Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Tuesday Night Club: The Curious Case of the Missing Children

 

The Tuesday Night Bloggers  are anBEv logo informal group of crime fiction fans and bloggers who choose a topic each month to discuss in posts on Tuesdays.

Our theme for September is:




CHILDREN IN CRIME



Thanks to Bev, as ever, for the excellent logo. Kate at Cross-Examining Crime has kindly offered to collect the links for the various pieces.

If anyone wants to join in, just send a link to one of us or post it in the comments below.


We tend to write about traditional crime fiction, often from the Golden Age – in previous weeks I chose
The Bad Seed by William March (1954) and The Third Eye by Ethel Lina White (1937). Last week I moved forward in time and wrote about a recent French thriller, After the Crash by Michel Bussi, which has lost and disputed babies as its topic.

This week I’m writing about an absence.
 

The Mystery of the Christmas Children


Christmas children 2


I am a fan of Christmas mysteries, and every year on the blog I feature several of them during December – writing and collecting those particular posts gives me enormous pleasure.

Finding pictures for my blogposts is also always a joy, and I like where possible to use a good seasonal picture for each of my Xmas/December posts, and am always on the lookout. (I am very pleased with the Christmas pictures I have found, and there is a Pinterest page here where you can see last year’s collection, without having to go to the bother of reading my self-important words.)


 
Christmas children
 
 

But a year or so into this venture I finally realized that something was bothering me:
 
 

Celebratory Christmas pictures tend to feature children

Christmas mysteries don’t

 
Once you start looking, it becomes obvious that a family gathering is a splendidly suitable setting for a murder, but children just get in the way. Are they going to be victims? Murderers? Witnesses? Apparently not. No child follows Santa to the fireplace while he picks up a poker. No lisping 4-year old says ‘I went to Mother’s bedroom but she wasn’t there’, nor yet ‘I went to Father’s bedroom and Nurse was in there with him’. There is no poison in the mince pies or the white sugar mice or the tangerines. No toy gun or water pistol from a Christmas stocking is used by a criminal.


 
Children Christmas 3


The Golden Age authors apparently entered into a secret pact to remove children from the scene of the crime. There are multi-generational gatherings, containing every age except 0-15. There are families where it defies belief that there are no children present.


Possibly my favourite Xmas mystery of them all is Georgette Heyer’s Envious Casca (now re-purposed as A Christmas Party, by the way), and I said about that one: ‘You’d say the children were 'ruthlessly disposed of for plot purposes', but we can keep that phrase for the victims…’

 
christmas children 4


Now, there is a cunning (almost-criminal) sub-plot in my mind. My fellow crime fiction fans will all be racking their brains for counter-examples, and I am hoping they will be brimming with names of Christmas mysteries. As it is September, that gives me plenty of time to read their suggestions, and produce many nice new seasonal entries for this December. Please pile in in the comments below.
Here are a few Xmas mysteries that have featured on the blog:


Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer – so wonderfully sour and funny, I have to mention it again.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmasen route to the houseparty of death.
Groaning Spinney by Gladys Mitchell
Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon – 2014’s surprise reprint bestseller.
Tied up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh
Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown

- and there are more to be found. Try clicking on the labels below.























Monday, 26 September 2016

In The Woods by Tana French

 
published 2007
 
 
In the Woods 4In the Woods 3
In the Woods 1In the Woods 2


When I made the Murder squad, I had already had my new work clothes – beautifully cut suits in materials so fine they felt alive to your fingers, shirts with the subtlest of blue or green pinstripes, rabbit-soft cashmere scarves – hanging in my wardrobe for almost a year. I love the unspoken dress code. It was one of the things that first fascinated me about the job – that and the private, functional, elliptical shorthand: latents, trace, Forensics. One of the Stephen King small towns where I was posted after Templemore had a murder: a routine domestic-violence incident that had escalated beyond even the perpetrator’s expectations, but, because the man’s previous girlfriend had died in suspicious circumstances, the Murder squad sent down a pair of detectives. All the week they were there, I had one eye on the coffee machine whenever I was at my desk, so I could get my coffee when the detectives got theirs, take my time adding milk and eavesdrop on the streamlined, brutal rhythms of their conversation…

You learn by osmosis, as soon as you set your sights on the job, that you are expected to look professional, educated, discreetly expensive with just a soupcon of originality. We give the taxpayers their money’s worth of comforting clichĂ©. We mostly shop at Brown Thomas, during the sales, and occasionally come into work wearing embarrassingly identical soupcons.


commentary: Oh what a failure. No, not the book – it is I who am a failure. Having loved Tana French's The Secret Place and the newly-published The Trespasser, I am supposed to be rationing out those of her books I haven’t read yet, to make the joy last longer. So I downloaded this one to my Kindle, to have in reserve, for some future moment. I have review books, and promises, and commitments, and many many books to read – Tana can wait for a while.

