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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Since I discovered I greatly enjoy Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, I went with this book as my next read because it sounded interesting. I was not disappointed. Like the other books, there were several twists and turns and all the little clues factored in to the final reveal of the murderer. I have to say I actually like these books a little more than Sherlock Holmes stories.

The book is written mostly from the perspective of Hercule Poirot’s good friend Captain Hastings. The premise for the book begins with Hercule Poirot receiving a letter about an imminent event that Mr. Poirot will be involved in and signed with the anonymous signature A.B.C. The event is a murder. Not a high-profile, sensational murder, but a crime against a lone shopkeeper that barely gets its own article in the newspaper. Thus begins a series of murders committed in alphabetical order (both the person’s name and the town) with letters sent ahead of time in warning.

You meet a host of interesting characters, ranging from the self-important Inspector Crome and the violently jealous boyfriend of one of the victims to the world-traveling brother and quiet personal secretary of another victim. Throughout it all you get snippets from other people’s points of view. You begin to think the murderer is one person then a piece of evidence shows up and it’s not them. Then clues lead you to think it’s someone else, but lo and behold it’s not them either. The actual murderer at the end really surprised me.

It was actually a really good book. Anyone who enjoys murder mysteries would greatly enjoy this book. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to get into reading mysteries. There is no gory or sexual scenes which is nice. The majority of the time is the analysis of the evidence and creating conclusions based on what has been found. They are very similar to Sherlock Holmes, but a little better in my opinion.

My rating:

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My husband and I listened to The Orient Express last year and it made me realize how much I liked Agatha Christie. Her Ms. Marple series and And Then There Were None have been on my TBR list for a while. When we had another trip last week, we downloaded And Then There Were None to listen to on the way. I am no longer surprised by how great her books are.

The story begins describing the journey of eight people as they travel to Soldier Island. Each person got a letter from someone they knew inviting them to spend a week for various reasons. Each person accepted. When they arrive at the island they find a butler and a maid…but no one else. There hosts are not there. Just after dinner, the group gathers in the parlor for after dinner drinks. A mysterious voice booms into the quiet room accusing all ten people in the house of a murder. Shortly after, people begin to die and not die simply. Their deaths follow a pattern set forth in the poem Ten Little Soldier Boys poem that is posted throughout the house. What follows is a series of confessions, old memories, deaths, suspicion, and confusion. The book is so well written it is difficult to determine who the killer is and why. You learn all the stories of the accused crimes and determine for yourself if they are guilty or not.

The characters are well developed and thought out. Even the characters who die early you still get a really good feel for who they are. The background stories are interesting and give a great depth to the story line. You never feel like you are back in time reliving the events, but are getting a synopsis from the people that were there with all the emotion and clarity they choose to offer. This makes the retelling even more interesting as each one has been accused of murder. To be able to see if each character views him or herself as guilty is fascinating. Furthermore, you get to see how fear and suspicion affect people in a given situation. The things people do and the way they change under stress and constant fear was very interesting to see as well. I actually think the ending was the most brilliant part.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes murder mysteries or wants to get in to mysteries. It’s a completely clean book – no sex, no drug usage, no foul language, and the murders almost all occur ‘off screen’; the ones you do read are not gruesome, cruel, of violent in any way. The language is interesting without being confusing. The mix of characters unique and adds to the story. All-in-all are wonderful read.

My rating:

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I have wanted to start reading Agatha Christie for a while now. My husband recently read And Then There Were None by her and absolutely loved it. It is hard to find a book that engrosses him, so when he was so captivated I knew I would have to read one of her books as well. I had downloaded the complete Miss Marple collection on my Kindle, but  I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. So when we had a long trip coming up, I decided I would download us a couple Agatha Christie books to listen to on the way. My husband actually suggested Murder on the Orient Express and I am extremely glad he did.

Let me start by saying the book is part of the Hercule Poirot series, which I have discovered is similar to Sherlock Holmes with a few full length novels and many, many short stories. This book is one of the full length novels and can be read independently.

