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.

 

 

Book Review: I’ve Got My Eyes On You

img_0256

I’ve Got My Eyes On You is my Mary Higgins Clark book after quite a long time .

Plot Synopsis :

Kelly Dowling is found dead in the swimming pool in her house . She had hosted a party the previous night for her classmates before they all left for their respective colleges when her parents were away from home . The guests included Kerry’s Harvard-bound boyfriend Alan Crowley , with whom she had a serious fallout during the evening .  Jamie Chapman , Kerry’s next door neighbor was also angry that Kerry had not invited him to her party . Or is there somebody else? Aline , Kerry’s elder sister pitches in to help the police bring the sister’s murderer to justice – She just doesn’t know that Kerry’s killer is ready to kill a second time to save himself .

Hopefully I have got you sufficiently intrigued with this short blurb.

Review :

As I had mentioned at the start , I am picking up a Mary Higgins Clark after quite a long time . Also , having read several of her titles , I felt that this plot was comparatively a regular one and not something that makes you feel that ONLY the Queen of Suspense could pull off such a plot-line which she did every single time during the ’90s . Still , the storytelling kept me hooked till the last page and I never got an inkling about the identity of the killer .

The story is paced well so that people like me don’t take a peek at the last 2 chapters to get to know who is the murderer [ guilty of DOING it when the story moves slowly sometimes ] . This is one of my chief complaints with some of the new authors I have tried . Sometimes the suspense novels become family dramas when the writers try to pack too many into the book – too descriptive language and too much after-crime drama that the focus on the crime actually dwindles . Put that together with a plot-line which actually is not very interesting / follows similar trail like a previous read , you can be sure that I will plod on with that book during my short breaks in office when I can’t accommodate my one-sitting finish .

Trust Clark how to tell her story – all her books have been one-sitting reads for me and this one was no different . With Clark the story has the right amount of everything – You won’t be put off by the romance that is slowly developing as the novel proceeds or when you get to see the family dramas in the victim’s / suspects’ families . Clark surely knows how much of anything other than suspense ,  a suspense fanatic would accept in a suspense novel . While there have been complaints that Agatha Christie does not allow her characters to develop , you would never have that complaint with Clark – through her words you get to see the despair of the suspects , how the families of the victims cope with the loss of a loved one eventually and yet she keeps the narrative racy .

Of course , as someone who has read several of her titles I can identify with a few staples in her books – the female leads who are featured in Clark’s books do not rely on a man to help them with their problems despite being beautiful , successful and everything else that a female ought to be to qualify as a female lead in several of the books .  Not even one of them have been damsels in distress – they are ready to rough it out . And they have few good people helping them along the way . Another thing that stands out in a Clark novel is that the characters move on at the end of the book – they look forward to new beginnings . Perhaps , that might be a reflection of Clark’s own attitude to life – this needs some elaboration I guess . If you are free head on to this Wikipedia page to read her full bio – She truly is an inspiring lady . And of course , there is a romance slowly developing between two characters and a thrilling climax where the guy saves the girl from the deranged psychopath [Am I giving away too much ?? ] .

Yeah , I have a few favorite lines from her books which are so beautiful that makes you wonder if you are reading a suspense . Here are some for you…

[….] How can our all-loving and merciful God fail to protect us and those we love at the time when we most need him? […] ”

” The best answer I’ve heard came in a sermon given by an elderly priest many years ago. He was travelling in the Middle East and was overwhelmed by the majesty of the Persian rugs he saw . Those gorgeous creations skillfully woven into such beautiful designs . One day he was in a shop where those rugs were on display . He walked behind one that was hanging on hooks from the ceiling . Looking at it from behind , he was shocked to behold a confusing array of threads that led nowhere . Such beauty on one side , total disharmony on the other , but both part of the same plan . It was then that the message became clear to him . In life we see only the back side of the rug , We don’t know how or why our unspeakable hardships are part of a beautiful design . That is why having faith is so important .”

 

I guess I’ll leave you to check out this book for yourself . I would recommend it for all my readers and would love to hear from you about how your reading went .

