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Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

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This book introduces The Honourable Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective – except to those of us who discovered Phryne through the television series adapted from the books. Having loved the show, I decided to start reading the books and see how they compared.

In this first Miss Fisher novel, Phryne catches a thief at a dinner party and a couple there are so taken with her quick thinking and detection that they ask her to travel from her home in London to her native Australia; they believe that their daughter Lydia is being poisoned by her husband and wish Phryne to investigate. However, when Phryne arrives she discovers that things are far more complicated than they first seem, and also gets involved with tracking down an illegal abortionist. Busy she may be, but our indefatigable detective also manages to find time for a fling with a Russian dancer!

This book was highly enjoyable in many ways – Kerry Greenwood has an amusing turn of phrase and is very good at picking the humour out of any situation and relaying it to the reader. Given the subjects covered in the book, this is no mean feat! In all honesty the plot is a little bit clunky and gets a bit tied up in itself – it felt like there was maybe a bit too much going on, and the poisoning case was actually less interesting than the search for the illegal abortionist. However, it is the first book in the series and does a good job of introducing us to several characters who (as viewers of the show will know) become regulars in the storylines; Phryne’s maid Dot; the two cab drivers Bert and Cec; and of course Detective Inspector Jack Robinson – although for those viewers liked me who adored the chemistry between Phryne and Jack, well sorry to disappoint but there is absolutely no romance between the two in the book series, and Jack is actually very different to his on-screen incarnation.

Phryne Fisher is a delightfully almost-but-not-quite over the top creation, with charm and more than a touch of impish sauciness. Based on the first book, I can only say that despite it’s flaws, I’m really looking forward to reading more in the series.

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In 2004, during a weekend away for her father Sean’s 50th birthday celebrations, three year old Coco Jackson disappears – apparently taken from the house where she slept with her twin sister Ruby and other children in the middle of the night. A huge media campaign follows but Coco is never found.

Twelve years later, following the sudden death of Sean Jackson, the truth about what really happened on that weekend is slowly revealed as his family and friends prepare for his funeral.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. Psychological thrillers are a favourite genre of mine but they can also be a real let-down when they venture into the realms of the ridiculous. However, this book seemed actually plausible and I think that may have been due to the writing. And, sadly, possibly also due to the fact that there have been some high profile disappearances of children over the years. Alex Marwood is a journalist and I can’t help wondering if this case was at least inspired by one particularly famous child disappearance.

There is a dual storyline – the first part set in 2004 and told from the point of view of various characters. The truth of what happened is drip-fed bit by bit. The second part is set in 2016 and is narrated by Mila, one of Sean’s daughters from his first of four marriages. As Mila reconnects with Ruby, the twin sister of Coco, she revisits her own past and deals with her feelings about her father and the fragile ties that can bind a family together.

In any event, it’s an absorbing read. Sean Jackson is a deeply unlikeable, narcissistic and selfish character and indeed most of the adult characters in this story are the same. Pity the children who had the misfortune to be part of their families. Speaking of those children though, I did love Mila and enjoyed her character development. I also adored Ruby, who was entirely believable as both a typical teenager and a young girl who had had to live with survivor’s guilt her whole life.

As mentioned earlier, I did think that the final twist was pretty predictable, but there were still a few surprises along the way, and the writing was great and kept me reading on and on.

Overall I would highly recommend this book, and will definitely look out for more by Alex Marwood.

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In this second novel featuring the indomitable Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective receives a letter from a gentleman named Paul Renaldo who begs for Poirot’s help, saying that Renauld’s life is in danger. Poirot and his friend (and the novel’s narrator Captain Hastings) hurry off to Renauld’s home in the north of France, but when they get there they find that he has already been murdered. And so begins an investigation which has more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and is hampered by an over zealous and unfriendly Parisian detective named Girauld.

There are plenty of possible suspects, and several red herrings throughout the story, but leave it all to the ingenious Poirot to untangle all the threads and get to the truth. Of course you know at the start of the book that he will solve the mystery but the real pleasure is in seeing if you can solve it before he does. In my case the answer was…no. I thought I had sussed out the reason for the murder and the identity of the murderer, but I was completely wrong on both counts.

I enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure I liked it as much as Poirot’s previous (and first) outing, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which also had lots of suspects and red herrings but was somewhat less convoluted than The Murder on the Links. If I’m honest, it felt almost as though Christie was a bit too clever when writing this one. I still liked it though, and I still love Poirot – he is such a lovable character. I can’t say the same for Captain Hastings, who if anything came across as rather bland. I do think Agatha Christie must really have had such a quick and intelligent mind, and I look forward to reading more of her books very soon.

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Tom Riley plays DI Will Wagstaffe, the officer in charge of an investigation into a brutal murder and a number of brutal assaults in London. It doesn’t take long before Will and his team realise that suspected paedophiles are being targeted, and the race is on to find out who is exacting their own vigilante justice. Meanwhile Will himself is haunted by his own demons, as he struggles to cope with the murder of his own parents several years earlier.

This tv film was a one off, although it almost feels like the pilot for a series; if it was made into a series, I would certainly watch it. I thought Tom Riley was excellent in the main role – both believable as a police officer and also in his personal life as he tried to come to terms with the fact that he would soon have lived longer since his parents’ murder that he had lived before the horrific event that changed his life for good. I also thought that his loving but tense relationship with his sister Juliette (Charlotte Riley, no relation) was very well portrayed. Both siblings have been affected in different ways by the family tragedy and although they clearly love each other, they sometimes struggle to understand each other.

The crime aspect of the story was very well done, and I was kept guessing until the end. The only thing that spoiled it slightly for me was that the ending did seem a bit cliched and stretched the boundaries of belief somewhat. Despite this though, overall the film was well acted and there were plenty of things to keep the viewer guessing.

I hope that this isn’t the last we have seen of Will Wagstaffe and his team – I will be looking out for more feature length tv films with these characters.

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Colin Teague

Writer: Chris Lang

Main cast: Tom Riley, Charlotte Riley, Edward Akrout, Tom Brooke, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Miranda Raison

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I have been on a bit of an Agatha Christie roll lately. Having never read anything by her before last year (and never watched any of the TV or film adaptations), I was inspired to read And Then There Were None, after watching the superb TV adaptation of that novel at the end of 2016. Since then, I’ve been catching up on other TV films and have several of her novels stockpiled to read.

My reason for wanting to read this particular book was that the title story, The Witness for the Prosecution, has also been adapted by the BBC, and I wanted to read the story first. I was slightly surprised that it was a short story (and that it was as short as it was), but I enjoyed it. That said, I did not think the twist was quite as spectacular as I had been led to believe by other reviews, and it wasn’t my favourite story in the collection.

The other stories with brief descriptions, are as follows:

  • The Red Signal (I had read this one before): A story of mental illness and unhappy marriages. Sounds cheery doesn’t it?! I liked it a lot though.
  • The Fourth Man: Four men are on a train, and three of them know each other. The fourth man is drawn into their conversation and reveals some interesting details about an infamous woman they are discussing. Enjoyable on the whole, although it was an entirely different story to what I was anticipating from the set-up.
  • SOS: A man’s car breaks down and he seeks refuge for the night with a family who are clearly hiding secrets. He endeavours to find out what they are (and naturally does so). I liked it. It had an air of sinisterness about it – which admittedly is Agatha Christie’s forte – which worked well.
  • Wireless: This was probably my favourite one in the whole collection. An elderly woman has heart problems and is warned that she must not get too excitable and also must not brood on her troubles. Her nephew buys her a wireless to take her mind off things, but then strange events start happening. Although I thought it was fairly easy to guess who was responsible, an added twist at the end made this thoroughly enjoyable.
  • The Mystery of the Blue Jar (another one I had read before). A young man is driven mad when he hears a voice call out ‘Murder’ at the same time every morning while he is on the golf course. He befriends a young woman and her father who live nearby and together they try to work out what is happening. Probably my second favourite in this collection.
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence: Bit of an odd one this. The mystery itself was clever enough – a woman is murdered and the four members of her family who are the potential suspects all seem to be innocent, but there appears to be no possibility that it could be anyone else – however, I did feel that the reader had been tricked a bit when the final denouement was revealed. Also, I did not like the chauvinistic detective figure in this one!
  • Mr Eastwood’s Adventure (aka The Mystery of the Second Cucumber): This was a lot of fun, and another contender for my second favourite of the collection. A man receives a mysterious phone call, clearly meant for someone else, and cannot resist investigating. Naturally he gets himself entangled in all manner of problems. This was quite amusing. I would have stuck with the original title of The Mystery of the Second Cucumber though.
  • Philomel Cottage: A woman marries a man after a brief romance. She then learns that he is a murderous psychopath and has to plan a way to get out alive. This was probably the weakest of the collection for me, which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading it. I had forgotten the ending when I came to write this review though, which is never a good sign!
  • Accident: Two men are discussing a woman who one of them is convinced is a murderer who has started her life anew under a different name. They believe that her current husband is at risk of being killed by her, and one of them sets out to try and stop that happening.
  • The Second Gong: A family gather for dinner but the uncle is found shot dead in a locked room. It appears that he has committed suicide but Hercule Poirot is convinced that there has been foul play. And Poirot of course always gets his man. I like Poirot stories partly because I love David Suchet and always think of him in the role. This was very cleverly done, and I enjoyed it a lot.
  • Hercule Poirot and the Regatta Mystery: Another Poirot story – a group of people are gather together and a valuable diamond goes missing. The indefatigable Belgian detective is called in to work out who has taken it. Naturally he figures it out.

