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Posts Tagged ‘short stories’

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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book at Christmas time, and having previously enjoyed ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe, I was really happy to get my hands on this. Essentially it is a collection of observations, memories and a few short stories all – obviously – based around a Christmas theme.

Stibbe discusses such things as how to cook a turkey without it being dry (she has chops instead!), the art of Christmas gift giving, spending Christmas with your parents despite being well into adulthood and more. Just as in Love, Nina, she is an engaging and amusing narrator and provided lots of smiles and giggles while I was reading this.

It’s lighthearted and undemanding – I read it over two days but only because I was stretching it out – and because those two days were Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we had places to be – I would think that it would be an easy book to polish off in one sitting.

I will be keeping this book and revisiting it at future Christmas times. I definitely recommend it.

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This third book in Agatha Christie’s Poirot series is actually a collection of eleven (fourteen in the American book) short stories, all unconnected save for the fact that they all relate mysteries that Poirot solved, and all are narrated by his friend Captain Hastings.

I enjoyed the book and as with all other Christie books that I have read so far, I zipped through it fairly quickly. However – and this is just personal preference – while I don’t mind reading short stories sometimes, I generally prefer a full-length novel, which gives chance for more character and plot development. That said, Christie always seems to focus more on the plot than the characters – Poirot after all remains unchanged in the three books I have read which feature him, as does Captain Hastings. And despite preferring longer stories on the whole, I would still recommend this for Poirot fans.

It’s fair to say that while most of the plots were very clever, Poirot’s ability to solve them does stretch the imagination somewhat. He manages to solve one mystery without even being there! He is laid up in bed with flu so sends along Hastings to be his eyes and ears, but it is Poirot that works out the truth behind the matter. This explains Poirot’s huge ego and arrogance, which somehow only serve to make me like him more!

In all short story collections there will be some that the reader prefers over others, and these will probably vary from reader to reader. There were none that I didn’t enjoy, but for my money the best ones were:

The Adventure of the Western Star – A film star receives demanding letters requesting a particular diamond which her husband brought her for their wedding. She enlists Poirot’s help in finding out who is behind the letters.

The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan – a lady staying at the Grand Metropolitan Hotel, has a beautiful and valuable piece of jewellery stolen. Suspicion falls upon the chambermaid and the lady’s own personal maid, and it is up to Poirot to get to the bottom of the matter.

The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim – a banker goes missing and Poirot is immediately on the case.

The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman – Count Foscatini, an Italian nobleman is brutally murdered, and the hunt is on for the only two men who could have done it. But of course the truth is much stranger than imagined…

Overall, an enjoyable, undemanding and diverting read.

 

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This is the second book in the Miss Marple series and it takes on a bit of a different format. The premise is that every week, a group of friends including an author, a clergyman, an artist, an actress, a doctor, a solicitor, a retired police commissioner and a Colonel and his wife, and of course, Miss Marple herself, meet up and discuss mysteries and crimes which they have come across in their lives. They each know how their own stories turn out but the challenge is for the others to guess the truth. Naturally, and despite their initial dismissal of Miss Marple as a naive old lady who has led a sheltered life, it is she who works out all the mysteries before anyone else is able to do so.

The format deviates in the last story of the book, where Miss Marple requests the assistance of the former police commissioner to uncover a murder and stop a miscarriage of justice.

I’m not generally a huge fan of short stories but I did enjoy this collection. My favourites were probably The Blue Geranium, The Bloodstained Pavement and The Companion. Each story shows off Christie’s talent for plotting, red herrings and drop feeding clues, and the reader is shown more of Miss Marple’s quick and clever mind. I didn’t feel that we really got to know the rest of the characters in any great fashion – they were all painted with very broad brush strokes – but these stories are far more about the mysteries than the narrators.

Overall, a very enjoyable and easy reading collection. I look forward to continuing my quest to read through the books of Agatha Christie.

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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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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book during the Christmas season, and this collection of classic mysteries by various authors – some well-know, some less so – fitted the bill perfectly for this year.

Like all short story collections, and especially those with various authors, it’s slightly uneven and some stories resonated more with me than others but overall the standard was very high, and I don’t think there were any stories that I really disliked.

The collection contains (my personal favourites are in bold)

The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle (a Sherlock Holmes story)

Parlour Tricks by Ralph Plummer

The Happy Solution by Raymund Allen

The Flying Stars by G K Chesterton (a Father Brown story)

Stuffing by Edgar Wallace

The Unknown Murderer by H C Bailey 

The Absconding Treasurer by J Jefferson Farjeon

The Necklace of Pearls by Dorothy L Sayers (a Lord Peter Wimsey story)

The Case is Altered by Margery Allingham

Waxworks by Ethel Lina White (this was my favourite and I could totally see it being adapted into a television film or mini-series)

Cambric Tea by Marjorie Bowen

The Chinese Apple by Joseph Shearing

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake

Beef for Christmas by Leo Bruce

 

If you like short stories or like me, you like to read Yuletide themed stories at Christmas (and often being a busy time of year I find that short stories are the perfect type of reading for the Christmas season) I would recommend this book. In fact, if you are a fan of mysteries in general, you can’t go far wrong with this collection.

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This is a collection of 12 forgotten (except that several of them are actually available in print in other works) short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I’ve previously read just two full length books by Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby, which I loved; and Tender is the Night, which I struggled with, but which still contained some truly beautiful and evocative writing. I also read Flappers and Philosophers, which is another collection of his (better known) short stories, which I enjoyed immensely.

The writing in this collection of stories is just as beautiful as anything else I read by him, although obviously some stories resonate more than others, and some linger in the mind for longer.

From this collection, my favourites were Love in the Night; The Dance (although it does contain some out-dated and offensive language, but which was also Fitzgerald’s only murder mystery story);The Rubber Check, which made me sad for the protagonist; and Six of One. Happily for me, there weren’t any stories which I didn’t particularly enjoy.

If you have read and enjoyed anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the past, I would definitely recommend giving this collection a try.

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Quite simply, this is a collection of short stories all inspired by Jane Austen. Some are set in Jane Austen’s time, some are set in the present day, some are set in a fantasy world. As can only be expected with such a collection, and with such a varying range of writing styles, some are far more enjoyable than others and preferences will probably differ from reader to reader.

My favourites were the ones with a touch of humour, and – surprisingly for me because I am a big Austen fan – I preferred the ones set in the present day.

My favourites were Jane Austen’s Nightmare by Syrie James (where Austen meets several of her characters who berate her for her treatment of them through her writing); ‘Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!’ by Janet Mullany (where several contemporary schoolgirls learn lessons about love and life through discovering Austen’s works), and ‘The Love Letter’ by Brenna Aubrey.

Most of the others were enjoyable enough if not particularly memorable for me, although there were a couple I unfortunately did not like at all – ‘Jane Austen’s Cat’ by Diana Birchall just seemed extremely silly, and ‘The Chase’ by Carrie Bebris, while obviously well researched (it is based on an incident in the Navy career of Austen’s brother Francis) also did not work for me. However as mentioned before, such opinions are of course completely subjective.

Overall, if you have an interest in Jane Austen or her characters, I’d recommend giving this book a try. And as it is a collection of stand-alone stories, it’s one you can easily dip in and out of.

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