Rating : 3.75 / 5 *

*  I have given a 3.75 because I have read other titles by the same author which had more complex plots and some even scared the hell out of me. For a first time Mary Higgins Clark reader , surely it would have been at-least a 4 pointer . So , make sure you pick up this book for a good suspense read .

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 .

 

Seriously under-rated Christie must-reads

September 15th being Agatha Christie’s 128th birth anniversary , I  revisited the Christies’ in my bookshelf over the previous week . It might sound a bit odd to revisit mystery fiction when you would already know the culprit but trust me , rereading Christie did not prove to be dull . She managed to throw the spotlight on some of the storytelling elements which had gone unobserved during the fast & furious one sitting read .

Sans the pitfall of too-descriptive / metaphorical  language or other innovative narrative elements/styles of today’s thrillers or the “psychological” elements of the psychological thrillers Christie’s straight narrative still had us hooked to the book even more than books with the above mentioned fuss n feathers . When we hear the name of Christie , some of the most popular titles like And Then There Were None , The Murder of Roger Ackroyd need no introduction for readers .  So , here today, I have a list of some of the most underrated Christie titles which most of us tend to miss out with all the noise the popular titles are making.

sad cypress

#1 Sad Cypress

Elinor Carlisle and Roddy Welman , an engaged couple ,  arrive at Hunterbury Lodge , Mrs. Welman’s estate on receiving an anonymous letter accusing someone of taking advantage of their aunt . Both are looking forward to a substantial inheritance on Mrs. Welman’s demise who is now an invalid following a stroke . Unfortunately , Rodney falls in love with Mary Gerard , the lodge-keeper’s daughter  whom Elinor suspects to be the person whom the anonymous writer meant . Elinor breaks her engagement to Rodney .

When the story begins Elinor is being tried for the murder of Mary Gerard – did rivalry in love prove to be a compelling motive for Elinor as everybody believe ? As Poirot tries to save Elinor from the gallows he uncovers several startling truths ….. Is Elinor truly innocent or a cold blooded murderess?

The solution to the puzzle simply left me speechless . I would strongly urge you to pick up this one .

#2 Sleeping Murder

sleeping murder

Miss Marple’s last case involves solving a ‘sleeping murder’ – a murder that has evaded detection for 18 years . Gwenda and Giles Reed  move into Hillside which turns out to be Gwenda’s childhood home . An evening at the theater triggers a childhood memory of being a witness to a murder – but where? .Who was the victim ? Who was the murderer ? Gwenda draws a blank for these questions except for a single name that she gives for the victim . As  they start piecing together the past they seem to get too close to discovering the murderer’s identity . For somebody who has committed the ‘perfect’ murder , the past should not be dug up and he/she will resort to anything to keep it so – including killing again .

Like  several amateur detectives , the Reeds are gung-ho about snooping around and do not realize the dangers they put themselves into . So, enter Miss Marple , ‘ the perfect Victorian piece ‘  to ‘ look after them ‘ ( to quote her ) . As a crime – Miss Marple realizes the dangers of delving too deep into the past – a murder , more so . But , an unsolved and ( unsuspected ) murder from the past proves to be too intriguing even for Miss Marple ( and not to mention , definitely dangerous )….

#3 Why Didn’t they ask Evans ?

evans

The last words of a dying man ” WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS ” spur Bobby Jones and his friend Frankie into  snooping around  trying to find the identity of the dead man and also , what did he mean by those words ….

Again we have two amateur detectives  here but what made the duo lovable was the fact they did had a good amount of luck in stumbling upon clues and they were like two kids playing the guess-who game – bringing in some good humor , at times  bungling up just like an amateur would ,  putting together pieces when there is a sudden brainwave –  I especially loved Frankie . Let me put it down here that amateur detectives don’t mean no logical explanation to their deductions .  What I love specially about them is that you get a good dose of drama and a change from our very business like Poirot or astute Miss Marple – but still Christie makes sure there is one of the pair who is bright enough to provide the readers with the logical explanations to their findings . The fun-loving sleuths meet their match in a villain who is all at once – suave , diabolical  and blessed with ( equally ) good humor who comes up clean in a most characteristic way … After reading the villain’s confession , I was equally amused with the villain too -we don’t comes across such interesting and if I may say , charming villains often….

