Tag Archives: Hercule Poirot

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!

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