Only she can’t. I read it, swallowed it down at a great speed, and have already downloaded the next one. Oh dear oh dear: I am going to run out of books by her quite soon…

This was her first, and must have exploded onto the crime scene like a grenade – I remember hearing about it, and can’t imagine why I didn’t read it then.

It’s a police procedural set in the Dublin Murder Squad (as are all her books) and features the murder of a 12-year old girl at a small town outside the city. The narrator and his female partner set out to investigate, but the narrator has a secret: he comes from the same place, and has a parallel story in his childhood – he survived a still-unsolved incident in which his two best friends disappeared.

It is, admittedly, a lot to swallow that he takes up the case without telling anyone this, and it is unthinkable that he could take such a major part in the new investigation, or think that the story won’t come out. But once you get past this, the book is absolutely compelling, long and satisfying (98%) and highly entertaining. The relationship between the two lead officers is very well done. At times I thought ‘hang on…’ but on the whole French is ahead of the reader – certain things will become obvious is all I’m saying. I didn’t have any trouble working out the outline of the murder, but the details were sufficiently unguessable to keep my interest. I would have had a few questions for French and her narrator at the end…

The ending is very controversial if you look online: many people were disappointed, even devastated by a certain lack of resolution. I found it uncomfortable, but can understand that the author was trying to do something specific. I would definitely have liked more information.

As ever, there is a lovely, funny, colloquial feel to it. I liked the senior policeman whose marriage has broken up:
The grapevine had picked up a series of awkward attempts at relationships, including one spectacularly unsuccessful blind date where the woman turned out to be an ex-hooker he had arrested regularly in his Vice days.
.. and the gentle introduction of a supernatural element:
‘She always said it was the pooka took them.’
This one took me by surprise. The pooka is an ancient child-scarer out of legend, a wild mischief-making descendant of Pan and ancestor of Puck. He had not been on Kiernan and McCabe’s list of persons of interest.
An absolutely brilliant thriller, one that kept me reading for hours when I should have been doing other things.

There are more books by Tana French, but don’t expect any more reviews soon. Of course I am going to be able to hold off from reading them soon, I have the willpower…

Last year I had a similar reaction to Ariana Franklin’s Adelia books – the setting of her crime novels (12th century Europe) couldn’t be more different, but I loved them and read them all in a short space of time.
















Sunday, 25 September 2016

Dress Down Sunday: The Right Kind of Underwear

 

LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES


Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars

published 1946

 
Murder Among Friends 1
 
‘You remember how she was dressed that evening at Cecily’s?’

‘I’m not likely to forget it,’ said Alice.

‘Well that was just typical of her,’ said Kitty. ‘And her underclothes too – they were always awfully good. You know what I mean, good heavy silk, well cut but no frivolity. She’d simply never have dared to wear a pair of pink satin cami-knickers or a chiffon nightdress. She’d have said in a slightly embarrassed way that she couldn’t see what use they were.’ Kitty laughed. ‘I tried to tell her once what use they were and she just looked cool and interested in my psychological peculiarities and rather amuse – by then, I suppose, she must have been able not to give away even her embarrassment. I thought marriage to Ian would cure her, but she seemed to go on being just as aloof and serious about everything…. I say, I’m sure I’m not telling you the sort of things you want to know. I’m sure Janet’s underclothes can’t have anything to do with the murder.’

‘I’m not so sure,’ said Alice. ‘The way a woman dresses and what she thinks about it always tells one a good deal about her.’

 
Murder Among Friends 2


commentary: My friend Tracy over at Bitter Tea and Mystery reviewed this in June, and I immediately ordered a copy – it has a WW2 setting (something we’re both fans of) and clothes play an important part…

I was impressed and intrigued by it – I like Ferrars, but this reads very differently from others by her. It is much less of a conventional detective story, and she was obviously trying to do something different, something very psychological.

