Agatha Christie

Crooked House [Book Review]

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Rating: 3.5/5

It’s getting increasingly difficult to review Agatha Christie’s works for me nowadays. Not that I am not enjoying reading her book. There is no doubt, she is still one of my favorite authors, and perhaps my all time favorite in the genre of crime. The Queen of Crime. At the same time, I have read so much of her, understood her writing so much that she has become kind of predictable. I felt the same when I used to read Sidney Sheldon. Christie’s works always involve a bunch of people; I should say suspects; a very interesting victim, and an investigator- Poirot, Marple or someone else, having lengthy, multiple but interesting conversations and deducing the killer at the end. 

Inspite of the predictability, I still look forward to read her books. One- it’s always a quick read. Two- her characters are very intriguing. The same applies to Crooked House. This book is one of Christie’s many stand-alone works. Aristride Leonide, the head of the Leonides, gets murdered through poisoning. Naturally, every member of the family becomes a suspect. Charles, who is in love with the granddaughter of Aristride, Sophia, is urged by her to solve the case. What follows is Charles having conversations with various members of the family, putting together a timeline, analysing if there is a motive for anyone to kill Aristride. And like any murder mystery, another murder takes place and the pieces are put together pointing at the killer. I think I should admit, the ending was very poignant. 

I liked certain parts very much. Aristride mentioning at the family meeting that injecting his eyedrops instead of insulin can kill him, and he gets killed the very same way. Josephine, Sophia’s little sister, playing Sherlock Holmes and always being ahead of Charles and the police in the investigation. Doubts falling on almost everyone, including Sophia. The mystery behind the will. All these things got me through the book. But, yes, this wouldn’t fall into my Top 10 Agatha Christie’s books. 

One step closer to reading all AC’s works. That’s all that matters. 



The Murder at the Vicarage [Book Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Year: 1930


I have no qualms in admitting that I am a hardcore Agatha Christie, specially a huge Hercule Poirot fan. One of my main reading goals is to complete reading every Agatha Christie work and I am slowly working my way through it too. One of the mind blocks I am facing is to enter the Miss Marple series of the author. I faced huge disappointment reading The Caribbean Mystery, as the lead detective Miss Marple was neither as clever nor as interesting as Poirot. I had heard a lot of good things about this book, The Murder at the Vicarage. Since I had replenished all the Agatha Christie books I had on my shelf, I picked this one up. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Murder at the Vicarage, like all Christie’s books, has a murder, a list of suspects, clues and timelines, and Miss Marple successfully solving it with her deduction and theories. The premise was no different or extremely interesting when compared to the author’s best works. Yet, this book works because of its setting and few of the characters.

Colonel Lucius Prothoroe, a strict disciplinarian, not liked by many in the town, slightly hearing impaired, is found dead it the study of the Vicar- Leonard Clement. A list of suspects is immediately drawn.

1. Lawrence Redding- a young artist having an affair with Mrs Prothoroe.

2. Mrs Prothoroe- wife of Colonel Prothoroe, wanting to break from the shackles of her husband.

3. Lettice Prothoroe- daughter of the Colonel Prothoroe, a sad young girl wanting to lead a life of her own without her father’s interference

4. Mrs Lestrange – new in the neighbourhood, a strange woman with a secret history unknown to anyone

5. An outsider

Clement meets an agitated and confused Redding on his way to his study before he finds the dead Colonel. Even before he could lay his doubts on Redding, Redding himself surrenders to the police for committing the murder, only that he couldn’t have killed the Colonel. Dr Haydock’s findings and Redding’s own movements and alibi prove he couldn’t have committed the crime. Then who did it? Why did Redding surrender himself?

If you had seen the premise, there is no Miss Marple around. In a way, Miss Marple’s presence in the book is too few and that might be one of the reasons why this book worked for me. Most of the investigation is carried out by the Vicar Clement, Inspector Slack and Redding himself. Miss Marple, who is a part of the neighborhood, offers her theories and observations in between. We have statements gathered from everyone in the neighborhood to fix the timeline of both the deceased and all the suspects. We know someone is lying, and as a reader I was conducting my own investigation with all the clues presented. The character psychology was established so well I was trying to get into each one’s head, to measure each one’s need to see the Colonel dead. The victory for the author was I couldn’t get into her head. I could feel Clement’s frustration when the statements and the actual happenings don’t add up. Having read so many works of Christie’s, adding to that the numerous other crime fictions, I had a list of options for the culprit and the reasons for the murder. The actual ending did manage to be one of them making me feel a little proud but that doesn’t take away the intelligence of the author.

I loved how every character did have a motive to kill the Colonel. It’s a matter of weighing every motive. There was a point where I even suspected the Vicar, (Can’t forget The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). The plan maps of the Vicarage and the neighborhood helped in visualizing the physical premise of the story. The only problem I had with this book was Miss Marple. Alright, I accept Jane Marple can’t be another Hercule Poirot but I expected a little bit of more extraordinaire from her, just to make her stand out from normal human beings. I felt this book could have been a fantastic standalone if they had made Clement solve the entire case. It would have made no difference. I am not sure if I would pick another Miss Marple anytime soon. But that’s just the character.

The case and the book as a whole was excellent. Enjoyed reading Agatha Christie after a long time.



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.