Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Murder at the Vicarage [Christie]

Book: The Murder at the Vicarage [Miss Marple book# 1]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: When elderly Colonel Protheroe is found shot in the Vicar's study, there is no shortage of suspects. His wife has been cheating on him with a young artist. His flighty daughter has been acting strange for quite a while. There are a few new people in town including an archaeologist, his young secretary and a mysterious older woman. So many suspects...and it doesn't help that the victim was not well liked by anyone. When 2 people confess to the crime, the local magistrate works the case with the help of elderly spinster Miss Marple. 

Once again I could not figure out the mystery, darn you Agatha! This just makes me want to read more of her books to see if I can figure out the killer. A fun, quick, read. I recommend for anyone who enjoys mysteries. 


Cat Among the Pigeons [Christie]

Book: Cat Among the Pigeons [Poirot book# 32]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Priceless jewels are smuggled out of war torn Ramat and are hidden at an exclusive private girls school. Someone at the school knows where the jewels are hidden and will do anything to possess them, including murder. Who is the culprit? The new french mistress who seems incompetent at her job? The new games mistress, who is overly enthusiastic? The head mistress's new efficient secretary? Or perhaps a teacher who happened to be in Ramat on holiday and saw where the jewels were hidden? Or it is someone targeting the young princess of Ramat, who is is a young student? Hercule Poirot is on the case and tries to solve the mystery.

I did not figure this out but still enjoyed the twists and turns that Christie created. Great read!

Grade: B+

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Labours of Hercules [Christie]

Book: The Labours of Hercules [Poirot # 26]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Prior to retirement, celebrated Belgium detective Hercule Poirot decides to take on 12 last cases that are reminiscent of the 'Labours of Hercules' in Greek mythology. 

Although an interesting idea, I enjoy a mystery when it is layered with suspects, red herrings and lots of details. I find it hard to sink my teeth into short stories, especially ones that were relatively easy to figure out. I enjoy Agatha Christie (obviously, anyone reading this blog can see I'm on an Agatha Christie kick right now!) and the Poirot series, I do not recommend this book

Grade: C

Evil Under the Sun [Christie]

Book: Evil Under the Sun [Poirot book# 23]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Hercule Poirot is at an exclusive resort on the English coast when a philandering wife is brutally strangled to death on a seemingly deserted island. Did her husband find out about the affair and kill her? Her step-daughter who hated her? Or perhaps the young wife of her lover? What about the elderly man traveling alone who seems extremely nervous after her body is discovered? So many suspects, so many clues. Luckily, Poirot is on the case and seeks to find the truth.

I figured out part of this mystery, although not the whole thing. A great read and fun exercise for the mind. I forgot how fun mysteries could be!

Grade: B+

Death on the Nile [Christie]

Book: Death on the Nile [Poirot book# 17]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Life has been good to Linnette Ridgeway. She is young, beautiful, rich and has great business sense. Used to getting her own way and taking whatever she wants in life, she has no qualms stealing her best friend's fiance and marrying him herself. Unfortunately, Jackie (Linnette's former friend), cannot forgive Linnette and Simon for their betrayal. She stalks them in public, follows them on their honeymoon, and is determined to ruin their good time. When Linnette is shot in the head, fellow boat passenger Hercule Poirot investigates the murder. Who killed Linnette? A close investigation into several passengers reveal motive, including her jilted friend, an American who swindled some money, a fellow female passenger extremely jealous of Linnette's beauty and money. But who had the opportunity? 

I'm not sure if I previously watched the movie (starring Mia Farrow) when I was young, but I was able to figure this out. It was still a great read with a lot of details and red herrings along the way to confuse the reader. 

Grade: A-

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd [Christie]

Book: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd [Poirot book# 4]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Roger Ackroyd was a wealthy, powerful man in a small town. His lover was suspected of poisoning her abusive first husband and she eventually committed suicide. Before she died, she wrote Roger a letter expressing her guilt and saying she was being blackmailed. Before he could name the blackmailer, Roger was stabbed in the neck. With Hastings off on his honeymoon, Poirot is aided by the local doctor, Dr. Sheppard (our narrator), to help track down the killer and figure out the mystery. 

Widely considered Christie's best novel, she was almost kicked out of the Detection Club* for this book. With a lively cast of characters (including Dr. Sheppard's know-it-all spinster sister, the pre-cursor to Ms. Marple, another successful series) including Roger's poor sister-in-law, his adoptive son with financial problems, his scheming butler and several other suspects, this was a fabulous read. I thoroughly taken in by the story and did not suspect the killer at all. Excellent book!

Grade: A-

*Per Wikipedia:
In addition to meeting for dinners and helping each other with technical aspects in their individual writings, the members of the club agreed to adhere to a code of ethics in their writing to give the reader a fair chance at guessing the guilty party.