A group of people gather for drinks in the blackout. We see the whole story through the eyes of Alice, who knows none of the other guests, only her hostess. One more guest, a writer, is due – he lives in the flat upstairs. Then, a murder takes place – discovered by a stranger – and it seems clear that it must have been someone at the party. The culprit seems obvious, and is arrested, tried and found guilty.

Alice – who was never under suspicion – thinks about the situation and the people involved, and sets out to discover more about the relationships. She wants to know what motivated the murderer. She talks to the other guests in turn, and begins to suspect that there may be more to the story. (It is interesting that she is NOT trying to prove the condemned person’s innocence to begin with, just trying to find out more.)

I’m not usually a fan of the straightforward ‘small, closed circle’ murder story – we all suspected X, but it turns out to be Y. Imagine. But this absolutely transcended the genre, I thought it was unputdownable. In fact it was more like a novel of relationships – we see the different characters through different eyes, and there are passing mentions of unmarried sex, adultery, homosexuality and abortions – these are respectable, if slightly Bohemian, people, but they have desires and make mistakes and live their lives. Alice feels that she is among ‘a group of utterly rootless people, living on their nerves, their gifts and their emotions in two-room flats’.

I found this very unusual in what might be thought of as a GA mystery. It reminded me much more of, for example, Rosamond Lehmann’s Echoing Grove, a serious novel, also full of scenes in the blackout in London. Ferrars’ characters are complex, three-dimensional, not easily divided into the bad and the good. Kitty describes herself as a young girl: ‘ I was lazy and frightfully stupid and always stuffing sweets and smoking on the quiet and telling any lie that’d make life more comfortable for me.’ I think that’s a brilliant characterisation – both the easily-imaginable teenager, and the older woman looking back with clarity.

And clothes are vital. There’s a scarf that matters, there’s a distinction between bobbed and shingled hair, and the colour of the dresses is very important. Many excellent outfits are described in detail – and, as the book says above, tell you about the character of the wearer.

Some of Ferrars’ later books resembled romantic thriller - adventures of a feisty young woman who is going to find love as well as uncover a crime – see for example this one, Alibi for a Witch. Murder Among Friends couldn’t be more different.

Top underwear ad is American and from much earlier, but looks like the right kind of thing.

The other picture, a 1940s advert, is the kind of thing Janet supposedly would avoid…


















Friday, 23 September 2016

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

 
published October 2016

 
Today Will be Different 2

[Eleanor has come to New Orleans for the engagement party of her sister Ivy]

The mansion door swung open courtesy of a courtly black man in tails with white hair and white gloves. He was Mister, the husband of Taffy. Both uniformed servants to two generations of Fannings, and hopefully a third, now that Bucky had returned from New York with, of all things, a bride.

 
Today will be different 4
 


Eleanor and Joe entered. The living room was aswish with ballgowns and tails. Just as an “Oh”” was about to escape Eleanor’s mouth – Today will be different 5she’d worn flats and a knee-length dress she had no time to iron – a mint julep was thrust into her palm. The shock of the frosty silver tumbler slapped Eleanor’s face into a smile.


“Eleanor! Joe!” It was Ivy wearing a pleated Today Will be Different 3chiffon gown, lime with orange flowers and sleeves that hung like calla lilies. She gave it a twirl. “1972 Lilly Pulitzer! It belonged to Bucky’s mother. Did you know that if you admire something, the person has to give it to you? That’s the Southern way.”
 
 


commentary: Many of my UK readers may not know what a Lilly Pulitzer dress is, so it is my pleasure to introduce the brand to them. When a fashion magazine described a style as ‘Lilly Pulitzer on acid’, a friend (in America) said ‘how could you tell?’ so I looked up the whole business and saw what she meant. LP is famed for her wild, brightly-coloured prints, striking and startling to the eye – particularly as they are very upmarket in the US, worn by women whom you might more expect to be in beige cashmere. Lilly had married into the Pulitzer family (yes that one), and was making money by selling oranges and juice at a roadside stand in the family orange groves in Florida. This was a messy business, so she designed a dress in a splashy print that wouldn’t show the stains, and her customers wanted to buy the dress too, and you can guess the rest. 


(These people's lives

None of this, no little bit, is a very UK way of carrying on, for a variety of reasons.)

