Oooh! Bonus material, including audio interviews with Christie and introductions by her of some of her works -- as well as a speech by her (and an interview) on the 10th anniversary of The Mousetrap! Nice!!
Agatha Christie cutting the 6th anniversary cake for The Mousetrap
Personal Call -- slight supernatural tinge, in line with the stories collected in The Golden Ball and While the Light Lasts.
Note for the Agathyte whiteboard: Definitely no connection with the Bundle Brent novels.
Question for the Agathytes: Where else did Inspector Narracott (or Nerracott) appear?
First one down, Butter in a Lordly Dish ... so far, so fiendish! (Even if I had an inkling what was going on partway through.)
No implicit connection with After the Funeral intended, however, I think. (MR?)
... for those of us looking for a quick Christie audio fix but who want to make sure they're listening to Dame Agatha's own words and not one of the novelizations of her plays by Charles Osborne: You can do just that!
The 1981 full cast BBC audio version of The Unexpected Guest (available individually on Audible, as well as sold in a CD set together with a dramatization of The Pale Horse) is based directly on Agatha Christie's play.
I received my print edition of the play today, and since I already owned the CD set, I decided to engage in a little spontaneous experiment and listen to the CD while reading along in my new print copy. Result: While the radio play is a somewhat condensed version, it definitely does contain Christie's own words -- verbatim (solely minus the abbreviation). I could follow along on the printed page quite easily.
(Well, OK -- admittedly I had bought the full cast audio version instead of the one of Hugh Fraser narrating Charles Osborne's novelization because I had hoped the full cast version would be based on Christie's own play, rather than (re-)dramatizing the novelization of a stage play ... but of course I couldn't be certain, so this was still a very satisfactory confirmation of my hopes and beliefs at the time when I bought the CD.)
Content-wise, this is rather a neat little mystery (non-series, as far as the protagonists are concerned); not quite as intricate as her novels, but very nicely done nevertheless, with the kinds of twists we've come to expect from our Agatha. There are certain superficial similarities with several other books of hers, but the usual caveat applies ... what constitutes the solution in one book may be merely a red herring in another one and vice versa. Since I had already listened to the CD I knew the solution this time around (though I needed a slight prompt to remember it), so this repeat experience brought with it all the joys of watching Agatha at work in laying her traps for the unwary.
I'm still planning to read the full print version of the play at some point so as to get the full flavour of the things cut out for purposes of the BBC production, but for what I could see while glancing over the cut out parts, the abbreviation was an exercise in condensation, not in altering the contents (even though at least one potential(show spoiler)
element has been eliminated ... but that, too, is merely an extra tangent).
The print version doesn't quite run to 100 pages, so I'm going to keep this in reserve for Snakes and Ladders, possibly to be used in conjunction with the radio plays MR and I are going to listen to tomorrow ... as well as the odd short story or two to make up for the required 200 pages or equivalent audio listening time.
Clapton and "Blackie" -- Old Love ... for those who enjoy Peter Grainger's D.C. Smith novels.
For everybody else: this song, but just as soulfully performed by Smith himself, provides the final note of An Accidental Death. And Grainger clearly had this sort of performance in mind when writing that passage ... just listen to the guitar solo (beginning ca. 3:25).
... and I have found yet another favorite new series!
Never let it be said that there are no great new voices in British crime writing, and on top of that, two of my most recent discoveries -- Joy Ellis's Jackman & Evans series and Peter Grainger's D.C. Smith series -- are set in an area not (yet) written to death, the bulge on England's East coast consisting of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex (though chiefly Norfolk).
A big shout-out to Mike Finn for recommending Peter Grainger's writing -- I have few things to add to his spot-on review, so I'm going to hand over to Mr. Grainger himself instead, who was interviewed about his writing (by Deborah Crombie, no less) and then answered additional readers' questions here:
(Also, let me just comment that whoever turned Mr. Grainger down at several traditional publishers and pushed him into self-publishing instead needs to have their job credentials reviewed. Grainger can write rings about plenty of traditionally-published writers and then some.)