The Murder on the Links [Christie]

Book: The Murder on the Links [Poirot book# 2]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Hercule Poirot is summoned to France to help a wealthy man with an unknown problem, however he and Hastings are too late. They arrive to find the potential client stabbed to death on a golf course. Poirot and Hastings decide to stay in France to assist the local police, and figure out the murder.Once again-there are many suspects. Could it be the victim's wife, who has a crazy story about her husband being abducted in the middle of the night? His son, who was fighting with him about the girl he wanted to marry? The mysterious woman in town whom everyone thought he was having an affair with? So many suspects and clues..I used my little gray cells but could not figure this one out.

Another great mystery!

Grade: B+

The Mysterious Affair at Styles [Christie]

Book: The Mysterious Affair at Styles [Poirot book# 1]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Just back from the war, Hastings spends some time with an old friend at his country house. When the wealthy matriarch of the family is poisoned, Hastings and retired Belgium detective Hercule Poirot investigate. Who murdered Emily Inglethorpe? How was she poisoned? How did the killer get into her locked room? Was it her younger husband? Her step-son who was in financial distress? Her step-daughter in law, who seemingly hated living in the country? Emily's young cousin, a pharmacist with direct access to the poison? 

Mystery buffs will love this intricate tale. Hastings is amusing as a narrator who fancies himself a detective, when in reality, he is not very observant and does not understand human nature. Our introduction of Poirot, with his impressive mustache, shiny patent leather shoes and his pension for using 'the little gray cells' is fantastic. I cannot wait to read more of these mysteries. 

And no-I did not figure this one out! 

Grade: B+

A Bone to Pick [Harris]

Book: A Bone to Pick [Aurora Teagarden book# 2]
Author: Charlaine Harris

Review: When an acquaintance from Real Murders passes away, Roe suddenly inherits a house and some money. Excited about her new prospects, she is dismayed to discover a skull hidden in the house. Roe quickly suspects one of her new neighbors and tries to figure out the mystery.

This book was extremely boring with very little action. Roe spends the majority of the book contemplating moving into the house, wondering if and when she should quit her job and trying not to be bothered by the fact that her ex-boyfriend and his pregnant wife just moved in across the street. Very little of this book was dedicated to the mystery. I was very disappointed. 

Grade: D

Real Murders [Harris]

Book: Real Murders [Aurora Teagarden book# 1]
Author: Charlaine Harris

Review: Librarian Aurora (Roe) Teagarden lives in a small suburb outside of Atlanta. She is a member of a local club called 'Real Murders,' a diverse group that gets together monthly to discuss real life crimes. Aurora is excited to present an unsolved case when one of the members is found brutally murdered. Shockingly, the crime is staged just like the murder Roe was about to present. When additional murders start happening to members of the club (which are copycats killings of famous cases) Aurora has to figure out who is behind the crimes before she is the next victim.

A unique idea for a crime series, this was a fun read. Like Harris' Sookie Stackhouse, Roe is a terrible dresser, is almost annoyingly wholesome and her speech is extremely cheesy (Harris sounds like an older woman trying hard to be current...but she falls flat). If you can get beyond the cheesiness (I had no trouble) this is a cute book. In addition to the mystery, Roe has two romantic interests and I'm excited to keep reading this series. 

Grade: B

Divas [Chance]

Book: Divas
Author: Rebecca Chance

Review: London "It Girl" Lola has it all. She's rich, beautiful, has fabulous friends and a wealthy fiance who adores her. But her perfect life quickly spirals out of control when her father becomes gravely ill and her stepmother, Carin cuts her off financially. As if that isn't enough stress for a girl pampered her whole life, she is embossed in a public scandal surrounding her fiance and one of her friends sells her out to a tabloid. Not knowing who to trust, Lola travels to New York to be close to her dad and try to regain control over her trust fund. 

Meanwhile, Evie is loving her new life as mistress to Lola's wealthy father. She no longer has to strip for a living, has a beautiful apartment, clothes and unlimited credit cards. But when her sugar daddy becomes ill, his wife quickly kicks her out of the apartment and cancels her credit cards. Unwilling to go back to her previous life, Evie eventually meets up with Lola and they conspire to take down Carin. 

I had a difficult time empathizing with the two lead characters. I have been working since I was 15 so it's challenging to feel bad for a Paris Hilton type who has never worked a day in her life. I will say that Lola did eventually grow on me and she had her amusing moments. While her love story was predictable, I loved the interactions between her and her man. Evie, on the other hand, was an odious character that I could not stand. The relationship with her boyfriend did not seem the least bit realistic nor was the ending plausible. 

Overall-I enjoyed this. 

Grade: B-