Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None [BBC Series]

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Review: 3.5/5

Number of episodes: 3

For any Agatha Christie fan, her work And Then There Were None would hold a very special place. In this review, I am going to stick to the series rather than babble my never ending amusement on the brains behind this story. This novel is creepy (It’s specialty!) and keeps you guessing right till the end. I felt chills while reading the book and I geared myself to view one of my favorite thrillers on screen. Did it live up to the book? Let’s find out.

First the premise. And Then There Were None is about ten unrelated people, invited by a Mr and Mrs Owen to their bungalow at a deserted island called Soldier Island. These ten people are from various fields and professions. We have a police in Blor, a doctor in Dr. Armstrong, a judge- Judge Wargrave, a teacher Miss Claythorne, a party boy Marston, a social activist Miss Brent, an army veteran General McArthur, playboy Lombard and the keepers of the house Mr and Mrs Rogers.  There is one curious question in everyone’s mind- Where is Mr and Mrs Owen, their employers/owners? As time progresses, one by one, people begin to die, or say murdered in gruesome ways. But by whom? Mr and Mrs Owen, who are probably hiding? Or is it one of the ten? Each one of them has committed a crime in their life which they are guilty off, which keeps haunting them. Who could possibly know about their past? Their crimes are their only connection. One of the highlights of this story is the old poem- Ten Little Soldiers went out to dine- which is framed and hung in almost everyone’s room and after every death (which happens according to the poem), one of the ten showpieces on the dining table goes missing! Phew!! Add to this, the frightening weather of lightning, rain and thunder. At the end, there is no one alive in the island. And Then There Were None. How?

The BBC adaptation of this marvelous story doesn’t score a perfect 5 but it’s not very bad either. The show captures the mood of the story accurately and the suspense and nervousness did grow on me while viewing, even though I knew the story. Most of the details were captured and used appropriately. The best part was, they didn’t try anything new but stuck to the original. I felt a little impatient at the beginning. A little more time than needed was taken to set the story. The flashbacks of every character was nicely done yet at some places the timing didn’t really work. Like, Blor having his flashback at the very end stuttered the pace. Also- I wish the ending could have been more powerful, a little more into how exactly the murders happened would have been nice. We have the confrontation but much is left for us to be understood. How did the killer make it happen? Wish it had been visually explained too. Too much time was given to Miss Claythorne’s backstory while we didn’t see much for the other important characters. The doubts and feuds between the characters could have been dealt with more clarity. There were lot of loose ends which I felt should have been tied up especially with how the killer timed every murder. I can’t reveal much here as that would give away the main plot. I know it’s not like the book is new or the show is- still I don’t like giving out spoilers (would make my post lengthy too LOL).

The actors were absolutely fantastic. General McArthur would always be my Alan Grant (Jurassic Park) and Judge Wargrave would be Tywin Lannister (GoT). Background music plays its role well. Costumes and the setting were apt.

Having read the book, I knew the ending. I think that kind of definitely influenced my watching?? May be I didn’t feel the needed suspense at certain points because I knew it was a bluff? Adapting a thriller, as a matter of fact, any book is difficult. It would definitely stand good for those who haven’t read the book. But for those who have read it- it becomes a mere comparison of how much effective the show stands to the book and if the show writers have done complete justice to the original author’s work. I would really appreciate this BBC adaptation for not trying too much with And Then There Were None. And Then…is more or less like a cult and is considered as one of Agatha Christie’s finest work if not the best. Even though, I am slightly disappointed with the impact of the ending- this series is still makes a great viewing.

The Big Four [Book Review]

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Rating: 1/5

Having read most of the best works of Agatha Christie, especially Hercule Poirot series, I decided to fill the missing gaps, the remaining books in the series. The Big Four is the fifth book in the Hercule Poirot series. With immense expectations, I began this journey along with Poirot and Hastings and this journey was a huge disappointment.

