Peril at End House by Agatha Christie: Book Review

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Peril at End House by Agatha Christie was first published in 1932.  For once I wasn’t totally bemused and I was doing well, following the clues, or so I thought because I did solve some of the puzzles before Poirot revealed the culprit. But I hadn’t got the final solution!

Poirot is on holiday in Cornwall and boasting of his modesty to Captain Hastings, who is the narrator of this story. In his own words he is happy to be in retirement:

To sit in the sun – what could be more charming? To step from your pinnacle at the zenith of your fame – what could be a grander gesture? They say of me: “That is Hercule Poirot! – The great – the unique! – There was never any one like him, there never will be!” Eh bien – I am satisfied. I ask no more. I am modest.

But when he meets Nick Buckley who tells of her “accidental brushes with death” he just cannot resist investigating who is her would-be killer. Nick treats it all as a joke but Poirot is convinced that she is in grave danger. Indeed it seems as though he is right, especially when her cousin Maggie, wearing Nick’s shawl is shot.

But why would someone want to kill Nick? She lives at End House, badly in need of repair and “mortgaged up to the hilt”. Could it be Ellen, the housekeeper, or one of her friends – the languid, affected and mysterious Frederica known as Freddie, or her cousin Charles, who will inherit the house if she dies. Or maybe it’s the Australian couple renting the lodge house from Nick, who knew her father when he was in Australia. And what is the significance of the secret panel in the house – if it really exists?

There are plenty of twist and turns as usual with an Agatha Christie plot and not everyone is who they seem to be – identity plays a large role in this complicated mystery. I enjoyed it very much, not least because of Captain Hasting’s comments on Poirot’s outrageous vanity, such as this one:

His fame and reputation meant nothing to her – she was of the generation that knows only the great names of the immediate moment. … He was to her only a rather comic elderly foreigner with an amusingly melodramatic mind.

And this attitude baffled Poirot. To begin with, his vanity suffered. It was his constant dictum that all the world knew Hercule Poirot. Here was someone who did not. Very good for him, I could not but feel – but not precisely helpful to the object in view!

agatha_christie_rcHave a look at the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival for more posts on her books.

Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You?

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Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) ‘teaser’ sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your ‘teaser’ from €¦ that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

a-judgement-in-stoneMy teasers today are from page 29 of Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone:

She was the strangest person they were ever likely to meet. And had they known what her past contained, they would have fled from her or barred their doors against her as against the plague – not to mention her future, now inextricably bound up with theirs.

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I’m in Suffolk, at Lowfield Hall, a large 1930-ish house on the outskirts of Stanwich, with the Coverdale family and their new housekeeper Eunice Parchman.

This is a chilling tale full of psychological insights into the mind and motives of a killer.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.

Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon: Book Review

doctored-evidenceDoctored Evidence is the first book by Donna Leon that I’ve read. Maybe I should have started with the first Commissario Brunetti book, Death at La Fenice, because I felt as though I’d walked into a room where everyone else knew each other and I didn’t.

It started off well with the murder of the most unlikeable character Maria Battestini. At first Flori, her Romanian maid is suspected of her murder but it is clear from Signora Gismondi’s evidence that the maid could not have had time to kill the old woman. What follows is the investigation of the murder by Commisario Brunetti aided by Signorina Elettra and Inspector Vianello.

It was going well and then I began to get a bit bored as it became bogged with lots of possiblities for who killed Battestini. At the end when the murderer was revealed I only had a vague impression of the character and had to go back to read various scenes again. For me the minor characters were all a bit vague, with the exception of Signora Gismondi who came across very clearly. I would have liked more about her.

I liked Brunetti; he seems to be a maverick character. I think a Commissario is in charge of a police station or division or something similar, but at one point I wondered if his boss was Signora Elettra, only to discover that she works for Brunetti’s boss Vice-Questore Patta. Maybe this would all be clearer to me if I began with the first Brunetti book.

I liked the scenes with Brunetti’s family, his conversations with his wife and the descriptions of their meals. At one point when he tells his wife he won’t be home for a meal she replies “Wonderful”, because she can read while she eats. I also liked the way their discussion about the Seven Deadly Sins influences how he tries to work out the motive behind the murder and that he picks the wrong sin. The scenes with Lieutenant Scarpa, a most unlikeable character, where his antagonism towards Brunetti and the way Brunetti eventually deals with him are among the most vivid in the book.

In a way I was a bit disappointed with Doctored Evidence but overall I liked it enough to look for another book by Donna Leon.

This is the 17th library book I’ve read this year contributing to the Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge 2009.

Sunday Salon

tssbadge1It’s the May Bank Holiday weekend and for once the sun is shining, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, so it’s not really a day for spending much time reading – the garden is calling. But I’m currently well into Ian Rankin’s first Rebus book – Knots and Crosses – and I would love to finish it today. I think I know who the murderer is.

I’m reading it in the omnibus edition which contains the first three Rebus books so I’ve got Hide and Seek and Tooth and Nail to read after Knots and Crosses.

