Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dame Agatha VIII

Sparkling Cyanide: Colonel Race 
★  ★  ★  ★  ★ 

Luxembourg of what was known to be the side effects of post-flu depression... 

All of Rosemary's inheritance from her family goes to her sister Iris; should anything happen to Iris, the  money goes to Aunt Lucilla Drake (whose only son, Victor, is a very bad lot). 

George has received anonymous letters to the effect that Rosemary was poisoned and after discussing the matter w/ his old friend, Colonel Race, decides to lay a trap for the murderer at another dinner at the Luxembourg, by the end of the evening George too is dead from poisoning....  
At dinner were the same people as the prior year's fatal dinner: Iris (George's sister-in-law & Rosemary's younger sister); Ruth (George's secretary whom both George & Rosemary relied on to take care of all details and who is in love w/ George); Anthony Browne (a shady character now in love w/ Iris);  Stephen Farraday (a minor MP & Rosemary's eager to escape lover); and Alexandra Farraday (Stehphen's wife who would do anything to keep her marriage intact).

As a few days pass, it becomes apparent that Iris is also in danger, she is nearly run down by a car, and then she is found in her room w/ the door sealed and her head next to the grate w/ the gas running......

There is no loss for suspects, and most all disliked Rosemary....

I liked the story, I liked the characters and I found the story so intriguing that I read it in one sitting.

Death Comes as the End
★  ★  ★  ★  ★

Parting from her usual writing & characters, Dame Agatha treats us to a Historical Mystery set in 2000 BC, in Ancient Egypt.

Imhotep, a wealthy ka-priest, tomb keeper has stupidly brought home his new concubine, Nofret.  Nofret is as young & beautiful as she is manipulative & hateful, she makes many enemies in the house, not the least of all the women.

As Imhotep is off on business, he unthinkingly leaves Nofret behind. As tensions mount, Nofret does her best to suborn the family, while they in turn fight back.  Nofret writes to Imhotep complaining of the family's treatment of her and he immediately replies with the disowning of everyone except his daughter.....

Soon thereafter, Nofret is found dead at the base of the hill where the tomb is kept..... Although the family suspects one of their own as the murderer of Nofret, they all keep a united front and insist that she accidentally fell to her death.

Everything seems to return to "normal" within the family, but the killer strikes again and again...... No one being safe.

Well written, a great story, lively characters.... all the clues were there, but I didn't see them as I was too engrossed in the story.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin
★ ★ ★★

What a pleasant change from Poirot & Miss Marple.....  Although there wasn't as much sleuthing, but taking knowledge and putting it forward & assessing what the facts were.

The two main characters are: Mr. Satterthwaite, a distinguished gentleman of short stature, well known in higher circles of society, discreet and in possession of great observational talents; and Mr. Harley Quin, an enigmatic tall dark man, who appears and disappears at the most opportune times.

Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Quin play off of each other, the former with his critical thinking skills and the latter with his ability to bring forward the knowledge & facts Mr. Satterthwaite has laying dormant in his thoughts.

There are 12 stories in this book, most all interesting, some easily solvable, some completely baffling:

1: The Coming of Mr Quin: New Years' Eve, a suicide years ago, a Blonde who now has dark hair, an estranged married couple, a murder, and a brilliant deduction

2: The Shadow on the Glass: a ghost of a Cavalier who appears in a window (no matter how many times it is replaced), a woman holding a gun w/ two dead people lying beside her, a jealous triangle, and a living ghost

3: At the "Bells and Motley": a dark and stormy night (pun intended), a broken down car, crossword puzzles, French cat burglars, a dead husband but no body to be found

4: The Sign in the Sky: An unhappy wife, a suspicious husband, a gun left behind, and a man wrongly accused of murder

5: The Soul of the Croupier: Monte Carlo, a Countess, a young lover, a croupier's purposeful passing of winnings to the wrong person, a marriage torn asunder by vanity & greed

6: The Man from the Sea: a closed up old house, a young man on the verge of suicide, a mysterious woman in seclusion, and a touching story of unrequited love & redemption

7: The Voice in the Dark: a shipwreck that one sister survives the other does not, years of haunting voices, a spiritualist & a seance, and a sister returned from the dead

8: The Face of Helen: a young woman, two suitors, a wedding gift of a radio & a lovely glass sculpture, and a man with a voice that can shatter glass