I’ll be honest here and say that as a general rule, I am not a huge fan of short stories. I prefer novels, where we get to know characters better and plot-lines are more developed. However, as an undemanding diversion these stories worked perfectly well – as can only be expected, some are more enjoyable than others, and probably every reader will have their own ideas of which were the best and which were the worst. It’s also worth mentioning that if you already have any short story collections of Agatha Christie, it’s worth checking that you don’t already possess all of these stories before spending money on this specific book. Most of these appear in the Miss Marple and Mystery story collect and others appear in other collections by Christie.

Overall, based on this collection I remain a fan of Agatha Christie although I definitely prefer her longer novels.

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This book is the first in Agatha Christie’s famous Miss Marple series and the third novel by Christie that I have read. I have a long way to go until I’ve read the rest of them and based on what I have read so far, I am looking forward to it!

When Colonel Protheroe is murdered in the local Vicar’s study, there are plenty of suspects – after all he was not a popular man in the small village of St Mary Mead, and tongues are set wagging. Miss Marple however is less interested in idle gossip and more interested in getting to the bottom of the case, and she applies her methodical thinking to solving the crime for which everyone seems to have an alibi.

What surprised me the most about this book is that Miss Marple is actually a fairly minor character in the story, at least until the end. The story is narrated by the Vicar Len Clement, and he himself gets involved in amateur sleuthing to try and uncover the murderer. He is a witty and self-deprecating character, and his observations about his fellow villagers are frequently very droll and amusing; I was actually surprised at how funny this book is.

But the story is essentially a murder mystery and as such it works very well. Just as with the Poirot book The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which I also read recently, I did not guess the murderer beforehand, and it helped that there were plenty of potential characters who could have done it (I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have guessed the murderer in And Then There Were None either, except that I watched a TV adaptation before reading the book).

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of the mystery genre – it’s more of a gentle pace then most thrillers, but if you enjoy whodunnits, I think this is definitely one to check out. I look forward to reading more Agatha Christie and soon!

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles was Agatha Christie’s debut novel and as such the first one to feature her famous and hugely popular detective Hercule Poirot. Narrated by his friend Captain Hastings, the scene is set before Poirot appears in the story. Hastings is invited by his old friend John Cavendish to stay with his family and is most surprised to find the matriarch – John’s widowed step-mother Emily – has remarried to a man some 20 years younger than herself. It is safe to say that her new husband Alfred has not exactly endeared himself to the other members of the household.

When Emily is murdered by poisoning a couple of days later, Poirot is called in to investigate and through Hastings’ eyes, we see his methods as the famous Belgian detective pieces together seemingly unconnected clues and sifts through various red herrings to finally reveal the murderer.

I really enjoyed this book, and loved that it kept me guessing right up until the moment that the killer was revealed at the end. Although I could never dream of putting together such a complex story (and let’s not forget that Agatha Christie wrote a huge amount of mystery stories), I do think there were clues that this was an early novel, but if this is Christie at her most raw, then I can hardly wait to read her other books!

Poirot himself is an infuriatingly pompous and self-satisfied character who despite this is impossible not to like. The plot itself, with all of its twists and turns was still easy to follow and led to a satisfying and surprising conclusion.

Highly recommended to fans of the mystery genre. I have more Poirot stories on my to-be-read mountain and am looking forward to reading them.

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