In almost every Poirot book I have read, it took me less than few minutes to get into the story. I am not saying that every book has to follow the same trend, but I felt The Big Four had an utterly confusing plot right from the beginning. As usual, we have Hastings as Poirot’s sidekick but with more page space. Hastings, after a brief break, decides to meet Poirot and continue being his partner. When he finds him in London, he realizes Poirot is getting ready for a business voyage. The sudden appearance of a completely confused man at their down and his meaningless rantings forces Poirot to postpone his trip and look into the matter. When the confused man repeatedly writes down the number 4, Poirot understands that the situation had something to do with the organization The Big Four. The Big Four includes an Italian woman, a Chinese man, a man of disguise and a businessman.

I couldn’t really understand the big picture of this plot. This book attempts to be something away from the usual Whodonuits. It’s more of a corporate espionage, national security kind of thing. Poirot and Hastings take on this unusual adventure, there are loads of action- Hastings is kidnapped, he even goes undercover, Poirot dies in a fire and then resurrects of course.  How much ever it was really interesting to read these action sequences, I didn’t really follow the plot. We have the fourth man of the Big Four camouflaging in various roles and the way they identify him is with the way he eats his bread?! Okay!! We have The Big Four getting the better of Poirot at many places, but Poirot’s comeback isn’t effective at all. The book was a patience tester which is very rare for an Agatha Christie work. The supporting characters aren’t interesting at all which adds to the boredom.

I really don’t have much to say about this book. It was the biggest disappointment especially it being a Poirot case. I am just going to forget I read this book.

The Mysterious Affairs at Styles [Review]

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Rating: 3/5

Here I am with another review of Agatha Christie’s book. This is the 16th Agatha Christie book I have read this year. As much as I criticize or get greatly disappointed with her works, my temptation to pick another book of hers never ceases. Probably it’s going to continue till I finish reading all her works. Having read many of her Poirot works and being a huge fan of her Belgian detective, I decided it’s time go in series now and hence started the first book in the Poirot collection – The Mysterious Affairs at Styles. My expectations were as ever huge especially with this being the first book. I believe the first work always has the best efforts. In a way, I wasn’t wrong. The book had all the elements of a perfect Poirot mystery. This book also marked the beginning of the Poirot-Hastings partnership.

This story unfolds in a place called Styles where Captain Hastings visits his friend John Cavendish after the former gets relieved from duty after being injured in the war. Mrs Inglethorp is the matriarch of the family and the step mother of John and his younger brother Lawrence. When Mrs Inglethorp gets married again, the benefactor of the will changes from John to her husband Alfred. Mrs Inglethorp also mentors a young nurse Cynthia who also lives with the family in the house. The entire family holds a grudge against Alfred as they believe his only motive towards marrying Mrs Inglethorp is for her money. When this is pointed out by Miss Howard, Mrs Inglethorp’s friend, they fall out. Miss Howard leaves not before warning Hastings to take care of Mrs Inglethorp and protect her. Hastings is very intrigued by the overall happenings and the behaviour of the family members. He holds a soft corner for both Mary and Cynthia. One night, the family after hearing noises from Mrs Inglethorp’s room, rushes to find her dead. Hastings and the rest of the family is sure it is Alfred as he is the only one missing in the house during the time of death. Coincidentally, Poirot is at Styles and is requested by Hastings to investigate the case.

As it is evident from the cover of the book, the case involves poisoning. Somewhere all the medical terms and medical conditions causes sufficient confusion while reading. Of course when we compare it to today’s long complicated murder mysteries, it’s nothing. Also- Poirot is at his irritating best. Here is a man who just doesn’t trust anyone and he ably justifies why too. Even if he knows the truth from the beginning, he wants to make a dramatic speech at the end. At the same time, I wouldn’t deny. I absolutely love the dramatic revelation, the Poirot Speech, at the end of every book but I feel for poor Hastings. He puts his heart and soul to solve the case and aid Poirot in every way he can but Poirot makes sure to project what a fool Hastings is. It’s not easy to partner a person like Poirot. It’s impossible to deduce what’s going on in his little grey cells. So special appreciation for Hastings.

Coming back to this book. The clues, deductions and revelations are quite exciting at the beginning. It’s not about evidence or test results when it comes to Poirot. It’s all about reasoning and question every action, every movement and even the placement of every object in the crime scene. But when Poirot proves everyone including us wrong and brings in a completely different perspective, it is sort of annoying. May be because it’s forced or because our minds just don’t work like Poirot’s. The way he puts an end to all the loose ends is marvellous. There is no question left unanswered.