The book is set between 1930 and 1932 (based on context clues) and opens with Mr. Hercule Poirot getting on a train with two passengers to head toward Turkey. During the ride, he observes the couple and notes so inconsistencies. He disembarks in Istanbul never intending to see them again, but is obliged to board with them on The Orient Express in order to quickly return to London. In preparing to board, he runs into his friend, the owner of the train line, who helps him gain a berth in the fully booked train. Two days into the journey, a wealthy American is found murdered in his suite after the train is stopped at a snow drift. From there, Mr. Poirot is assigned to help solve the mystery of who murdered the man.

There are a lot of twists and turns, several surprises, and an ending that is unexpected. I found Mr. Poirot to be a highly amusing, well-rounded character. For me there was a lot of humor in the book. The book also made you think and try to puzzle out what really happened. There is a mysterious woman in a red kimono, a monogrammed handkerchief, and a few mysterious sounds.  Mr. Poirot does a good job of helping to sort out the timeline and who was where. My husband and I didn’t figure it out until just before he revealed the murderer. You have to be into interesting mysteries if you read this book. There is very little action and most of the book is sort out the facts from interviews with the people on the train and observations made by Mr. Poirot.

The audiobook was very well done. The narrator, Dan Stevens, did an amazing job bouncing between characters and accents. I would highly recommend his audiobook if you want to listen to it.

I think this book should be read by anyone who really enjoys a good mystery that has you puzzling out how the murder was done. Anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes mysteries will most likely highly enjoy this. There is not a lot of action, so if that is what you are looking for, this book is not for you. But if you want to be entertained and have a great way to work your brain, then this is the book for you.

My rating:

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The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

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The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I read this book in middle or high school years ago. I remembered it a couple months ago and decided to buy it. I remembered enjoying it greatly back then and hoped I would still enjoy it. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed it as much this second time as I did when I was younger.

The book has an interesting premise. Several people are invited to live in the same apartment building. Unbeknownst to them, they are all heirs, or immediately related to an heir, of one Samuel Westing. After a couple months, the death of Sam Westing is announced and the heirs are invited to the Westing mansion to have the will read. The will proposes a game, the Westing game, to determine who will inherit the money. The heirs are broken up into pairs and each set given a set of clues and $10,000 that they must agree how to spend. Then the game begins. While the pairs try to determine the significance of their clues, interesting things begin to happen. Bombs going off, friendships created or lost, old secrets coming to life, rampant theft, and the secrecy of clue keeping the apartment building interesting and the heirs stirred up. I liked that at the end of the book, they tell you want happened to everyone after the game was over and where they were five years later. It’s always nice when there is an epilogue and you are not left wondering what happens to them later.

The characters are well developed and completely relateable. They are as unlikely a crew as could be imagined – a bride from China who can barely speak English, a judge, two doctors, a cleaning lady, a retired court stenographer, a high school athlete, a retired dressmaker, and a disabled child just to name a few. Each person has a distinct personality and traits that you learn more and more about through the book. One of my favorite characters was the judge. However, as you learn more and more about each person’s history, they all become more interesting.

Even though I remember who inherited, I was still surprised that I couldn’t figure out how until the reader discovered it in the book. It is a clever story line and engrossing in its puzzle like nature. It is written for young adults, but older adults will enjoy it as well. There is no vulgarity, no sex, no drugs, nothing unmoral, just a good storyline. I think it is especially good for younger adults as a way to find entertainment that is completely wholesome and interesting. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good mystery. The only downfall to it is that I will have to wait a while to re-read it so I forget how to solve the puzzle! It is quite short as well, under 250 pages, and would be great for a summer read. Check it out!

My rating:

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The Cat Who Said Cheese (Cat Who…#18) by Lilian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Said Cheese (Cat Who…#18) by Lilian Jackson Braun

I used to read this series when I was in high school. It is actually a quite wholesome and non-violent mystery series. I mean, there are violent crimes, but you never get the gruesome details, only the emotional fall out. The stories are based around Jim Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats Koko and Yum Yum. Qwill is a retired crime reported from the city who moved to the small town of Pickaxe in rural Moose County after inheriting a large fortune. Most of the fortune he put into a fund that is administrated by a board of directors who see to its use in helping Moose County and its residents. Now Qwill tends to get mixed up in solving the local crimes with the help of Koko, the uncommonly intelligent cat. The two of them unofficially help solve most of the more important cases in the county. Thus, the series unfolds in a description of the multiple cases they help work on and the unusual antics the town residents and the cats get up to.

