Mini-Review: Murder in the Mews (Hercule Poirot #18) by Agatha Christie


Murder in the Mews is a collection of four short stories/novellas featuring Hercule Poirot.  Overall, they are enjoyable but I believe that Christie is at her best with full length novels.  The first story, Murder in the Mews, was the star of this bunch.  Is it suicide?  Is it murder?

Now that I’ve seen all of the BBC Poirot adaptations (with the exception of Curtain which I don’t think I will ever be prepared for mentally), it’s interesting to match the written story with the screen story.  I vividly recall the details of the MitM adaptation and it actually made reading this more interesting, which is rare.

3.5/5 stars and a must read for fans.

Mini-Review: Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot #15) by Agatha Christie


Cards on the Table has an interesting twist – Christie gave us a finite number of suspects (4) and it’s clear from the start that the killer is one of that group.  This results in a tighter net for Poirot and more focus on a limited number of characters.  Overall, COTT is a strong addition to the series.

However, three things kept me from giving this 5-stars.  First, the casual use of ethnic slurs may have been common at the time but it’s still disconcerting for a modern reader.  In this case it’s the use of a slur against Italians.  I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard to tell if Christie herself felt superior or if she is making a point that her characters feel superior to certain nationalities, races or social strata.  Either way, it pulls me out of enjoying the reading experience.

Second, and I believe this is the first time I’ve had this complaint with Christie, it’s a personal pet peeve of mine when an author ‘learns’ a new word and overuses it.  In this case the word is “Mephistophelian” to describe the look and demeanor of the victim.  Use it once, okay.  Use it twice, twitch but okay.  Five plus times and I’m rolling my eyes.  Just say devilish for goodness sake.

Lastly, the ending.  While I am a fan of the red herring, this one didn’t quite work for me.  I recognized the device and waited for the big reveal.  There were too many conveniences and coincidences for my liking.

Okay, this sounds like I didn’t like it, but really, I did.  4/5 stars.

Mini-Review: A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple #5) by Agatha Christie


If you’ve read any of my prior Christie reviews, you will know that I absolutely love Poirot but feel ambivalent towards Miss Marple.  Her stories do not resonate with me and I find them significantly less enjoyable.

A Murder is Announced isn’t a bad book but there really is nothing special about it.  Miss Marple titters around talking about human nature and how so and so in the village did X so it must mean that the killer did Y.  They really are all that same formula.  And, don’t think I’m being dismissive of a female led series.  It simply is what it is.  Christie calls Miss Marple an old woman and generalizes that all old women in these villages are the same.

Having said that, some of the mysteries are better than others.  Unfortunately, in this case, I figured out a good portion of the big reveal pretty early on.  That’s always a disappointment because I expect Christie to trick me.  Here it was pretty clear what would be a “big shock” for the denouement.

Lastly, just as a note…I cannot determine if Christie herself hated anyone who wasn’t English or if she just wrote many characters who were xenophobic.  I have a tendency to give her the benefit of the doubt since Poirot was Belgian and experienced discrimination for being a foreigner.  I always felt that Christie intended for us to be sympathetic towards him.  But, sometimes, I’m not quite sure.  There are so many negative references to foreigners (well, honestly, anyone different whether it be nationality, race or social status).  Books should reflect the times in which they are set and I’m not a fan of revisionist history.  So, if this is accurate for ‘society in England’ at this time so be it.  It is, however, rather jarring to read with today’s sensibilities.

2.5/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot #12) by Agatha Christie


Death in the Clouds in a fairly standard Poirot mystery – which still rates a 3.5-4 star result. Working my way through the series, I have become enamored of the character. He has many idiosyncrasies and personality quirks which make him one of the most iconic characters in not only classic mysteries but literature in general. One of my favorite traits is his affection for women of a certain type. He seems to favor strong, sassy and formidable women. I like that. A lot! In Death in the Clouds, his femme choisie is Jane Grey – a hairdresser who is drawn into helping him solve the murder.

Ce que c’est drôle.

Mini-Review: The Moving Finger (Miss Marple #4) by Agatha Christie


HMMMM…In a recent review of a Poirot mystery, I said that I thought Christie may have begun writing the novel as a stand alone and then added Poirot as a character in the later stages.  I felt the exact same way with The Moving Finger.  Miss Marple makes her first appearance on page 142 out of 200.  She plays a very minor role.  What’s interesting to me is that the story worked very well as a stand alone and would have been fine without her presence. I wonder why she decided to bring her in.

Regardless, it’s another great Christie mystery.  4/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Dreams and Slumbers (October Daye #10.1) by Seanan McGuire

Dreams and Slumbers picks up just after the events of Once Broken Faith (spoilers for the series to that point may follow.)

Arden, Queen of the Mists, now has the potion to wake her brother from the elf-shot spell he has been under for 80 years.  She’s excited but also very nervous.  Things don’t go as planned and she has to enlist the help of Walther, Cassandra (Stacie’s daughter and Karen’s older sister – remember that she was also kidnapped by Blind Michael) and the Luidaeg to save him.

This is another great addition to the October Daye series.  McGuire makes the most of these short stories.  They fill in some of the blanks that she just can’t give us as part of the main series.  We learn more about the secondary characters and their motivations.  It was nice to get to know more about Arden and Cassandra, especially.

4/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Murder for Christmas aka Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Hercule Poirot #20) by Agatha Christie


As one of the characters said, I would have liked to experienced more of a classic English Christmas with all the traditional goodies. But, instead, this is a fairly standard Poirot mystery that simply has Christmas as the back drop. Still full of Christie twists and turns; just not quite what I was hoping for.

4/5 stars.