The setting of the D.C. Smith series is King's Lynn, which I visited the year before last, so I can personally attest to how well Mr. Grainger "nails" the town and that particular corner of the Norfolk coast:
Hah. Serendipity! I just finished a book from Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn series ... and guess what the name of the superior officer of this book's protagonist (DS Smith) is? Detective Superintendent Allen!
Reading this for square no. 48 of Snakes and Ladders ("a book you acquired in February 2019). So much for clearing Mt. TBR ... (sigh). On the plus side, this book comes highly recommended by Mike and sounds like it has all the makings of introducing me to what may become yet another favorite series. So I guess it's all good!
I spontaneously picked the audio version of this book yesterday as my book for "Snakes and Ladders" square no. 40, "characters involved in the entertainment industry"; realizing that I'd read it so long ago that I remembered little more than the (rather unusual) method of murder and the fact that it concerns a company of actors travelling in Marsh's native New Zealand -- the first of several novels set in her home country, and her second mystery set in the world of her main daytime occupation as a theatrical director. And I'm glad that I decided to revisit this book; not only for some much-needed memory refresher (for one thing, the train journey opening the book's events takes up much less space than I had recalled) but also because, upon revisiting it, I find that overall I like it considerably better than I remembered.
In many respects, this is signature Marsh: both landscape and characters fully coming alive on the page with seemingly little more than a few well-placed brush strokes and pieces of dialogue, great insight into the world of the theatre in general and actors' psychology and modes of communication in particular, peppered with quotes from the great classic plays (in particular those of her and her main man, Chief Inspector Alleyn's particular favorite, William Shakespeare), and plenty of misdirection, with "opportunity" [to commit the crime] being writ large as a key factor of the solution from early on.
However, this book -- at least as much as Colour Scheme, written a few years later(show spoiler)
-- is also a welcome reminder that casual racism was not ubiquitous in Golden Age crime fiction: Not only do both books expressly feature positive portrayals of the Maori in general, and of key Maori characters in particular; in both books Alleyn also makes a big point of befriending these characters, and he displays a genuine interest in learning about their history and culture. (Now if only Marsh had also extended the same enlightened attitude to gays.) And revisiting this book also reminded me that many of Marsh's novels are subtle witnesses to the spirit of their time: In this one, for example (written in 1936), Alleyn and the local inspector (who has invited him to join the investigation) trade worries about the imminent outbreak of yet another war, and they reflect on the folly of their own generation's going into WWI expecting it to be akin to one great party.
This is not quite the pinnacle of Marsh's writing just yet, but she clearly was well on her way by the time she wrote this book -- the fifth in her Inspector Alleyn series --, with one of her all-time best (Death in a White Tie, Alleyn mystery #7) right around the corner.
Still as much fun as ever. David Suchet obviously is Poirot -- but this is the one audio recording where he is equally obviously having the time of his life with the rest of the cast in an "Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets" manner, and I'm enjoying being along for the ride every single second, every single time.
Original review (also of this audio version) HERE.
Now onwards and upwards on the Snakes and Ladders board!
I have almost all of Agatha's plays sitting at hom now (with the sole exception of Black Coffee and The Unexpected Guest), and I've decided to start my exploration of her dramatic writing with this recent(ish) compilation of three radio plays:
* Butter in a Lordly Dish (for our whiteboard: starring a KC named Luke Enderby ... possible connection with After the Funeral?)
* Murder in the Mews (starring Poirot and going by the description, sounds like a fairly straightforward adaptation of the short story) and
* Personal Call (starring a couple named James and Pamela Brent -- possible relatives of Bundle?)
On a semi-related note, the investigator in the stage version of Murder on the Nile (which I'm also planning to read soon) is not Poirot but ... Canon Pennyfather! So, another cross reference between the worlds of Poirot and Miss Marple (cf. At Bertram's Hotel). And it makes sense, of course, that the play was written in 1944 -- 20 years before the Miss Marple novel (1965).
I haven't set any particular start date for either the radio plays or Murder on the Nile yet, but if anybody would like to join me, please let me know what date would work for you.
Well, turns out I didn't so much join MR and BT for their final Christie buddy read but trail behind, but either way, it was fun revisiting this. So thanks for the inspiration ... and may there be many more Agathyte repeat visits in our future!
