Sunday, August 26, 2012

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

cover of Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
I’ve been reading Poirot in the Orient, which is a three novel collection that features Hercule Poirot on trips in the Middle East. The first was Murder in Mesopotamia. I just finished the second in the collection, Death on the Nile. I’ve read this one a few times, and, of course, I watched the movie with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. The movie is somewhat faithful to the book, with some minor changes in the amount of characters. In Death on the NIle, we have some buildup before the story moves to Egypt. Linnet Ridgeway is a young, wealthy girl. She always gets what she wants, and what she wants is her friend’s fiance. Jacqueline de Bellefort winds up losing Simon Doyle to Linnet, and that’s when the problems start. Jackie starts to follow Linnet and Simon their honeymoon, trying to make them feel miserable. The honeymoon winds up in Egypt, where the Doyles, Jackie, Poirot, and a cast of others start to sail down the Nile. The others include an American lawyer who is embezzling Linnet’s fortune, a jewel thief, a kleptomaniac, and a person with drinking problems. These people add a wealth of potential murderers, and it’s only because of Poirot that the murder is solved. Colonel Race also makes an appearance in the book, and he aids Poirot in the investigation.

Because I was so familiar with the story, I read it with an eye to see if the clues add up. One of the raps against Christie is that she makes up things at the end to tie all the clues together. However, on the close reading of Death on the Nile, all the clues were there, and in fact, they seemed quite obvious. Christie did a great job with the mystery in this book. It ranks, in my mind, in the top ten of her books. The book was originally published in 1937, which is right before the golden era of Christie. Most seem to think that the books published from the late 1930s to 1940s are the best of the bunch. If you have only seen the movie, you should definitely read the book. I believe that you will enjoy the book and appreciate the movie even more.

The last in the collection is Appointment with Death. I just started reading that one today.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

Cover of Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
Murder in Mesopotamia is one of the early Agatha Christie mysteries. It stars Hercule Poirot, and it’s part of the Poirot in the Orient set that I’m reading. The novel was published in the summer of 1936, and it’s perfect for summertime reading. The narrator of the story is Ann Leatheran, a nurse called in to help with a woman, Louisa Leidner, who seems to be having issues with fear. As Nurse Leatheran finds out, Mrs. Leidner is receiving threatening letters from her first husband, who was supposed to have died in a train wreck while trying to escape from execution for treason. When Mrs. Leidner found out about her husband’s treason, she turned him in to her father, who was in the US defense office. Every time Mrs. Leidner was close to a man, she would receive a threatening letter that would cause her to drop the man. She did not receive a threatening letter when she married Dr. Erich Leidner, an archaeologist. However, after the marriage the letters started up again. When Nurse Leatheran appears on the scene, the Leidners are in Iraq on an archaeological dig. Shortly after Nurse Leatheran starts on the job, Mrs. Leidner is murdered. Hercule Poirot happens to be passing through on his way from Baghdad, and the local police call him in to assist with the mystery.

I really loved the book. Although I read the book several times, I would have to admit that it’s not obvious who the murderer is and how the murder was committed, Even the second murder of Dr. Leidner’s assistant, Miss Anne Johnson, wasn’t an obvious one. Christie did a great job in telling the story through Nurse Leatheran’s eyes. She gives her opinion of Poirot, not impressed at first, but then seeing him as the skilled surgeon that she was assisting. Of course, at the end, Poirot gathers everyone together, and after explaining how everyone could have done the deed, he finally explains how it really happened. This is a great Christie story, and I would highly recommend it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels

cover of Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels
Yep, I read another Barbara Michaels. I’m starting to narrow down the list with only a few left unread. This time I read Wait for What Would Come. The premise behind this book is that Carla Tregallas is the only known heir to a Cornish estate. Her many times great uncle Walter Tregallas died without children, and in his will, he left everything to any heir that carries the name of Tregallas. Carla is the only one left, and instead of selling the estate unseen, she decides to go to England. When she gets there, she finds a run-down estate and a mysterious threat. It seems that every two hundred years on Midsummer’s Eve, a young female Tregallas falls victim to a merman, who comes out of the sea to claim his bride. Carla is the intended victim, and she has the added burden of looking just like the last victim, Lady Caroline Tregallas. Carla falls in love with the house and wants to stay, even though everyone seems bound and determined to get rid of her. Mrs. Pendennis, the elderly housekeeper, seems the most bothered by the legend. Her grandson, Michael, doesn’t buy the legend, but he is worried about his grandmother. Others involved in the mystery are the doctor, Simon Tremuan, the lawyer, Alan Fairman, the lawyer’s sister, Elizabeth, and the parson, John. Will Carla be the next victim of the merman, or will she continue to live happily in Cornwall?