9: The Dead Harlequin: a painting of a dead harlequin, a rug where no rug was before, a mysterious face in the window, and a strange suicide w/ the gunshot at an impossible angle

10: The Bird with the Broken Wing: a country gathering, a very happy young woman who for some reason has hanged herself, an ukulele with a broken string, and spurned suitor

11: The World's End: a group of people picnicking at "the World's End", a missing opal, a young man accused of theft, a large sum of money, and an "Indian Box" with a hidden compartment

12: Harlequin's Lane: an odd man & wife, a lovers' lane ending @ a rubbish heap, the story of a lost ballerina, a visiting impresario, unrequited love, and death

A very interesting set of stories, many revolving around love relationships...

Towards Zero: Sup. Battle
★ ★ ★★

I like Superintendent Battle, he's very refreshing and not "contrived" as are other of Christie's protagonists, but that is not to say that the ending of this was not contrived nor believable....

This story weaves in & out of several people's lives.... but how they all come together doesn't mesh:  

The story begins w/ a group of barristers discussing cases, and the eldest of them, Mr. Trewes, speaking w/ wisdom that all listen & pay attention to......

A year earlier, Angus MacWhirter, attempted to commit suicide off of the cliff where Lady Tressilian lives... He had told the truth when asked to testify against his former boss in a car accident case....  Thus his former boss had Angus fired and ruined his reputation.  

The story then moves on to an end of summer visit at the home of Lady Camilla Tressilian. Much to Lady Tressilian's dismay; Nevill Strange (Camilla's deceased husband's heir) has obstinately invited himself & his current wife Kay to stay, knowing that Nevill's first wife Audrey and her friend Thomas will be staying as is their custom.

Kay's childhood friend, Ted is staying at a nearby hotel, but spends most of his time with Kay.  Also staying at the hotel is the barrister Mr. Trewes (who tells a story at dinner about a seriously disturbed child who murdered a playmate....  This child Mr. Trewes announces, he will never forget) and Angus MacWhirter (who has gone back to visit the scene of his attempted suicide).....

The next morning Mr. Trewes is found dead of heart failure at his hotel.  A few days later Lady Tressilian is found by a housemaid with her head bashed in, her personal maid is found in her bed comatose....  All the evidence points to Nevill who had a loud fight with Lady Tressilian the night before, regarding his desire to divorce Kay and remarry Audrey.... but of course when closely examined the evidence shows that Nevill has been framed......

Then somehow, Angus MacWhirter gets involved when he saves Audrey from throwing herself off the cliff, and he saves the day......

WTH? The ending was pretty weak and very convoluted.....  which lost the story 1 star.

The Moving Finger: Marple
★ ★ ★★

Jerry Burton (a pilot recuperating) and his sister Joanna have let a house in the quiet village of Lymstock.... Soon they are victims of poison pen letters, as are most of their neighbors.

When the mother of the odd & unwanted young Megan commits suicide and her maid is poisoned, the village is thrown into even more of a frenzy of accusations & suspicions...

The vicar's wife, who with her acid tongue & pronouncements, is not above suspicion herself, calls in her friend Miss Marple to help solve the problems.

Meanwhile Jerry not only takes a keen interest in Megan and is surprised find his interest to be romantic, but an even keener interest in solving the crimes. 

When Megan decides to blackmail her stepfather (at the behest of Miss Marple) the solution of the poison pen letters & the murder is solved.

I liked the mystery, the plot, the romance, and the twists made for good reading, but I found Miss Marple's intervention too pat.

Cards on the Table: M. Poirot, Mrs. Oliver, Sup. Battle & Col. Race
★ ★ ★★

This was a very interesting plot, murder in plain sight of others.....  The clue was there right in the "interviews" of the suspects.

Mr Shaitana (who fashions himself after a modern Mephistopheles in dress & manner) makes it his business to collect things, including people's dirty secrets....  Unfortunately he turned out to be a very "stupid" man (M. Poirot's words), for Mr Shaitana decided to give a party and invite 4 people (all who have apparently gotten away with murder) and 4 great detectives (M. Poirot, Superintendent Battle, Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, & Colonel Race) to have dinner with him.

The two groups of people were in separate rooms playing bridge.... Mr. Shaitana was in w/ the 4 murderers sitting in front of the fire and was found slumped in his chair, apparently sleeping..... But in reality murdered w/ a pretty little dagger.

