Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dame Agatha IV

The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side: Miss Marple  
★ ★ ★ ★

This was published as a book and in an anthology..... The story takes place in the same house as "The Body in the Library", but for some reason in the anthology this story is first....

Marina Gregg (manic-depressive movie star) and her husband Jason "Jinks" Rudd (famous director) purchase the old Victorian manor Gossington Hall from Dolly Bantry.  On the other side of St. Mary Mead is a new "development" where lives Heather Badcock who once many years ago had snuck out of her sick bed to meet Marina Gregg and obtain Marina's autograph.....

Heather is beside herself w/ happiness when she finds out that Marina has moved back into town and is having an open house fete to meet & greet her new neighbors....   While Marina is greeting Heather, Heather recounts her story of the day she first met Marina... Marina freezes and we are told repeatedly she resembles Tennyson's Lady Shalott: 

"Out flew the web and floated wide—
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me", cried
The Lady of Shalott."

During the reception Marina & Heather are drinking daiquiris when Heather's drink is spilled... Marina kindly offers her drink to Heather and Heather succumbs to a poison that was in Marina's drink. 

In the meantime Marina is besieged by threats and another attempt of poisoning.....  There are two other murders, Marina's secretary & the Butler (who did not do it), and the disappearance of a young woman who was working the fete and saw what really happened.

The basis of this story is taken from a real life event: "Christie's inspiration for the motive likely came from an incident in the real-life of American film star Gene Tierney. In June 1943, while pregnant with her first daughter, Tierney contracted German measles during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. Due to Tierney's illness, her daughter was born deaf, partially blind with cataracts, and severely developmentally disabled. Some time after the tragedy surrounding her daughter's birth, the actress learned from a fan who approached her for an autograph at a tennis party that the woman (who was then a member of the women's branch of the Marine Corps) had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with German measles to meet Tierney at her only Hollywood Canteen appearance. In her autobiography, Tierney related that after the woman had recounted her story, she just stared at her silently, then turned and walked away. She wrote, "After that I didn't care whether ever again I was anyone's favourite actress."[citation needed]" 



Nemesis: Miss Marple
★ ★ ★ ★

In a sequel to "The Caribbean Mystery"; Miss Marple receives a letter from Mr Rafiel (now deceased) asking her to accept a quest for justice, but does not tell her what she will be doing nor does he give her any clues, but assuring her that there will be at least one Guardian Angel about looking after her safety.

His subsequent letter sends her on a Historic Home & Garden tour where she meets a former headmistress of an acclaimed all girls school who is on a pilgrimage to make peace with the murder of a former student....  Mr. Rafiel also has arranged for Miss Marple to stay with "Three Weird Sisters" in a decaying manor, whom were friends w/ Mr. Rafiel and the guardians of the young murdered woman.

The young murdered woman was to marry via elopment Mr Rafiel's troubled (bad seed) son, but she never showed up and the young man was put away in a mental prison for the murder of the young woman....

At the same time of the first murder another young woman goes missing... and as Miss Marple investigates the Headmistress is crushed while hiking by a boulder....  On her deathbed, the Headmistress talks to Miss Marple and gives her more clues...

I liked the mystery just fine, I figured out the killer & the details of the victims....  I did not care for the 2nd to last chapter which consisted of Miss Marple's overly long & detailed explanation of the murder, who did it, why, and how she figured it all out. In fact I skipped most of it!

What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw: Miss Marple

Or: "The 4:50 From Paddington"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

While the train that is taking her to visit her friend Miss Marple slows & stops at a curve.... another train in passing also slows & stops at the same curve... Mrs McGillicuddy looks out and sees a man strangling a woman.....  Although she reports it to the porter & train station, no one believes her.  Miss Marple believes her and reports it to the police.... but not only is there no report of a missing/murdered woman... one can find a body.

Her insatiable curiosity aroused, Miss Marple makes discreet inquiries... maps of the train lines, train timetables, what is on that piece of land, etc.  Then Miss Marple hires Miss Lucy (a most efficient & sought after) to work at the manor (snoop around the grounds) where the train lines curve.

Lucy is happily ensconced working for the Crackenthorp family: Luther (patriarch & tightwad); Emma (his devoted daughter); Brian Easterly (son-in-law & widower); sons Harold (bad business deals), Alfred (shady character), & Cedric (laid back artist); and a good-natured grand-son & his school chum Stoddart-West (help Lucy search for clues).  The good Doctor has eyes for Emma...

The murdered woman, soon found by Lucy, is hidden away in an old sarcophagus in the now disused long barn and is believed to be Martine, a French woman who may or may have not been married to the Crackenthorp eldest son (killed in WWII)....

All along during family gatherings there have been instances of poisonings and now both Alfred & Harold succumb....... While the real Martine (now Stoddart-West) shows up to clear her name......

Very well thought out plot, good red herrings, a fine (but understated) romance, and strong likable women characters.