I enjoyed the story. There was just the right amount of suspense. I wondered if Carla would figure out who was behind the mysterious happenings that made it look like a merman was after her. There was a real build up of the tension, and the end was spooky. All the men appear to be after Carla, but are they really, or are they just trying to get something from Carla, like the estate? Wait for What Will Come had me on the edge of my seat.

Charles Geer illustrated the cover of the book, and it gives a great representation of the story. Geer does a great illustration, and it conveys the mood of the story.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Dark on the Other Side by Barbara Michaels

cover of The Dark on the Other Side by Barbara Michaels
Barbara Michaels’ The Dark on the Other Side is an interesting book. The story is told by two narrators. At times, we hear from Linda Randolph, wife of the charismatic Gordon Randolph, and at others, we hear for Michael Collins, who is to write a book about Gordon. Linda Randolph is troubled, alcoholic, and a potential danger to herself and her husband. Why? It seems that Linda is troubled by visions of a black dog, and that the visions are making her want to murder her husband. As Michael starts to research Gordon’s past, he finds that Gordon is a bit of an enigma. Gordon has had great success in writing (only one critically acclaimed book) and politics. Even though Michael’s father taught Gordon at college, Michael can’t remember his father showing great interest in Gordon. After traveling to the college where Gordon taught, and married Linda, Michael starts to notice that there seems to be a trail of people in Gordon’s wake who either committed suicide or fell into serious issues with drug abuse. Could Gordon have somehow influenced the people in a negative way? What is the meaning of the black dog that Linda sees? Is there some supernatural element at hand, or is it just the psychotic delusions of an alcoholic?

I have to admit that the switch in voices threw me at the beginning of the book. I was trying to figure out what was going on, and who was the main protagonist of the book. Well, there isn’t one protagonist; there are two. Michaels turns from ghosts to a different type of woo-woo: demonic powers. As I was reading, I started to agree with the protagonists that Gordon is a demonic force, but then the voice of reason, in Galen Rosenberg, made me wonder if it was just a collective hallucination brought on my psychosis. The end of the book is satisfying. Good triumphs over evil. The end was especially satisfying because I read it while a strong thunderstorm was providing suitable background music. The book isn’t the strongest of the Michaels’ books, but I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Murder, She Wrote: The Queen's Jewels

Cover of Murder, She Wrote: The Queen's Jewels by Donald Bain
I was looking for something light to read on my Kindle while I wait for Harry Potter and Lincoln Child books to be available on my library’s Overdrive site.Murder, She Wrote seemed like a good choice, and the library had only one book available for Kindle. I’ve never read a Murder, She Wrote book, but I did like the series, so I thought I would give it a try. The book was Murder, She Wrote: the Queen’s Jewels, which is rather misleading. The story isn’t about the Queen’s jewels, but about diamond thefts that happen in London. One is a huge blue diamond called the Heart of India. The owner of the diamond was murdered during the robbery. Jessica Fletcher went to London and was planning to return to the US by crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2. The authorities thought that the Heart of Indian and the diamond from various jewelry thefts in London are onboard the ship. Joining Jessica onboard are Michael Haggerty (retired MI6 spy from the TV show) and Dennis Stanton (retired thief, working insurance fraud investigator from the TV show). Both used aliases to hide their identity. Of course, with the help of Jessica Fletcher, the theft and murder were solved.

The book was a quick read. it was very much like the show, although I found the mystery to be a bit of a disappointment. The murderer/thief was obvious from the beginning. In fact, I was disappointed with the solution of the mystery because it just seemed anticlimactic. I did have some tears at the end because of the death of one of the characters. I’m going to give some of the other books a try because it was like watching the TV series, but don’t expect anything more than a light, uncomplicated mystery.