The four detectives go about working on different aspects, all gathering clues & interviewing the suspects in their own particular manner.... And then there is another murder and an attempted murder.

This was the first time that I understood M. Poirot's methods, although as they followed the bridge scores, I didn't understand them. Mrs. Oliver was outright annoying. Sadly, Superintendent Battle wasn't as visible as in the past & Colonel Race was off quietly making inquiries so one didn't get to follow his investigation at all.

It was a pretty satisfying mystery......

Hallowe'en Party: M. Poirot
★ ★ ★★

A young girl boasts at a party that she has seen a murder and didn't report it because at first she didn't know what she saw......

No one believes her (because everyone knows she is a liar) except the murderer......   

She is found drown bobbing for apples.....  Then her little brother is murdered....

Mrs. Ariadne Oliver seeks M. Poirot's help in solving the crime.  Many people are not quite who/what they seem and there are more than a few hidden connections.

I liked the story, I liked the characters, I liked that Hastings was absent, and Poirot was not his usual arrogant little self.

Double Sin: Poirot & Marple
★ ★ ★

Double Sin: Waylaid on the way to visit a client, M. Poirot & Hastings come across a niece selling a valuable piece for her aunt and a young man w/ a "feeble" mustache

Wasp's Nest: A dying man, caught in a love triangle, plots a murder... seemingly his own.... M. Poirot heads him off at the pass

The Theft of the Royal Ruby (also known as The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding): A missing ruby ends up in the Christmas Pudding, M. Poirot grabs it and proceeds to solve the case

The Dressmaker's Doll:  A doll appears in the shop—a floppy, long-legged doll that sits itself on the best sofa. But where did it come from, and why does it appear to watch them? 

Greenshaw's Folly:  An old woman who likes to play games, shot in the back w/ an arrow; a Lady's Companion owed back wages; a disinherited nephew; and Miss Marple as a witness to the will.....

The Double Clue: M. Poirot is asked to attend a dinner party of a famous collector...  After dinner the safe is found to have been rifled and its contents removed. For some reason there are two very obvious clues.... Why would a thief be so careless as to leave two personal belongings behind?

The Last Seance: "Raoul Daubreuil insists his fiancée give up her activities as a talented and successful medium when they marry. However, he agrees to attend what is to be her last séance—with Madame Exe. But even Raoul can't foresee the tragedy ahead." -- Amazon

Sanctuary: "Bunch, engrossed in her flower arrangements for the church, is placing the chrysanthemums when she sees a man crumpled over on the chancel steps, dying. The man can only utter one word, “sanctuary.” No one at the vicarage understands what he means, and nothing can be done to stop his death. But, when his relatives promptly arrive to pick up his possessions, Bunch can’t get the word out of her head. She knows just who to turn to, her godmother, Miss Marple. What Bunch and Miss Marple discover is more exciting than anything that could be expected to happen in a sleepy village like Chipping Cleghorn. Who is this man, and what does “sanctuary” mean?" --Amazon

Three Blind Mice: M. Poirot, Mr. Quinn, & Miss Marple
★ ★ ★ 

Many of these stories were published in other anthologies so there may be duplication of reviews.

Three Blind Mice - Residents of a guest home are snowed in, among them is a murderer

Strange Jest - Marple: Two nephews Edward Rossiter and Charmain Stroud, promised by their Uncle to receive an inheritance, seem to have been left nothing in their uncle's will. Miss Marple intends to investigate

The Tape-Measure Murder - Marple: Mr. Spenlow's wife is murdered while he is visiting Miss Marple, yet he is a prime suspect

The Case of the Perfect Maid - Marple: A maid is fired for stealing, but how is it that her replacement is stealing as well?

The Case of the Caretaker - Marple: While bedridden, Miss Marple reads Dr Haycock's manuscript of an accident which turns out to be murder

The Third Floor Flat - Poirot: Four young people, accidentally locked out of their 4th floor flat, take the coal trolley up but end up accidentally in the 3rd floor flat and discover the body of a murdered woman

The Adventure of Johnny Waverly - Poirot: A family threatened with the kidnapping of their 3 year old son take every precaution to prevent the occurrence, unfortunately when the child is taken it becomes apparent that it is an "inside" job

Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds - Poirot: A man eats the same food at the same restaurant on the same day of the week for 20 years. On the day he changes his meal choice he is found dead.... how can that be?