 
Today Will be Different


So that’s Lilly. Now to Maria Semple, an author I love to bits. Her Where d’you Go Bernadette was one of my favourite books of 2012, and I also enjoyed her This One is Mine. The new book, like Bernadette, is set in Seattle, and part of my enjoyment is recognizing so much about the place, from the simple geography and settings to the kind of people she describes. The schoolkids will go to Wild Waves, the pedestrians will not cross the road without a WALK sign, no matter how empty of cars the road is. And there’s this:
… the epidemic of haggard women in their 40s trapped in playgrounds, slumped on boingy lady bugs, unconsciously pouring Tupperware containers of Cheerios down their own throats, sporting maternity jeans two years after giving birth and pushing swings with skunk stripes down the center of their hair.
Was the sight of us so terrifying that the entire next generation of college-educated woman declared “Anything but that!” and forsook careers altogether to pop out children in their 20s? Looking at the [school] moms, the answer would be: apparently.
I hope it works out for them.
Eleanor is a classic Semple heroine – glorious, deeply sympathetic, but also annoying, quite wicked, and mad as a box of frogs. The book follows her through the one day of the title (with frequent and extended flashbacks) via various farcical events and childcare challenges. She meets a poet and an artist, she goes to her child’s school, she worries about her husband.

Her clever confident comments on life include this:
My friend Merrill told me that on the first date, a guy without realizing it will tell you why the relationship will ultimately fail. He’ll say he doesn’t want kids, or he’s not the type to settle down, or he’s in a fight with his mother.
And
Every person has it in them to be either the Competent Traveller or the Helpless Traveller.
There are great observations, and glimpses of darkness and sadness. Eleanor at one point explains her husband’s odd behaviour with a brilliant invented story – I so wanted it to be true. I laughed a lot, and read the whole thing in a couple of hours, which fits well with its all taking place on one day.

Tucked away in the book is the astonishing true fact that the tenth President of the USA, John Tyler, was born in 1790, was president in the 1840s, and has grandsons living today. (By means of having children into his 60s).

B/W photo is a 1930s WPA picture of a New Orleans Mardi Gras ball photo from Wikimedia Commons




















Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Trespasser by Tana French

 
published 2016
 
 
Trespasser 3
Trespasser

 


It takes two rings before Lucy answers the intercom, in a voice coated with sleep. ‘‘Lo?’

Steve says, ‘Lucy Riordan?’

‘Who’s this?’

‘Detective Garda Stephen Moran. Could we have a word?’

A long second. Then Lucy says, and the sleep’s fallen off her voice, ‘I’ll be down in a minute.’

She opens the door fast and wide awake. She’s short and fit, the kind of fit you get from life, not from the gym – she wears it like it’s owned, not rented. Platinum hair with a long sweep of fringe falling in her face – pale face with clean quick features, smudges of last night’s mascara. She’s wearing a black hoodie, paint-splashed black combats, nothing on her feet, a lot of silver ear jewellery and what looks to me like a fair-sized hangover. She has bugger-all in common with Aislinn Murray, or with what I was expecting.

We have our IDs out and read. ‘I’m Detective Garda Stephen Moran,’ Steve says, ‘and this is my partner, Detective Garda Antoinette Conway.’ And he pauses. You always leave a gap there.

Lucy doesn’t even look at the IDs. She says, sharp, ‘Is it Aislinn?’
 

commentary: The book has many references to clothes: what people wear is important, the styles of Aislinn and her friend are very different, for good reasons.  We can take note of who has an expensive coat, who has nice-boy clothes. But I have an admission to make, which is that from quite early on I more or less stopped making notes, or seeing those clothes as blog fodder, or anything really except clicking my Kindle as fast as possible. It’s a long book, maybe even repetitious, it could probably have been shortened. But I ripped through it, endlessly anxious to know what happened next, and what the truth was about the case. What more can you ask for from a book?

Earlier this year I did a post on Tana French’s The Secret Place, one of the best books I’ve read this year, and one of the best new-to-me writers I’ve encountered. This is her new book about the Dublin Murder Squad, and, yes, it’s another zinger. Conway and Moran are the two detectives from the earlier book, and they’ve been given what looks like a routine domestic killing: a young woman who was preparing to entertain a young man at home has been murdered. Surely it’s obvious that her date did it? There seems to be pressure for the case to be wrapped up quickly and comfortably. Antoinette and Steve aren’t happy with that – but can’t work out exactly where the problems lie.