The supporting characters in this story aren’t as interesting and captivating like many in the author’s other works. Perhaps another reason why this book, in spite of having a great plot and excellent narrative, still doesn’t enter my top 5 works of Agatha Christie’s.

My top 5 would be, in no particular order:

  1. And then there were none (Stand alone)
  2. The Murder on the Orient Express
  3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  4. Three Act Tragedy
  5. Death on the Nile

I feel I have read all the best works of Agatha Christie and none of the remaining works are going to stand as tall as the above in the list. Nevertheless, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and pursue my journey to complete all the books.

As for this book- This isn’t a bad book but just not the best. Read it if you can’t get your hand on her best works.

Appointment with Death [Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Published: 1938

If you had noticed, I have been expressing my disappointment over my recent readings of Agatha Christie’s. Be it The Caribbean Mystery or Lord Edgware Dies or Ordeal of Innocence, nothing could match the thrill of The Murder on the Orient Express or The Murder of Roger Acroyd. I felt there were just very few fantastic works of Agatha and the rest were just mediocre. But she proved yet again why she is the Queen of Crime with this book, “Appointment with Death”.

One of the greatest things about Agatha Christie’s works is her supporting characters. In “Appointment with Death”, our hero Hercule Poirot enters nearly after 100 pages. Hence, as a reader, you get enough time to understand the characters through your eyes, and not Poirot’s. Also, by the time Poirot enters after the crime is committed, you have a theory for yourself. You check your ideas along with Poirot. The questions in your mind are asked by Poirot and you get the needed answers. This book is one of a kind experience. One of Agatha Christie’s best.

The story happens in Jerusalem and the places around. We have a group of people touring together. Dr Sarah King, a young doctor and Dr Gerard, a French Pyschologist, get acquainted during the trip. They find the American family, Boyntons, very peculiar. The matriarch of the family, Mrs Boynton is a sadistic, dominating and insensitive woman. She keeps her kids around her all the time, not letting them enjoy the trip. She has a very tight hold over them. Her family includes Lennox (elder son) and his wife Nadia, Raymond (younger son), Carol (daughter) and Jinna (youngest daughter). The story actually begins with Poirot hearing Raymond and Carol plotting to kill their mother, but that’s more like a Prologue. Anyways, all the family members act very strangely. They are always nervous and don’t talk to anyone much. The doctor duo find them very interesting especially Dr Sarah who tries to talk to them but in vain. The party then moves to Petra. Mrs Boynton, out of nowhere, allows her kids to go out. But when they are back in the evening, they find Mrs Boynton dead in her chair. Poirot enters and declares he would solve the case in 24 hours. Every one of the family members and Dr Sarah King has spoken to Mrs Boynton when they returned to the camp. So who killed her? Did one of the family members decide to kill their mother to put an end to their caged life? Or is it an outsider?

Poirot’s questioning every character and framing a timeline was really professional and methodical. Very much Poirot. Poirot always believe in dramatic revelation at the end. Even if he knows something, he keeps it to himself. Surprisingly, in this case, he was forthcoming. He expressed his views and findings as he progressed with the investigation. The case also had nearly everyone at the suspicion radar, each one having a motive to kill Mrs Boynton. Also, the entire set up was so beautiful. Just like Death on the Nile, this book was visually very appealing.

Appointment with Death is definitely one of the best works of Agatha Christie. The book works very well not just because of Poirot’s brilliance, but also because of the sheer intelligent writing of the entire case. Recommended.

Ordeal of Innoncence

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Author: Agatha Christie

Rating: 3/5

I have always been a great fan of Agatha Christie and her popular detective character Hercule Poirot. Every time I write a review of her work, I can’t stop myself from appreciating her style of writing. The impeccable way in which she writes her characters and places them in a mind boggling mystery is beyond my words.  Ordeal of Innocence is one of her standalones, i.e. the murder case isn’t led by her famous detectives- Poirot or Marple. The case is led by a normal person who is also a major part of the mystery. “And Then There Were None” was a terrific stand alone work of hers and it’s a huge task for Christie herself to match her benchmark.