The Love Detectives - Mr. Quinn: A messy love triangle, a murder, and the implication of the lovers has Mr. Quinn investigating (Mr. Quinn is another of Christie's detectives that I find to be a refreshing change from M. Poirot & Miss Marple)

The Regatta Mystery: Miss Marple, M. Poirot, & Mr. Pyne
★ ★ ★

The Regatta Mystery - Parker Pyne: Mr Parker Pyne catches a diamond thief during regatta festivities at Dartmouth Harbour.

The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest - Poirot: M.Poirot figures out how a dead body found its way into the titular chest in the midst of a dance party

How Does Your Garden Grow? - Poirot: M. Poirot finds the clue to the murder of an older woman who has written him for help just prior to her death

Problem at Pollensa Bay - Mr. Pyne: During his vacation, Parker Pyne solves a mother's dislike for her son's fiancee before an act of violence can occur

Yellow Iris - Poirot: Poirot follows an anonymous phone call to a restaurant table laden with the favourite flower of a woman who died mysteriously four years before. This story was expanded and made into the full-length mystery Sparkling Cyanide, featuring Colonel Race instead of Poirot

Miss Marple Tells a Story - Marple: Miss Marple recalls solving (without leaving her own chair) a seemingly impossible murder

The Dream - Poirot: An eccentric millionaire tells Poirot of a troubling dream in which he kills himself – and is found dead a week later

In a Glass Darkly - I have not read

Problem at Sea - Poirot: a rich woman is found dead in her cabin on a luxury ship off the shore of Alexandria. The story concludes with Poirot saying: "I do not approve of murder."

The Underdog & Other Stories: M. Poirot
★ ★ ★

I think I'm just worn out w/ M. Poirot & his arrogant cleverness as well as with Captain Hastings & his blind stupidity

The Under Dog: When the cruel CEO of a chemical company is bludgeoned to death in his home after the company's formula for a revolutionary new synthetic rubber is targeted by a thief, M. Poirot is called in to investigate

The Plymouth Express: A young naval officer on the Plymouth express finds the dead body of a woman underneath a seat in his carriage... her money and her jewels are gone. She was married to an unsuitable husband and on her way to a house party to meet up w/ a previous flame of unscrupulous character.  Again, M. Poirot solves the case

The Affair at the Victory Ball: Young Lord Cronshaw and his fiancee Coco Courtenay attended the ball with several friends, all dressed as characters from the Italian Comedy, he as Harlequin, she as Columbine, and both died that night, she from a cocaine overdose in her flat, he with a table knife through his heart at the ball

The Market Basing Mystery: M. Poirot, on holiday w/ Hastings & Inspector Japp is interrupted by a local constable asking for help. The reclusive owner of a local large mansion, was found dead in his dilapidated house, supposedly by suicide. At the house, they  meet with a Doctor, the housekeeper and a contentious couple who rouse M. Poirot's suspicions

The Lemesurier Inheritance: A family curse, a dreaded inheritance, young heirs dying mysteriously who would not be affected by the curse and another having three very close calls. His mother, not believing in curses calls M. Poirot to investigate

The Cornish Mystery: Poirot receives a visit from a woman, claiming that she's is afraid that her husband is not only having an affair, but is attempting to murder her. When Poirot arrives to talk to her, he finds that she has died from poisoning. Her niece who had been living with her for 8 years suddenly moves out and is now engaged to her Aunts much younger "friend"

The King of Clubs: The Oglander family was playing bridge in the drawing room when the French windows burst open and a woman staggered in, blood on her dress. She managed to say, "Murder!" and then collapsed. The family fetched both a doctor and the police who called at the next-door villa to find the body of Henry Reedburn, the theatrical impresario, dead in the library with his skull split open by some unknown weapon. Enter M. Poirot to sort it all out

The Submarine Plans:  The secret plans for the new 'Z'-type of submarine were stolen. The ladies in the party retired at 10:00 pm and the men went into the study to discuss the plans which have been moved from the safe to the table....  A stranger is seen out on the terrace and the plans disappear. M. Poirot searches for footprints to no avail, yet successfully deduces who stole the plans

The Adventure of the Clapham Cook: Mrs Todd is determined that M. Poirot investigate her missing cook. Also missing from the Bank where Mr. Todd works is a bank clerk (Mr. Davis) who disappears with fifty thousand pounds of securities, a suicidal man and a typist. It is up to M. Poirot to puzzle out how all of these people could possibly have anything in common

Poirot Investigates: American Version
★ ★ ★

11 + 3 different not-so-short stories: that did not really engage me. 