Ugh. If I hadn't been listening to this for Snakes and Ladders I would have DNF'd. Much too heavy handed use of pseudo-occult phenomena for my taste (also, the dead animals thing was done so much better by Conan Doyle in Silver Blaze; it just felt like copycatting here) -- and I really, really dislike stories in which the narrator comes across as a passenger of / on the train of events instead of the conductor; particularly if, as in this case, as a scholar (s)he ought to have had ten times the brain power required to solve the mystery on their own, instead of becoming a plaything being buffeted around by adverse forces and having to rely on someone else both active and prescient enough to see through the bad guy's machinations and save our narrator's behind in the process. (And don't get me started on the bad guy's motivation and psychological makeup.) Why, Ms. Roberts Rinehart, why? You could do sooo much better!
Also, note to self, another audobook narrator to avoid like the proverbial plague henceforth is Gary Dikeos. Stentorian declamation devoid of any sort of nuance (except when reproducing dialogue, of which there was way too little to make a difference here, however), which pretty much killed any sort of atmosphere Roberts Rinehart was obviously aiming for. If I'd liked the story as such any better than I did I might have given it another chance with the print version just to get that irritating vocal performance out of my head. As it is, I probably won't -- unless I encounter it in an omnibus collection or anthology somewhere, in which case I just might reread individual snippets. Even then I doubt I'll revisit the entire book, however. For now, I'm just glad I've got this one out of the way so my little helpers and I can climb that ladder on the Snakes and Ladders board ...
"But what could you expect? Nobody over fifty understood anything at all. They had the most extraordinary ideas.
'I expect it was the War,' thought Bobby loyally. 'It upset them and they never got straight again.'
He felt ashamed of his father and sorry for him."
Oh, Agatha. If only you had been able to look into the future -- or travel backwards (and forwards again) in time ...
Ye gods! the irony of it all! Had she not been called the cleverest woman in Europe at one time? Chauvelin himself had thus acclaimed her, in those olden days, before she and he became such mortal enemies, and when he was one of the many satellites that revolved round brilliant Marguerite St. Just. And to-night, when a sergeant of the town guards brought him news of her capture, he smiled grimly to himself; the cleverest woman in Europe had failed to perceive the trap laid temptingly open for her."
Totally with you there, M. Chauvelin, I'm afraid -- Marguerite is behaving like the worst of literary history's headless TSTL chickens here. This is one of the books that really should have captured me, because it is from this book (not from the first one) that the creators of virtually all screen adaptations of The Scarlet Pimpernel (and its sequels) have drawn a plethora of the screen "Pimpernel's" signature attributes and plot highlights, or almost all of the things, anyway, that go beyond the central features of his dual identity and his league's activities: The "demmed elusive Pimpernel" ditty, the attempt to draw Sir Percy into a duel by creating a scandalous scene at a social gathering involving Marguerite, the explicit entrapment of Marguerite (and / or her brother) in order to entice Percy to travel to France (where a trap will be laid for him in turn -- and where he will have to save one or both of the St. Justs in addition to completing the venture that is actually taking him there), the use of a treacherous French actress, and the suggestion of a fencing duel between Sir Percy and Chauvelin in a fortress on the Channel coast, with Blakeney's yacht Daydream waiting in the waters off shore, ready to take him and Marguerite back to England at the end.
Unfortunately, however, this book only worked for me up to about the halfway point (or actually, only a little before that even); i.e., as long as Marguerite was displaying at least a modicum of wit. The moment she basically allowed her brain to shut down and decided to heedlessly run after her husband, with no idea (nor really any way) how to help him on his mission to France and every probability of making his life about a million times harder, the whole thing turned into a pretty consistent groan fest. It also didn't exactly help that there is a whole lot of telling instead of showing going on in the second part of the book, as well as scenes and dialogue that don't exactly advance the plot -- this is not an exceptionally long book, but the final (or, well, next to final) part still dragged interminably. All of which is a shame, as the book starts with a lot of wit and panache, and Sir Percy himself is, once again, in great form. So, three stars for the beginning, for the Pimpernel himself, and for the odd scene here and there in the second part. Others might give even a less favorable rating, but I just can't bring myself to go any lower than this for one of my all-time literary heroes (though I do seriously hope Marguerite will recover her wits in the next book).