The interviews with Aislinn’s friends and acquaintances are very absorbing, and (as with Secret Place) the book takes place over a very short time frame – I was puzzled that a particular witness hadn’t been re-interviewed, but then realized that very little time had passed.

She’s great at descriptions and characters – you feel you know this Dublin and these Dubliners by the end – and she is very funny in glancing lines:
If she slapped him down, his inner Hulk could well have burst his good going-out jumper.
Anyone who turns herself into Barbie because that’s the only way she feels worthwhile needs a kick up the hole, but someone who does it for a revenge mission deserves a few points for determination.
She could have helped him alphabetize the feng shui section. Jaysus, the romance.
The book’s not for the faint at heart – it has harsh language and attitudes, nobody is pulling any punches. There were a few moments where I had mental arguments with the main characters – but everything was more or less resolved in the plotline. But none of that seems to matter anyway, compared with the joy of a book that pins you to your chair and makes you read it.

Blogging friend Cleo at Cleo Loves Books has done a great review of this one, with more details of the plot (she was better at making notes than I was…)

Pictures from Pinterest and ASOS.




















Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Children in Crime: A Cheating Entry

 

The Tuesday Night Bloggers  are an informal group of crime fiction fans and bloggers who choose a topic each month to discuss in posts on Tuesdays.
Our theme for September is:


BEv logo

CHILDREN IN CRIME


Thanks to Bev, as ever, for the excellent logo. Kate at Cross-Examining Crime has kindly offered to collect the links for the various pieces.



If anyone wants to join in, just send a link to one of us or post it in the comments below.


We tend to write about traditional crime fiction, often from the Golden Age – in previous weeks I chose The Bad Seed by William March (1954) and The Third Eye by Ethel Lina White (1937). This week I was short of time, but rather than post no entry, I will write about a recent French thriller – one that revolves round lost babies. So a compromise…

After the Crash by Michel Bussi

published in English in 2015, translated from the French by Sam Taylor


 
After The Crash


September 1998

Were they lovers, or brother and sister?

The question has been nagging at Mariam for almost a month… At this hour of the morning the bar was still mostly empty and Mariam took advantage of the quiet to clean tabletops and arrange chairs.
The couple were sitting, as they usually did, near the window, at a tiny table for tow, holding hands and looking deep into each other’s blue eyes.
Lovers?
Friends?
Siblings?
Mariam sighed. The lack of certainty bothered her. She generally had a keen instinct when it came to her students’ love lives. She snapped out of it: she still had to wipe down the tables and sweep the floor; in a few minutes thousands of stressed students would rush from the metro station…

IN terms of money, Emilie’s standard of living appeared to be the very opposite of Marc’s. Mariam had a knack for evaluating, in an instant, the quality and cost of the clothing worn by her students, from H&M and Zara to Yves Saint Laurent.

Emilie did not wear Yves Saint Laurent, but she wasn’t far off. What she was wearing today – a simple, elegant orange silk blouse and a black asymmetrical skirt – had undoubtedly cost a fortune. Emilie and Marc might be from the same place, but they did not belong to the same world.

And yet they were inseparable.
 
 
commentary: A passage from near the beginning of this book, which is a French thriller with bestseller status wherever it is published. It has a great setup: it begins with a plane crashing into a mountain in 1980. Everyone on board is killed, except for a baby found near the wreckage. But there is nothing to indicate who she is, and there were two girls of the right age on the plane - she could be either. Both sets of grandparents step forward to claim the child, each set convinced they are the rightful ancestors – each has already lost son and daughter-in-law in the crash. One family is very rich, one is very poor. An agonizing court case follows. At the time there was no easy way to identify the correct family.

The main part of the book starts 18 years later, when the young woman (Emilie above) and Marc – who might be her brother or might not – get some information. A private eye has been pursuing the case all this time, paid by the rich family, still trying to collect evidence which will establish her birth.

She and Marc have their own worries, and what on earth has happened to the investigator? Extracts from his notebook tracing the events over the years are interspersed with events in 1998.

The years and timing of the book have been chosen, you would say, for one particular reason: in 1980 there was no possibility of DNA testing to establish who were the grandparents. Bussi (and his private eye) then give good careful reasons why the DNA test did not immediately resolve the situation when it did come over the horizon. 

Everything comes to a climax as Emilie approaches her 18th birthday, and the story swirls round France then and now, with much action and several deaths.

