Closed room mysteries of Christie’s you MUST read….

There are plot devices which are recurrent in several of Christie’s mysteries

Closed Circle of Suspects –

This is Christie’s favorite plot device I guess – close to  a dozen  of Christie’s  mysteries feature this one. Christie only needs to bring a bunch of  people together before bumping off one of them and the game begins …

The settings for several of her closed circle mysteries are widely varied – trains , country manors , a tropical beach resort , a private island , a luxury cruise , dinner tables (!!) that the reader doesn’t have the “I’ve-seen-this-before” complaint .

Her first suspense novel , The Mysterious Affair At Styles is credited to having used this plot device first which had become something of a rage with the writers of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction ( first half of 20th century ) . Here are a few closed-circle-mysteries from the Christie’s pen which you should definitely check out if you have not read these earlier –

And Then There Were None

Ten people have arrived at a private island for a weekend getaway . They are strangers to each other but their unknown host seems to know their darkest secrets . And when the they are murdered one by one , the survivors become the suspects and each must look out for oneself . But none would make it out of the island alive – they have been marked for murder .

Murder On The Orient Express

Poirot is travelling in the Orient Express . Samuel Ratchett , an elderly American tries to hire him as he has fears for his life which Poirot refuses out of distaste for the man . However , the third morning Ratchett is found dead and an interesting revelation presents itself – Samuel Ratchett is none other than Cassetti who abducted little Daisy Armstrong and killed her despite collecting the ransom .

Has retribution caught up with him finally ? With 13 possible suspects , the guessing game is a dream for the crime buff in the reader . But don’t think you can figure out the killer ….

A Caribbean Mystery

Miss Marple has gone to a Caribbean island for a vacation . Major Palgrave , whom she meets at the beach resort tells her about a wife killer who got away with murder twice . He even proceeds to fish a photograph which he claims to be that of the wife killer .  But when he takes a look at the photograph and somebody nearby , he hastily changes the subject . Miss Marple is convinced that the story old Major Palgrave told about the wife killer had been true when he is found dead the next day . So , which one among the guests at the Golden Palm resort is the seasoned murder?Will he get away with yet another murder this time also?

 

the end

Death Comes As The End

Set in 2000 BC Thebes, the story follows a spate of murders in the house of Imhotep, the Ka mortuary priest. It all began with the death of Nofret, his young concubine from Memphis. Her arrival at Imhotep’s house had not been without some animosity . She antagonized Imhotep’s sons and their wives – only the threat of disinheritance seemed to keep Yahmose and Sobek’s wives from bullying her any further. Her death seemed to bring everything back to as it was before Nofret’s arrival –  BUT IT WAS NOT SO .

Soon , as Renisenb , Imhotep’s daughter witnesses , the family members become victims to the unknown murderer one by one – Or is it the vengeful spirit of Nofret exacting her revenge on the family?

Christie puts together a really convincing ,  racy suspense with a jaw-dropping ending in a timeline that we don’t have much idea about .  I think this book alone can establish  Christie’s unsurpassed mastery in crime fiction writing – I can’t recommend this enough.

Cards on the table:

Four sleuths – Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard; Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, famed writer of detective stories; Col. Race of His Majesty’s Secret Service; and Hercule Poirot get together for an evening of bridge at Mr. Shaithana’s house with four other people each of whom is suspected to have murdered somebody in their past and gotten away with the murder . But , before the first rubber was completed Mr. Shaithana is found dead .

Who amongst the four had killed Shaithana thinking that (s)he could get away with murder a second time ? And with our Poirot on the scene too….

Now that you are here , just have a look around my blog …..If you want new books to add to your TBR please hit the follow button . I would be posting book reviews and other interesting book related stuff…And do provide your valuable comments on the post .

If you think that some book should definitely make it to the list , please mention in the comments below .

[This is part-1 of a series of posts where I take a look at some of the recurrent interesting plot devices in Christie’s novels and the books you MUST pick up which play out these plot devices masterfully ]

You can also have a look at this post where I talk about some of the most underrated Christie mysteries which should make it to your TBR if you have not read them already.