Obsidian Blue and I have been talking about a new game of Booklikes-opoly for this summer, but in the interim, does anyone feel like a quick game of Snakes and Ladders?
RULES OF THE GAME:
Everyone starts on 1. There are two alternative ways to move forward.
Read one book, roll one dice on random.org. Read a book that corresponds to the number of the space as listed below and you can roll two dice to move forward more quickly.
All books must be at least 200 pages long. Short stories count, so long as you read enough of them from a collection to equal 200 pages.
You do not need to hit space 100 with an exact roll. In order to win, you must complete space 100 as written.
1. Author is a woman
2. Genre: mystery
3. Set in the twentieth century
4. Published in 2019
5. Published in 2018
6. Title has a color word in it
7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D.
8. Author's last name begins with the letters E, F, G, or H.
9. Author's last name begins with the letters H, I, J, or K
10. Author's last name begins with the letters L, M, N or O
11. Author's last name begins with the letters P, Q, R, or S
12. Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z
13. Author is a man
14. Author is dead
15. Genre: romance
16. Genre: fantasy
17. Genre: horror
18. Set in a school
19. Set in the UK
20. Set in a country that is not your country of residence
21. Set in Europe
22. Set in Asia
23. Set in Australia/Oceania
24. Set in Africa
25. Snake - go back to 5
26. Part of a series that is more than 5 books long
27. Set during WWI or WWII
28. Written between 1900 and 1999
29. Someone travels by plane
30. Someone travels by train
31. Road trip
32. Genre: thriller
33. Set in North America
34. Snake - go back to 1
35. Has been adapted as a movie
36. Set in Central or South America
37. Has won an award
38. Newest release by a favorite author
39. A reread
40. Characters involved in the entertainment industry
41. Characters involved in politics
42. Characters involved in sports/sports industry
43. Characters involved in the law
44. Characters involved in cooking/baking
43. Characters involved in medicine
44. Characters involved in science/technology
45. A book that has been on your tbr for more than one year
46. A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years
47. Snake - go back to 19
48. A book you acquired in February, 2019.
49. Recommended by a friend
50. Has a domestic animal on the cover
51. Has a wild animal on the cover
52. Has a tree or flower on the cover
53. Has something that can be used as a weapon on the cover
54. Is more than 400 pages long
55. Is more than 500 pages long
56. Was published more than 100 years ago
57. Was published more than 50 years ago
58. Was published more than 25 years ago
59. Was published more than 10 years ago
60. Was published last year
61. Cover is more than 50% red
62. Cover is more than 50% green
63. Cover is more than 50% blue
64. Cover is more than 50% yellow
65. Snake - go back to 52
66. Part of a series that is more than 10 books long
67. Set in a city with a population of greater than 5 million people (link)
68. Something related to weddings on the cover
69. Something related to travel on the cover
70. Something related to fall/autumn on the cover
71. Involves the beach/ocean/lake
72. Involves the mountains/forests
73. Categorized as YA
74. Categorized as Middle Grade
75. Set in a fantasy world
76. Set in a world with magic
77. Has a "food" word in the title
78. Set in a small town (fictional or real)
79. Main character is a woman
80. Main character is a man
81. Ghost story
82. Genre: urban fantasy
83. Genre: cozy mystery
84. Genre: police procedural
85. Written by an author who has published more than 10 books
86. Author's debut book
87. Snake - go back to 57
88. Comic/graphic novel
89. Published between 2000 and 2017
90. A new-to-you author
91. Snake - go back to 61
92. Reread of a childhood favorite
93. Author's first/last initial same as yours (real or BL handle)
96. From your favorite genre
97. Title starts with any of the letters in SNAKE
98. Title starts with any of the letters in LADDERS
99. Snake - go back to 69
100. Let BL pick it for you: post 4 choices and read the one that gets the most votes!
Aaaand -- off we go! First "Snakes and Ladders" entry, a book written by a woman.
Also my first of probably several books set in France (for my "In 80 Book Around the World" project).