#4 Death Comes As The End

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 thriller 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 .

Let me know in the comments section which books you loved from the above list if you have already read them or which books are you planning to pick up ? I would love to hear from you guys about your thoughts on the Christies you have read too . I am planning to have the entire month for Agatha Christie themed posts.. Stay tuned !!

 

it’s always the husband – A Review

download (1)Kate,Aubrey and Jenny are inseparable at college- friends who promised they’d be there for each other.But twenty years later , their friendship is about to take a deadly turn.

Kate married the gorgeous party boy,Aubrey married up and Jenny married the boy next door,but when one of the friends dies in shocking circumstances,will everyone assume it’s always the husband?OR COULD IT BE THE BEST FRIEND?

———————————————————————————————

Michele Campbell’s debut its always the husband is quite a refreshing take on the famous suspense trope of the husband being the murderer in case of a married woman . I promise there would be no spoilers and let me dive right in —

Plot summary :

Kate – the fast one.

Jenny –the ambitious one.

Aubrey – she wants the best of both Jenny’s and Kate’s worlds despite struggling to strike the right balance. But she is determined to make the best of the exposure to the elite society and opportunities that an Ivy Leaguer is accorded. Two decades down the line, the three are married and settled down. And then one of them dies… Not surprisingly, there seem to be too many plausible motives – betrayal, passion, revenge…. The newest addition to this cocktail is even more dangerous which threatens the friends too… Which of the following motives proved to be the strongest that it resulted in murder – Or is it murder in the first place?

My reading experience :

The college years of the girlfriends has been dealt in great detail and is an engaging read.It contributes greatly to the development of the central characters-Aubrey , Kate and Jenny .While much thought has been given for the character development of the three, the other characters aren’t so well developed.When the moving finger picks out the next suspect , it seems a bit not easy to believe even if the motives attributed to them are perfectly sound.The host of secondary characters come and go only in relation with the central characters and are not very familiar to the readers .  If you are actually going to accuse somebody , first give them enough space in the story .

Given Michelle’s in-depth account of the college life in the Ivy League campus   ( given that she herself is a graduate from one ) , it would have been better if the second part of the story which is where the guessing game starts , too had enough details .  Although it was a really great narrative , it missed out the compelling factor simply because few of the angles which had been touched upon (like the murder or suicide question )  didn’t have enough weight to actually keep the readers guessing .  The victim simply hasn’t been characterized  seriously as being traumatized or showing signs of extreme stress ( or much stress whatsoever)  to actually take her own life .  The psyche of the characters could have been better explored .

Despite these shortfalls , Michele scores strongly with the ” show – only – one -side ” of the narrative which finally  starts to build the tension . The last 60 pages or so turned the regular whodunit into  one heck of the  story that leaves the reader shocked with the terrific twist at the end . Yes , the last few pages actually made all the impact that has people touting it as the next Gone Girl .

So , how would I rate the book? For me , the story has to strike the right chord with suspense element and  getting the readers actually agree with your  surmise of the moment which was clearly missing with it’s always the husband .  Perhaps , a few more pages  giving a good picture of the secondary characters and exploring the characters’ psyche in a little more depth would have made this book even more worthy of all the praise its raking right now .  I guess  ” the next Gone Girl ” is the highest form of praise right now .  The wonder is there are too many books like that 😛

Rating : 3.5 / 5 ( The sheer brilliance with the narrative style  and one jaw-dropping shocker is not going to make all the difference ) .

Picking up the book ? Would strongly recommend you to  check it  out  (if only ) for the narrative . All you had worked out in your brain wouldn’t help much because you haven’t been shown the full picture . And when you finally get to see it guaranteed it would leave you stunned .

If you had picked up the book , how did you feel about it?  Or are you planning to pick up it up now?? Drop in a word or two in the comments section  .