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Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

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There can’t be many people now who don’t know that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym of J K Rowling. Having never read any Harry Potter – or seen any of the films – I have the luxury of not being able to compare her books for adults to her books for children.

The main character is Cormoran Strike, ex-Army, having lost a leg in the Afghan War. He now works as a private investigator but is only just scraping by and is forced to live in his office, as he has just broken up with his fiancee. So he is not best pleased when a temping agency sends him a secretary named Robin, who he did not want and cannot really afford to employ. However on the same day that this happens, the brother of an old schoolfriend walks into his office wanting Strike to investigates the death of his sister, supermodel Lula Landry. The case had previously been ruled a suicide, but Lula’s brother John is convinced that someone murdered her. Strike reluctantly takes the case, and it becomes clear that there is a lot more to Lula’s death than it first appears.

I had actually already seen the TV adaptation of The Cuckoo’s Calling, so I already know who the guilty party was, so I guess it says something that this book still held my attention all the way through and I really enjoyed it. Galbraith (I’m still calling her that for the purpose of this review) pays attention to small details and has a descriptive style of writing which I liked a lot. I also really liked the characters of both Strike and Robin. Strike always seemed to be verging on shambolic in his appearance and style, but was obviously very astute and intuitive. And Robin – well…yay for a female character who is balanced, cheerful, intelligent and resourceful, and also one for whom romance is not her main storyline. Strike and Robin grow to like and respect one another but – minor spoiler – there is no romance there and no suggestion of it (although I haven’t read any of the subsequent books in the series, I hope their relationship remains this way).

The mystery itself is quite tangled and I felt that I did need to pay attention to the storyline, but my attention didn’t wander, and I thought the final reveal was done extremely well. Had I not already been aware of who the killer was, I don’t honestly think I would have guessed.

So all in all, this book gets a big thumbs up from me. I also highly recommend the TV adaptation, and intend on reading the other books before watching the adaptations of those.

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This was another audiobook to keep me company while running. It is only this year that I have really got into audiobooks and I have discovered a curious thing – even if I don’t particularly like an audiobook, somehow it seems to keep my attention, in a way that a physical book which I wasn’t enjoying, would not be able to do. This book kind of falls into that category.

The story is told from multiple points of view, but it kind of feels like Ella Longfield’s story, as hers is the only point of view narrated in the first person. Ella is on a train journey when she overhears two young men chatting up two girls. When it becomes apparent that the two men have just been released from prison, Ella becomes alarmed and considers intervening but decides not to. However, the next morning one of the girls, Anna Ballard, has gone missing and Ella feels guilty that she did not step in.

Cut to a year later – Anna has still not been found, and Ella is full of guilt. She starts receiving threatening postcards from an anonymous sender, which tell her that she is being watched. Meantime, the investigation into Anna’s disappearance rumbles on, with chapters told by Ella herself (‘The Witness), Anna’s father (‘The Father’), Anna’s friend Sarah who was with her on the train (‘The Sister’) and Matt, a private detective who Ella employs to find out who is sending the postcards (‘The Private Detective’). There are also very occasional chapters narrated by ‘Watcher’ whose identity for obvious reasons, is not revealed. It soon becomes obvious that everyone connected to Anna has secrets and throughout the story it seems that any one of them could be guilty.

So far, so interesting. The premise is great – what would you have done? Would you have intervened? Would you have left well alone? Would you feel guilty in Ella’s position? And of course there is the whodunnit angle…who is sending the postcards? And what really happened to Anna?

So – there was plenty about this book that kept me listening. However, there were also things that annoyed me. Ella was not a particularly interesting narrator or main character. Can I go so far as to call her dull? (Yes, is the answer.) And considering that actually, she didn’t do anything wrong, she carries a tremendous amount of guilt, almost making the case all about her. I didn’t mind the multiple points of view that narrated the different chapters, and in fact I did particularly like Matt the private detective, albeit a lot of his personal story (his wife had a baby and he learns to adjust to fatherhood) was irrelevant. However, each chapter had a cliffhanger which was obviously a ploy to keep the reader/listener interested, but just ended up being a bit annoying and felt contrived.

The other problem was the ending. Okay, so I didn’t guess who the culprit was, but the things is that I don’t believe anyone guessed, because there was absolutely nothing – no clues, no hints – given earlier on. It seems slightly unfair to keep readers guessing and then to spring a culprit on them out of left-field. The best mysteries to me are when you are surprised by the identity of the culprit but then realise that the clues were there all along.

Overall, I would say that if, like me, you are listening to this in an effort to distract you from something else, it does the trick, but otherwise I probably would not recommend it. Fans of psychological thrillers or whodunnits can find similar stories done much better.