All were: featuring a person who asked for help, Hastings being a lost as ever, M. Poirot being as clever as ever, but without much of a story or clues.  After a brief explanation of the situation and a short discussion between M. Poirot & Hastings; VOILA! M. Poirot has the solution.

1. The Adventure of "The Western Star": Jewel thievery & duplicity at the Full Moon

2. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor: M. Poirot investigates a murder made to look like suicide

3. The Adventure of the Cheap Flat: Two spies, Naval Plans, a murderous Italian in a cheaply sublet flat

4. The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge: A wife & maid are locked out of the room while the man of the house is killed by a bearded stranger,

5. The Million Dollar Bond Robbery: A banker's nephew is sent abroad w/ a million in bonds, when they disappear en route to their destination, M. Poirot investigates

6. The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb: Death by curse of several Egyptologists, a nephew in need of money, a wife convinced of the curse 

7. The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan: A rich woman goes to her room in order to show M. Poirot her exquisite pearls, but she find they are gone!

8. The Kidnapped Prime Minister: On his way to a very important & secret peace conference the Prime Minister is waylaid, M. Poirot sets out to find him.

9. The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim: Mr. Davenheim goes out to post some correspondence, he does not return to meet his visitor... The safe's contents are missing... M. Poirot solves it all and never leaves his chair

10. The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman: A telephoned cry for help from the Count, the butler takes a stroll, a table set for dinner and then cleared

11. The Case of the Missing Will: An Uncle leaves his clever niece a will, but then he writes a second one and hides it.... M. Poirot is hired to find it.

12. The Veiled Lady: A jewel theft in broad daylight, a young woman being blackmailed, and a Chinese Puzzle Box

13. The Lost Mine: Poirot was once given shares in an ancient Chinese mine as payment for an investigation, but the papers were lost and a visit to an Opium Den was necessary to locate them

14. The Chocolate Box: M. Poirot's one "failure" to uncover the murderer of the French Deputy who was living in Brussels and was about to play an important political role in the separation of Church & State

Partners in Crime: Tommy & Tuppence
★ ★

This was about the two of them, after their first spy adventure... being connected to a second. 

They open up a detective agency in order to help crash the spy ring, but in the meanwhile take on various & assorted other cases, so it was more like a series of short stories, with themes that have been found in other Christie stories.

Many of the stories had endings cut short, with no facing off of the thief/murderer/culprit, which I didn't like.

There was quite a bit of mindless banter, which really did confuse & lose me.... and silly pretending to be other famous detectives....

Murder at the Vicarage: Miss Marple
★ ★ 

This book bored me.......  I simply did not like the characters, so I didn't care that the mean old man got killed.
So um: 
Soon after a dinner where everyone present discusses how they would go about murdering the odious civil magistrate; he is in fact found murdered, while waiting to meet with the Vicar @ the vicarage
Both of the main suspects, the magistrate's wife and her young lover, confess to the crime..... Yet there are others who have something to hide, the mysterious newcomer, the flighty daughter, the archaeologist & his assistant..... and the town gossips make matters worse.

Witness for the Prosecution & Other Stories
★ ★ 

Most all of these stories were written for various magazines....  The most famous is the title of the book & a movie starring Marlene Dietrich. 

The stories, many of which deal with "spiritualism" are interesting enough, but much unlike her murder mysteries they are often dark & filled w/ foreboding. 

I did not like most of the characters, nor did I feel empathy for any of them.....  
The stories are:
The Fourth Man
The Mystery of the Blue Jar
The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl (a.k.a. Mr. Eastwood's Adventure)
Philomel Cottage
The Red Signal
The Second Gong
Sing a Song of Sixpence
Where There's a Will (a.k.a. Wireless): This I liked, an Aunt gets even &  justice after her death.....
The Witness for the Prosecution
However, if you are tired of T&T, Marple, & Poirot, this might be the break you're waiting for........ 

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