In this particular story, there is a mystery woman called Anoosh whose hotel room gets blown up, luckily without her in it. Following this are two other deaths that no one can seem to figure out, one a murder and the other a death resulting from multiple bee stings. Qwill investigates all of them, quietly of course, and meets a host of interesting characters. You follow him as he untangles the crisscrossing of information from witnesses, friends, and Koko. In the background are the interactions and normal happenings of the small county and town. Qwill gets suckered into being a judge in a contest and a bachelor for auction at a fundraiser. You get to visit with the cast of colorful characters that make up the town and invade each book, such as Qwill’s lady friend Polly, the local sheriff, the manager of the local newspaper, and Qwill’s unofficial sidekick and helper, a nice elderly lady with a hilarious personality.

I love these stories as there is little swearing, violence, or smut. Like I said before, it is a wholesome read, appropriate for nearly every age. The story line is full of twists and turns and makes for good reading. The antics of the residents as spice to the small town life and interest to the story. There are a couple story lines that follow through several books which keeps you reading as well. Even though a story about a retired writer might seem boring, these are anything but. I started with this particular book way back in middle school and read the rest of the series from there. I am glad I again started with this book. It is a good example of the writing and characters that Mrs. Braun uses in her writing. I encourage everyone to try at least one of her books.

My rating:

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Treason at Lisson Grove (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #26) by Anne Perry

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Treason at Lisson Grove (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #26) by Anne Perry

I was some what let down by this particular Anne Perry book. I am a huge Anne Perry fan and normally her books are creative with lots of twists and turns that make it hard to guess the answers to the mysteries. This one seemed more like a transition book. It was actually predictable for the most part with only a couple surprises. It was still good, but not up to her usual caliber.

If you read the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, you know that pit moves from the police to Special Branch then to the Commander of Special Branch. This is the book where he becomes the head of Special Branch. The book starts with Pitt chasing a suspect and ending up in France. Shortly after, Victor Narroway is accused of theft and relieved of his office. The story follows Pitt as he uncovers the Socialist plot afoot while Narroway seeks to clear his name. He travels to Ireland in order to resolve the issue by approaching the people he betrayed twenty years ago.

The book follows Charlotte and Narroway mostly in my opinion. You seem to get more of him and her than of Pitt. I love Charlotte, but the story was slightly awkward. Charlotte accompanies Naroway to Ireland because Pitt is busy in France and cannot help. Since Narroway is in love with Charlotte everything is just…awkward. Poor Thomas comes home to a mess – Narroway fired, Charlotte gone,…and a new maid. LOL I love the new maid. You don’t read much about her in this book, but she pops up in later stories and I like her.

All in all, not a bad book. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone just starting to read Anne Perry, but if you are trying to read the series, this book is one of the transition reads you need. It’s more a necessity to facilitate the changes that allow for the rest of the series.

My rating:

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The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This book was recommended to me after I mentioned I had only read the short stories of Sherlock Holmes and wanted to read one of the actual novels. My friend Kim, a librarian, suggested The Hound of the Baskervilles as it appears to be the most popular and liked of the books.

I was quite pleased with the book. It was everything I had hoped it would be. I am not surprised at all that Anne Perry wrote the afterword to the book. The writing and story line reminded me a lot of her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series that I love. I can definitely see where she was influenced by his writing.

The story follows Holmes and Watson as they investigate a story that is brought to him by a country doctor. The doctor explains that a family has been plagued by a demon dog that has killed the current resident of the family hall. Sir Charles had died of fright after seeing the animal and having a bad heart. As the next heir arrives in London, the doctor approaches Holmes to help him ensure the safety of the heir. After some minor issues in London, Sir Henry (the heir) and Watson retire to the family estate to complete the investigation and to ensure Sir Henry’s safety. Holmes pursues the investigation in London as Watson investigates and reports from the estate. There are twists and turns throughout the investigation, with unexpected events throwing suspicion from one person to the other. I was able to figure out who was behind everything but not the way until the very end.

I greatly recommend this book. It is a fascinating, intellectual read that keeps you engaged in the story line the whole way. I was pulling for some people to be innocent and others guilty. I had hoped for a happier ending, but I can easily understand how everything turned out. Anyone who likes mysteries or books that make you think will definitely enjoy this book!

My rating:

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