My friend Christine Poulson wrote about this book on her blog recently – that’s what prompted me to take it down off the shelf in fact – and said she guessed early on what was going on. I didn’t – though I did have a plot turn idea that I frankly think was better than the author’s. I found the first half very compelling, the second half rather less so but kept reading because I did want to know the explanation for various items, and exactly who Emilie was. It’s certainly a rattling good yarn, and excellent holiday reading. (Unless you are in an aeroplane anywhere near a mountain of course… ) I think afterwards you start thinking of rather obvious questions and objections, but that’s fair play for a page-turning thriller.

I enjoyed reading the book mostly because it was so very French, in a way I find it hard to define. The private eye was like a character from 50 years ago, and his florid writing style in his journal wouldn’t do at all in the UK, but seemed to fit him. In fact he is very like the private eye in Sebastian Japrisot’s Very Long Engagement, which is set in the 1920s – this was my picture for him in the blogpost:

 
After the Crash 2

- and he seems in a line going back to Inspector Javert from Les Miserables – the portentous air, the declaiming, the conviction of rightness and high moral tone.

Everyone’s attitudes seem endlessly French – I cannot explain it better than that. I loved Robert Harris’s French-set book on the Dreyfus affair, Officer and Spy, but it was always the work of an Englishman, you could never confuse him with a French writer.

Café pic is from Wikimedia Commons, taken by Sali Sasaki.



























Thursday, 15 September 2016

Christie Firsts: The Best Introductory Books

 
Christie firsts
Our heroine, Agatha
 


Kate Jackson is a fellow Tuesday Night Club-er and crime fiction fan who blogs as Cross-Examining Crime, and she had a brilliant idea for marking the birthday of the blessed Agatha Christie today, 15th September, in this, the 40th year after her death.

She said:
On this day I decided to do a post called Christie Firsts which suggests to new Christie readers which novels are the best introduction to Poirot, Marple, the Beresfords, Superintendent Battle, Christie's thrillers and Christie's stand alone novels. I've done my picking and given a reason why.

And then she extended the challenge to other bloggers. So I wasn’t going to miss that chance. These are my choices, and Kate will list other people’s as well as her own over at her blog.


So – these are chosen with a view to best introducing a new reader to Christie… (links are to reviews on this blog)

 
Christie firsts 1
Looks innocent. Ancient photos provide the clues
 

For Hercule Poirot: Mrs McGinty’s Dead My favourite Poirots tend to be the 40s and 50s ones, and this is slap bang in the period (1952) and a very appealing entry. It contains proper detection, and there is the excellent setup: Mrs McG died after saving a newspaper cutting about former murderers. Which of them is lurking in this very English village – who has a secret worth killing for? Anyone who believes, incorrectly, that Poirot deals humourlessly and over-respectfully with aristocracy in stately homes should read this one and be surprised. The details of life in the 50s are splendid too, and the hideous b&b is glorious.


 
Christie firsts 2
Land girls, impersonation and the black market
 


For Miss Marple: A Murder is Announced. (1950) Village life after WW2 – and far from being cozy despite surface appearances. The local paper contains an advert for a murder to take place that night: Is it a game or a joke? Everyone turns up at the address given, and someone dies. The plot is ludicrous, but everything else is excellent – great structure, a large cast of well-defined characters (some of whom seem like stereotypes, but then you never know with Christie), and great conversations and pictures of life, and of the uncertainties after the war. A really memorable Marple.



Colonel Race/standalone/foreign setting/flapperChristie firsts 4 adventure: One book to cover all of these: The Man in the Brown Suit (1924). This is a good introduction to Christie because it is such an enjoyable and unexpected book – it’s not particularly typical of her later work in fact, but the roots are all there – it’s funny, contains some wonderful female characters and some very clever tricks. Travel details (if not crimes) based on Christie's own round-the-world journey - that's her on board ship to the right.


For Superintendent Battle: Towards Zero (1944) Clever, well-worked out, nice characters and dialogue. A nasty murder and a chilling plot in an enjoyable holiday setting – there’s a lot of the ‘psychology’ she often mentions rather randomly, but in this case it is beautifully woven into an excellent plot.


Now I’m supposed to pick a Tommy & Tuppence book to recommend, but oh, look at the time! Must dash!... I'm supposed to be persuading you to read Christie not putting you off, after all. (But you can read about Secret Adversary and N or M? on the blog if you want to…)



Thanks to Kate for a great idea – do go over and look at her blog.