 

 

Wuthering Heights-Getting answers for some questions…-Part 2

The way Wuthering Heights panned out with Heathcliff on an avenging mission, I have often wondered that who had a major role in advancing Heathcliff’s schemes(knowingly or unknowingly) on both the families.Was it Hindley’s alcoholism cum gambling mania that made him a debtor to Heathcliff or Isabella’s attraction towards Heathcliff?If it had been only Hindley,the scene of action would have been only Wuthering Heights .But Isabella too comes in and Thrushcross Grange-the Lintons’ happy and normal home becomes a setting for the climax-the climax that preceded the story of avenging one’s love .There is one person who connects both the houses-Catherine Earnshaw,the ‘tragic’ heroine of the novel. Throughout the entire first half of the novel, there is ample evidence that Catherine Earnshaw’ s actions and words played a major role in setting up Heathcliff in his avenging mission.

Firstly,there was nobody to hinder Catherine from choosing Heathcliff over Edgar Linton-a proud (and definitely uncaring) brother definitely did not stand a chance against Catherine’s strong-willed nature. It was only Catherine’s pride and fear of poverty that made her choose Linton over Heathcliff. She could comprehend her feelings towards Heathcliff even then when she says-

“This [the acceptance of Linton’s proposal] is for one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself.[…]my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained ,and he were annihilated ,the universe, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger;[…]My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware; as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath-a source of little visible delight but necessary.

This alone says it all-her marriage to Linton is chiefly out of selfish motives for herself primarily despite her saying “The others [motives] were for the satisfaction of my whims and for Edgar’s sake,too,to satisfy him” and for Heathcliff chiefly.The only thing that sets apart Catherine (who caps even  all the Brontes’ unconventional heroines) from the rest of the Victorian heroines  is that she is very vocal about her factors(however despicable) that influenced her course of action.With the Lintons pandering to every whim of hers, she soon forgot about the only living person “who was her great thought in living” until the day he made his reappearance.While Heathcliff had come only to pay back Hindley, Catherine’s rapturous welcome of him showed him plainly that he had not lost Catherine’s love. Edgar Linton’s evident discomfort at his wife’s attachment towards Heathcliff, made it a sport for Heathcliff to repeat his visits to the Grange.

When Isabella confesses her admiration for somebody whom she perceived Heathcliff to be, Catherine plainly puts forth Heathcliff’s failings to make Isabella see sense.

He’s not a rough diamond___[…] he’s a fierce,pitiless,wolfish man.[….]I say ‘Let them alone, because I should hate them to be wronged’; and he’d crush you like  a sparrow’s egg,Isabella,if he found you a troublesome charge. I know he couldn’t love a Linton, and yet he’d be quite capable of marrying your fortunes and expectations___avarice is growing with him a besetting sin. There’s my picture; and I’m his friend -so much so that had he thought seriously to catch you, I should, perhaps, have held my tongue, and let you fall into his trap”

Despite knowing enough about the Heathcliff who had returned [no guesses there-Heathcliff laid bare his desire for revenging himself upon Hindley during their long rambles], she still reveals the girl’s fancy to him “to punish her for her sauciness” which seals Isabella Linton’s fate. Heathcliff had to just step up his revenge on Edgar with his marriage to Isabella Linton.Catherine Earnshaw knowingly not only betrayed her husband but also his beloved sister despite declaring that her intentions were otherwise.Even if she was honest in her intentions towards Isabella Linton,her betrayal towards Edgar Linton gives her fallacies that would make her an “anti-heroine” just like Heathcliff becomes an “anti-hero”.

I can go so far as to say that Catherine Earnshaw’s presence in the Lintons’ home was a luckless one. And Ellen Dean says that it was Heathcliff who was the “luckless presence”, a bird of bad omens”(Duh!!) .She does get very good adjectives but she did not use it to describe the correct person.

Catherine kept her word assiduously when she said

“I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.That will be a prompt way of finishing all when I am pushed to extremity!”

If Catherine, alive and headstrong could inflict only this much damage, a delirious Catherine Earnshaw in her deathbed, with her words, destroyed any happiness that everybody could have had, if Heathcliff had been given a chance to move on.

I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings […] Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, ‘That’s the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her long ago, and was wretched to lose her: but it is past. I’ve loved many others since; my children are dearer to me than she was, and at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her. I shall be sorry that I must leave them! ‘Will you say so, Heathcliff?

Even when Heathcliff for once speaks his heart at the very moment when he says “Do you reflect that all those words will be branded in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? [..]Catherine, you know that I could as soon forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?”. But this anguished plea  falls on deaf ears and she again wishes to never be parted from Heathcliff and rambles on about how she expected Heathcliff to wish to be near her always.Knowing Heathcliff unlike any other person,and her hold on his heart,if her marriage was a betrayal,her confession about her undying love for Heathcliff during her final moments was even worse.