The Labours of Hercules: M. Poirot
★ ★ ★

M. Hercule Poirot is sitting in conversation w/ Dr. Burton and they are discussing names. Dr. Burton mentions that M. Poirot does not seem to "fit" his name but M. Poirot assures the Dr. that he, Hercule Poirot, is indeed of great mental & detecting strenght. In order to prove that he is indeed capable of living up to his name, M. Poirot takes on twelve feats of detective work that correspond to the twelve labors of Hercules:

The Nemean Lion: There is a series of dognappings, in the form of Pekingese of rich idle women. The women pay the ransom without telling their husbands for fear the dogs will be harmed/killed.

The Lernean Hydra: The wife of a chemist has died and someone is spreading rumors that she was poisoned.... M. Poirot goes about the task of not only stopping the rumors but uncovering the actual murderer as well.

The Arcadian Deer: A young man falls in love, only to have his new love disappear without a trace....  People are not whom they seem and M. Poirot is enlisted to find the missing love.

The Erymanthian Boar: On a short holiday in Switzerland, M. Poirot boards a funicular to the top of a mountain... He is entreated to stay and help the police capture an infamous gangster

The Augean Stables: A seemingly upright member of Parliament is about to be exposed for dirty politics & dealings. M. Poirot is hired to clean up the mess by dealing w/ the scandal mongering paper that plans on exposing the dirt.

The Stymphalian Birds: While on holiday M. Poirot becomes involved with helping Harold Waring to untangle a fatality.... Two ugly sisters whom are thought to bring doom are staying at the hotel and seem to cross Harold's path too often for his comfort....  A young woman & her jealous husband fight and he dies..... or does he?

The Cretan Bull: A young man is about to marry a young woman he grew up with, but he then begins to wake up in the mornings covered w/ blood, bloody knives, and dead animals being found throughout the village & estate.  He is sure that he suffers from a hereditary madness and has broken off his engagement....  M. Poirot is called upon by the fiancee of the young man in order to get to the bottom of the madness.

The Horse of Diomedes: After an all night party, a young man comes across a young woman (one of 4 daughters of a General living out in the country) in drugged distress and wants to help her before she becomes addicted. M. Poirot goes out to the country in order to find who is supplying the young people w/ cocaine & inducing their addiction.... 

The Girdle of Hyppolita: M. Poirot is called upon to find a missing Rubens, stolen in broad daylight from a museum. A schoolgirl on a train vanishes in mid-travel to a well known Girls' art academy and then reappears. A rather ugly painting arrives as a gift to the Headmistress in the girl's luggage... M. Poirot is the one to untangle the mystery.

The Flock of Geryon: A religious cult has ensnared older women who are all well off.... When they die (far from the cult in their own homes) no one thinks it odd, but their estates are left to the cult.  A woman seeking to help her ensnared friend goes undercover w/ the help & guidance of M. Poirot.

The Apple of Hesperides: A valuable gold chalice once belonging to the Borgia family has seemingly disappeared in a burglary after being sold (but not delivered). The new owner will not file a claim, as once he is paid by the insurance company,the chalice then is no longer his property. M. Poirot is entrusted to locate the missing chalice and return it.   

The Capture of Cerberus: A famous & beautiful jewel thief (Russian Countess Vera Rossakoff) with whom M. Poirot had previously become enchanted crosses his path on the stairs of the subway....  She invites him to visit her in "Hell".....  Hell, being a new nightclub based on legends & lore w/ a huge black dog named Cerberus guarding the door....   Again there are jewels involved, being swapped out for paste and drugs.....


Lord Edgware Dies: M. Poirot
★ ★

Or: "Thirteen at Dinner"

American actress Jane Wilkinson (Lady Edgware) is at the theater, M.Poirot is sitting in front of her, watching a young actress, Carlotta Adams, imitate her, as soon as the actress is finished, Jane gives her an excellent round of applause.....

Later at dinner Jane loudly announces to the room of diners (M. Poirot being one of them) that she will kill her husband, Lord Edgware, and she proceeds to tell everyone in which manner....  Upon espying M. Poirot, Lady Edgware, leaves her dinner companions & invites M. Poirot up to her room.  Once there she begs M. Poirot to take on her case, entreating Lord Edgware to agree to a divorce so that she may marry again.

Originally, Jane had planned to marry her co-star Bryan Martin, but now she is planning on marrying Duke Merton....

Upon discreetly visiting Lord Edgware, M. Poirot is informed that his errand was for naught, as Lord Edgware had indeed agreed to the divorce 6 months previously and what is more notified his wife Jane of his decision via post.

A dinner party for those on the rise and in need of being in favor with the right people is given.... Originally Jane had opted out of attending, but at the last minute changed her mind. Her dinner partner, not knowing did not attend and there were 13 in attendance at dinner.

During the dinner Jane receives a mysterious phone call..... but is simultaneously seen in Lord Edgware's home, going into his study by both the butler & Lord Edgware's secretary.....

In the course of M. Poirot's investigation of the murder, two other people are murdered.....

Meh... I didn't like the characters and the story seemed to be lacking something.....

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