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The fifth book in the Phryne Fisher Mystery series starts with Phryne at a jazz club, witnessing a man murdered right in front of her. He appears to have been stabbed in the chest, but there was nobody near enough to him to have done it. Phryne is right on the case, but as well as trying to solve this murder, she also has an adventure in the Australian Alps while searching for a missing young man – and of course she always manages to find time for a romantic dalliance or two!

I remember the TV episode based on this book, and while the episode left a lot of the story out, I actually prefer it. I do enjoy the Phryne Fisher books when I’m after something undemanding, but they do have something of a disjointed feel about them at times, and I think this was my least favourite so far. Without giving too much away, I think my favourite part of the story was when she went into the Alps – perhaps the change of scene worked to the book’s advantage. I would also like to see a bit of of Inspector Jack Robinson – he is a major character in the TV show, and while I realise that the books came first and it’s actually the onscreen version which changed the character, I think he warrants more attention than he receives in the books.

With all that said however, I am still quite early on the series, and I will continue to read more to see if and how the characters develop.

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One of four films featuring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple – this was actually the last of the films, and was not based on one of Agatha Christie’s stories. As Miss Marple portrayals go, I think Rutherford’s was the least like the Miss Marple in the novels. But it is also the most amusing and entertaining. A member of a Trust for the rehab of young criminals is murdered, and the investigation takes Miss Marple onto the HMS Battledore in the search for the killer. That’s really all you need to know going in, and what ensues is an hour and a half of slightly daft but witty fun.

Margaret Rutherford is loveable, Bud Tingwell as Chief Inspector Craddock is surprisingly dishy and Stringer Davis as Miss Marple’s dear friend Mr Stringer, is highly entertaining. Watch and enjoy!

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Year of release: 1964

Director: George Pollock

Writers: David Pursall. Jack Seddon, Agatha Christie (Miss Marple character)

Main cast: Margaret Rutherford, Stringer Davis, Bud Tingwell, Lionel Jeffries, William Mervyn, Joan Benham, Nicholas Parsons, Miles Malleson, Henry Oscar, Derek Nimmo, Gerald Cross, Norma Foster

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This is the fourth book in the Poirot series, and definitely my favourite so far. It has been heralded as one of Agatha Christie’s finest and anyone who reads it will surely be able to see why. A man is murdered and there are several suspects – Poirot is called in to help the police investigation and naturally uncovers the truth. Unlike the previous books which were narrated by his good friend Colonel Hastings, this one is narrated by Doctor Shepherd, who finds Poirot is his new neighbour.

I’m not going to reveal any spoilers whatsoever, but the ending is ingenious and I was completely fooled. I adore Poirot, exasperating though he is! I also loved Dr Shepherd’s nosy sister Caroline, who was a most comedic character. Apart from the final revelation, one of my favourite chapters was where four of the characters have a game of Man-Jongg – here Agatha Christie’s sharp wit and observation of human behaviour really came through!

I thoroughly recommend this book, especially to fans of a good murder mystery!

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In this fourth instalment of the Miss Fisher series, Phryne is driving in her car when her windscreen is shot out. When she gets out of the car, she sees a young man who was also shot and who dies in her arms. Outraged, Phryne determines to find the guilty parties. However, she also takes on another case, that of missing schoolgirl Alicia Waddington-Forsythe, and Miss Fisher’s two adopted daughters Janie and Ruth are able to help out with this matter.

The investigations take our intrepid investigator – along with her friend and maid Dot, and the rough but reliable Bert and Cec, not to mention her butler and chef Mr and Mrs Butler, into the dark world of anarchists and psychics, and as usual there is danger everywhere.

Lots of humour along the way of course, and Phryne naturally finds time to indulge in a little dalliance with a mysterious man named Peter Smith. Anyone who has read any of the series will be familiar with the style and will know what to expect from Phryne. I have to say that while the books are thoroughly enjoyable, I don’t think that they are actually really well written and on this occasion, the adaptation is better than the book. No Jack Robinson in this story, which is a shame, but we do get to meet Hugh Collins, who is a regular in the TV show.

Overall for an undemanding and quick read, this fits the bill.

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This instalment of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series opens with the elderly lady detective’s friends Colonel and Mrs Bantry awakening to the distressing news that there is a body in their library. And indeed there is – a young lady who neither of them have ever seen before.

After calling the police, Mrs Bantry calls upon Miss Marple to help with the investigation and that wily old lady picks through the various clues and red herrings, to get to the truth of the matter…

The first thing I would note about this story is that, as in The Murder at the Vicarage, Miss Marple is little more than a background character for most of this book. Indeed, the majority of the detective work is done by the police, who have numerous potential murderers to investigate.

The second thing I would note is that…this does not matter one jot! I enjoyed the book and I thought the mystery was very well put together. I am not going to give anything away, but I will say that I did not guess the culprit, and there were other twists – one in particular – which I also did not see coming.

Another solid instalment in the Marple series – I look forward to reading more!

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