That day,the “anti-hero” Heathcliff emerged when he says-“I forgive what you have done to me.I love my murderer-but yours!How can I?“Although he clearly perceived Catherine’s fallacies,the intense grief totally eclipsed every other notion of reason/moving on-and The Hate Story started from there.

 

 

Of chance encounters….

The other day when I was arranging my book shelf I came upon the long lost yellowish dog-eared copy of Little  Women-my first ever classic read on love,heartbreaks and such stuff.As I turned over the yellow pages of the book,there was a rush of memories-of the numerous times  I had sneaked this book into my study room and read it instead of studying for tomorrow’s exams,how it landed in my bookshelf,of times when my mom had tried to keep it out of my hands during my exams in my middle school days( but with limited success).

I picked up this book from the book fair that comes to the city every year when I was in the 7th grade.Picking up this book was something like the hero-falls-for-heroine-@-first-sight scene .Just  a small correction here-it was not love @ first sight here.That happened much later.I had not the least idea about this book the day I went to the book fair.I was looking for books to add to my sizeable Agatha Christie and Doyle collection-I was a huge fan of the suspense/detective fiction.I  still am….I had picked up the books which I wanted to and as I was roaming among the stalls reading the plot-summary of some random book that looks somewhat interesting(not that I had any idea of buying the book-probably it would land in my list-of-books-to-read till I get to go to another book fair-my budget ) the cover of Little Women caught my attention.Reading the first 3 pages,I had to admit the story was pretty interesting plus the price was reasonable.(I had already finished my budget on Christie Books that day.)That’s how it got to my bookshelf.

“Chance encounters with people have an everlasting impact in our lives.They give us lessons,new ideas,new insights,new learnings,new experiences-the same holds true for books.”

I still remember my 12 year old self laughing herself silly/getting a lump in the throat and trying not to cry(but not managing it really) over something in this book This was the book that had me laughing out loud @ Jo’s gaffes and skirmishes with the dashing guy-next-door Laurie.(Not that Jo had any idea about such things).It had me in tears when Beth finally loses the battle with her illness.It had me feeling sorry for Laurie over Jo’s refusal(I so wanted the two of them to end up together)..A tomboy who fervently hates anything remotely girlish,a Miss.Malaprop in social scenarios,an outspoken person sometimes to the point of being too blunt,the bookworm who prefers the Romeos from her books while turning a blind eye to the loving glances and a deaf ear to the subtle hints of the next-door-Romeo-I loved Jo March and could identify myself with her big time(only there was no dashing next-door-neighbour :p…Peace!!)

Prior to Little Women,with the books in the suspense genre,there had  been simply the narration of a case- solid facts with insights into workings of the human mind-the emotions were mostly anger,fear,guilt and others in the same line.If there was love,the author gets maybe one or two pairs married for a happily-ever-after ending in the last page.In suspense genre the emphasis had always been on the actions of the character and their outcomes but not the underlying influences like the emotions.Louisa May Alcott’s book showed me the power of words in vividly picturing a scenario.The words were not simply telling a story .They were able to beautifully bring before the eyes of the reader the dreams,the passion/the hopes/the angst/the heartbreaks of the characters so well  that the reader laughed/cried/sympathized with them.

I have since then read several other books where the narrative is at a whole new level in terms of making the reader visualize what he/she reads.But Little Women will always have a special place on my bookshelf-because it introduced me to new ideas and motivated me to try out new things and helped me to grow as a reader.And it gave me one important lesson which I have come to realize in retrospect-Chance encounters with people have an everlasting impact in our lives.They give us lessons,new ideas,new insights,new learnings,new experiences-the same holds true for books.I don’t know how it would have been if I had not been open to trying out something new -probably,I would have found another book that would have shown me those things ,maybe a bit later.But now,I remember this everytime I when I go to the bookstore-I keep my eyes open for some new author/new genre that I have not tried and trust me-it has opened up my horizons to the extent that even I was not aware of in passing but have come to appreciate now.

So,planning a visit to the bookstore this weekend??Or ordering some book online??Or downloading any audio-books??Or just trying out some cool apps out there?Whatever,it is,go for something that you have not tried before-it may be a new genre/new author…You never know what you might find out there…..