“Ordeal of Innocence” is a cold case mystery. The lives of the Argyle family take a steep twist when Dr Arthur Calgary jumps from nowhere, two years after the murder of Rachel Argyle, presenting a crucial piece of evidence evicting and proving the innocence of Jacko Argyle, who was sent to prison for killing his mother, who subsequently died in prison within 5 months of his sentencing. Rachel Argyle, the victim, is a compulsive mother of 5 adopted children- Mary, Hester, Tina, Mickey and Jacko. Each child is, or say was, unhappy with their adopted mother for reasons of their own. This new evidence from Calgary causes huge ripples in the family as old wounds are opened up. If Jacko didn’t kill his mother, it’s definitely someone else from the family. Even though only one of them is the killer, other innocent members of the family also suffer from the radar of suspicion. The police reopen the case, alibis for the night of the murder are checked again, different lines of investigation are followed by different people- the police, Calgary himself and Phillip Durant- Mary’s handicapped husband.

This case takes the reader through an entirely different experience compared to Christie’s other works. There is a more emotional connect with the characters in this book. We feel pity for every child (not literally child but youngsters) for having craved for their real parents. We also see the deep possessive love of Rachel for her kids, even though she is never alive in the book. Every child has the frustration inside to get rid of their mother. But did one of them actually go through with it? We have, on the other hand, Leo Argyle, the patriarch of the house and Rachel’s husband; his secretary Gwenda whom Leo was going to marry. Did Leo kill his own wife to marry Gwenda? We also have the housekeeper woman, Kirsten, who has a strong bonding with all the children. Did she kill Rachel to provide real happiness to the children? Strong motives are present for every character and most of their alibis are shaky. As a reader, I kept guessing and doubting every character. At a point, every line made me think and reconsider my suspicions. That’s the brilliance of Agatha Christie. I admit, I didn’t feel high excitement because I read this book over a period of 2 weeks due to other commitments but I am sure it would have been great if read at a regular speed.

The coming together of all the clues, more murders to add and the show down at the end were done exceptionally well in Agatha Christie style. I couldn’t give more ratings because the story seemed stagnant in between with no new clues or revelations. It delved more into the characters and their life which, though in a way added to the story, didn’t add much to my interest.

Bottomline: Go for it! It’s completely different from Christie’s Poirot or Marple.

Lord Edgware Dies

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Agatha Christie is no where close to her best works.

Rating: 1.5/5

Agatha Christie is my MVP. I know whenever I need a break from serious reading, or from other genre reads, I can completely rely on her. Though her stories do involve murder, it’s not like the ones written in today’s times. Today’s stories are too serious, too gory and don’t leave any chance to detail the scenes. It’s a style of writing and I am not complaining. At the same time, I feel Agatha’s style of writing is very crisp and much more difficult. She doesn’t take a long time to describe her scene- the house, farm, city, etc or the characters. There are many twists and turns and she keeps us guessing for most part of the story. I wrote down a list of her books, in priority, and have been completing it one by one. After around 12-15 books of hers, I am feeling the boredom. The cases aren’t as interesting as her top rated books, and I have got used to her style of writing so much that I could actually guess the culprit correctly at the end. Lord Edgware Dies is one of those works which has a very interesting plot but is plagued by usual clues.

When Lord Edgware dies, Poirot is called on to investigate by the lawyer of the family. A series of people in the family profits from the death of the patriarch and hence they make it to the list of suspects easily. More murders follow making things more complicated. A phrase uttered by one of the deceased before her murder becomes the key point of the investigation. We also have two lines of investigation- One by our renowned Poirot and his loyal assistant Hastings and on the other we have Inspector Japp. I have read Japp in few of the books before but never had he been so irritating. Even the banter between Poirot and Hastings isn’t enjoyable. It’s more dominating and insulting from Poirot’s side in my point of view. Each one has a very confusing theory, confusing the reader even more. The entire story solely depends on the timeline, which isn’t explained clearly hence making the read a very tiresome one. The breakthrough evidence at the end, though a surprise, comes across very forced.

Lord Edgware Dies fails to hit the right chords. A very disappointing read.