for a 3:00 a.m. night. (Which is why the next Dewey 24-hour Readathon, I may very well be participating … although Beth F. makes cheerleading sound like fun, too.)

But here I am again, so soon after the last Library Loot post, writing up another one. I received a few more automated calls from the library over the weekend, and by my mental count, was up to about four books ready and available for pickup. I asked my husband to stop in at the library and grab the books for me on his way home from doing the groceries, and he returned with an enormous bag.

So here we go again!

Mysteries by Deborah Crombie

A Finer End

Dreaming of the Bones

Now May You Weep

Water Like a Stone

All Shall Be Well

Kissed a Sad Goodbye

I suspect that another library patron was on a Deborah Crombie kick right around the time I was looking for more of the Kinkaid/James mysteries, and had signed all these out at the same time. And now I’ve done the same – only I hope there aren’t any holds for these as I will probably end up needing to renew at least some of them!

I have a book blogger to thank for my addiction to Deborah Crombie works, of course. I’m holding Cathy of Kittling Books responsible for getting me back into these books; I’d read the very first Kinkaid and James last summer but had then forgotten about the series. Until I read one or two posts by Cathy about them, that is! After reading one of her reviews, I picked up a few more, and I was hooked. (You can read my review of In a Dark House here.)

The Rest of the Batch

Mystery: Death by Bikini, by Linda Gerber. I can’t remember where I first came across this book, but I suspect the title probably leaped out at me and grabbed me. However it happened, I promptly put this book on my i-want list, and must have quickly added it to my holds request the last time I oh-so-recklessly went online at my library.

Children’s books/Fantasy: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. This one is probably self-explanatory. I’d like to read it before I get around to seeing the movie …

Memoir: Growing Up Again, by Mary Tyler Moore. Because I am currently, for some unfathomable (to me) reason, on a celebrity-autobiography kick. Don’t ask me why. All I know is, I’ve also got Julie Andrews, William Shatner and Robert Wagner in a stack here, waiting for me too.

And the Audiobooks:

Of course, my list wouldn’t be complete without some audiobooks. This year is my year of audiobooks – I’ve got a post up my sleeve explaining my reasons why. I like Agatha Christie audiobooks a lot, whether or not they’re those fabulous BBC Radio Production dramatizations:

The Listerdale Mystery and Eleven Other Stories, by Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser

The Mysterious Mr. Quin, by Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser

And that’s the end of the list … !

I hope to have time during my breaks the next few things to check out everyone else’s Library Loot for this week.

Library Loot: Mostly Mysteries – and BBC Audio

library-lootIt’s time for Library Loot, where book bloggers share what they brought home from the library this past week.

I love going to the library, although these days, because I’ve been very efficiently using the library’s request holds system, I normally just pop in, grab my on hold books off the hold shelf, take a quick look at the “New” section and come right back home.

I kind of miss just wandering around, not having any goal except finding interesting-looking books. My work schedule will be much easier after the next two weeks, so I will probably be doing more treasure hunting at the library after then. But I did manage to get to the library for an afternoon of browsing this past week, as well as having some requested books come in.

My husband likes to say I’m the library’s biggest financial supporter; he bases this on the amount of library fines I’ve paid in all the time that he’s known me. I actually don’t feel embarrassed about the amounts anymore – not when people are getting charged $1 a day for overdue DVDs!

Here’s what I picked up from the library this past week:

Mystery: A Cure for All Diseases, by Reginald Hill. I actually borrowed this late last year, but wasn’t able to get around to reading it until it was due back. I couldn’t renew it because someone else had it on hold, so I requested it again. I love Dalziel and Pascoe, and have been wanting to read this one ever since finishing up Death Comes for the Fat Man early last year.

Contemporary fiction: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I put in a hold request for this a few months back – it’s a book that I probably would never have discovered if it weren’t for book blogs (I have a lot of books on my TBR and i-want lists that are a direct result of hanging around other book blogs). I’m looking forward to this one.

I only picked up two books this past week, but I took an afternoon to hit the shelves specifically in search of audiobooks. I dislike abridged versions of audiobooks, and will always opt for the unabridged version (or not get the audiobook at all if there is no unabridged version) but there’s an exception to this: BBC Radio Collection (BBC Audio) audiobooks!

These audiobooks are simply wonderful. There’s a full cast of characters, all with rich, plummy British accents, and lots of background sounds to get you right into the mood of the story. When you’re ready for something light and dramatic, but you don’t really want to watch a movie, these are extremely fun listens.

So far I’ve just been listening to mysteries from the collection, but there are audio presentations of lots of other kinds of novels too: see the selection here and here.

I picked up the following BBC Radio Collection audiobooks this past week:

Cover Her Face, by P.D. James, starring Robin Ellis, Siân Phillips, Beatie Edney and Hugh Grant. Yes, Hugh Grant! I don’t know if this is THE Hugh Grant (haven’t listened to the CDs yet), but anyway, this Hugh Grant plays the role of Felix, one of the major characters (not Dalgliesh, so he’s probably one of the main suspects).

Three Act Tragedy, by Agatha Christie, starring John Moffatt (as Hercule Poirot), George Cole, Michael Cochrane and Clive Merrison. I remember the plotline (but not who-done-it) so I know I’ve read this one before, but definitely not under this title (for a brief second there, I was quite ecstatic, thinking here was finally an Agatha Christie title I hadn’t read before).

Peril at End House, by Agatha Christie, starring John Moffatt (as Hercule Poirot, once again). No other actors are listed on the back, and there’s no little booklet inside, so I don’t know who plays the rest of the main characters. I have read Peril at End House numerous times, so I know that by midway I will have remembered who-done-it, but the dramatization will keep it interesting, I’m sure.

Lord Edgware Dies, by Agatha Christie, and starring, of course, John Moffatt as Poirot. Other actors include Simon Williams and Nicola Pagett.

Each of these audiobooks runs for about two hours or so, so they don’t require a huge investment of time. And have I mentioned how much fun they are?

What did you get from the library this past week? And have you tried the BBC Audio (BBC Radio Collection) audiobooks? What did you think of them?