In Knots and Crosses one we learn about Rebus’s life before the police force when he was in the army, about his brother, Michael and about his ex-wife Rhona and his daughter Samantha. Rebus receives cryptic anonymous letters containing pieces of string tied in a knot and matchstick crosses. It’s all a play on words – knots/noughts and crosses and acrostic puzzles added in too.

So far I think I’ve worked it out, now I’m off to see if I’m right.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie: Book Review

body-in-library001I wrote some initial thoughts about The Body in the Library in my Sunday Salon post.  This is the mystery of who killed Ruby Keene. Ruby was eighteen, a professional dancer employed at the Majestic Hotel Danemouth as a dance hostess. Her body was found  in the Bantrys’ library at Gossington Hall. Then the charred body of another girl is found in an abandoned quarry. Who killed these girls and why?

The police are investigating the murder, including Inspector Slack, who is anything but slack, an energetic man, with a bustling manner. The police investigation is reinforced by the retired head of Scotland Yard, Sir Henry Clithering, whilst quietly in the background Miss Marple, at the request of Mrs Bantry, is also looking for the murderer.  I had little idea who it was even though I read the book very carefully. I had my suspicions and was completely wrong.

There are various suspects – Colonel Bantry, because the body was found in his library, Basil Blake who is connected with the film industry, has loud, drunken parties, George Bartlett, a rather dim-witted chap who is a guest at the Majestic, apparently the last person to see Ruby alive, and the Jefferson family – Conway Jefferson confined to a wheelchair, who was proposing adopting Ruby as his daughter, Mark, his son-in-law and Adelaide his daughter-in-law. Ruby was hired by the hotel as a dance hostess to partner Raymond Starr (also the tennis coach) after Josie Turner had sprained her ankle.

This is a satisfying murder mystery in that all the clues are there and when Miss Marple reveals who the killer is it is so clear that I don’t know why I hadn’t realised pages earlier, but that is Agatha Christie’s skill. A quick and enjoyable read.

For more reviews of Agatha Christie’s books have a look at the Agatha Christie Challenge.

Sunday Salon

tssbadge1Today I’ve been reading Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library. I’ve been reading it carefully, concentrating on the characters and trying to work out who killed Ruby and deposited her body in the Bantrys’ library at Gossington Hall. I’ve got up to the point where Miss Marple has decided she knows who the murderer is, but has not let on, because she says there’s a long way to go yet and there are a great many things that are quite obscure. She must be a most frustrating friend – Mrs Bantry is desperate to know who it is because everyone is saying it must be Colonel Bantry because the body was found in their house.

body-in-the-libraryI have no idea who the murderer is – all the likely suspects have alibis for the time that the murder was committed, so either I’ve missed someone, or the timing is wrong, or something! The only thing to do is to read on and find out. I dislike it when it turns out that a new person is the murderer. I feel cheated, having spent time working it all out, so I hope this isn’t one of those books!

Dead Man’s Folly by Agatha Christie: Book Review

agatha_christie_rcYears ago I read as many of Agatha Christie’s books as I could find, but I don’t remember ever reading Dead Man’s Folly before. This one features Hercule Poirot and Mrs Ariadne Oliver.  There is of course a murder with a most unlikely victim. It kept me guessing to the end as there is such a misleading tangle of evidence.

Mrs Ariadne Oliver has devised a Murder  Hunt for Sir George Stubbs at the Fete to be held at Nasse House, a big white Georgian house looking out over the river (based on Agatha’s own house Greenway in Devon). She has a feeling that something is wrong and summons Hercule Poirot to join her, ostensibly to present the prizes.

I did find the number of characters a bit bewildering – there are so many, including the bluff Sir George and his exotic and beautiful, if simple wife, Hattie; Miss Brewis (Sir George’s secretary); Mrs Folliat whose ancestors had lived at Nasse House for generations; a Member of Parliament and his wife; an atomic physicist and his wife; an architect; the butler; Lady Stubbs’s cousin; and a couple of girl hitch hikers in shorts who cause Poirot to shut his eyes in pain and reflect

 … that seen from the back, shorts were becoming to very few of the female sex. Why, oh why, must young women array themselves thus? Those scarlet thighs were singularly unattractive!

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The Murder Hunt goes badly wrong when the young Girl Guide, Marlene playing the part of the murder victim, is discovered in the boat house garotted with a piece of clothes line. Just who could possibly have a motive for killing Marlene? And what is the significance of the little white “Folly”, set high in the woods above the river?

The police have no idea and even Poirot is baffled for a while. The chief constable thinks he may have been “a little Belgian wizard in his day – but surely, man, his day’s over. He’s what age?” 

In the end, of course, it is Poirot who makes sense of it all.  I didn’t think this was as good as some of Agatha Christie’s other books, but it was still enjoyable.

To read more reviews of Agatha Christie’s books visit Kerrie’s Agatha Christie Reading Carnival.