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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #10
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on January 18, 2011 (first published 1934)
Source: Won
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 265
Format: Paperback
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“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

I had wanted to read Murder on the Orient Express again before watching the movie, and was lucky enough to win a copy in a Goodreads giveaway. This is at least the third time I’ve read it, but it’s one of those ones that I wish I could re-read for the first time. The solution is so perfect, but also so memorable.

Poirot is one of my favorite all-time detective and this particular mystery showcases his reasoning skills. The setting is perfect, a group of people are trapped in a train stuck in the snow, and clearly there is a killer on board. There is no access to people’s records, no way to check on their true identities, not contact with the outside world at all. I’ll grant you he manages to make some leaps in his deductions, but that’s part of his charm. It’s by no means a fair mystery, the reader can’t solve it, but I do love how all the clues and red herrings work together. I can’t say that the characters are well-developed, they’re mostly stereotypes, but that makes sense given the story.

Murder on the Orient Express is a low-key mystery. It’s mostly people talking, telling their versions of events. There is some hunting for clues, going through peoples luggage, building timelines, but there’s not much action, unlike in the trailer. There is some implied danger, but on re-readings that sense is lost a little.

Of course, I’m still looking forward to the movie. And the cast looks great.

About Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller; 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote the world’s longest-running play, a murder mystery, The Mousetrap, and six romances under the name Mary Westmacott. In 1971 she was elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her contribution to literature.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

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The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Series: Inspector Alan Grant #5
Published by Dell on 1968 (first published 1951)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 189
Format: Paperback
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Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a heinous villain — a king who killed his brother's children to secure his crown? Grant seeks what kind of man Richard was and who in fact killed the princes in the tower.

I picked up The Daughter of Time at the local used bookstore a year or so ago. i had no idea what it was about and had never read anything by Josephine Tey before, but it’s one of those mysteries – the ones that make it onto the “best” lists, the ones that any true mystery lover should read.

The title refer to a quote from Francis Bacon: “Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.” It’s the same idea as history is written by the victor. Not all “history” is strictly truth, it’s a version someone has told that has stuck. I wish I knew more about British history, particularly Richard III, or that I had read Shakespeare’s play. If I go back to read this again, I may do a little research first. That being said, it is truly an enjoyable book on its own.

Our detective, Alan Grant, is laid up in the hospital and a friend, Marta, brings him a bunch of pictures including one of Richard III to help soothe his boredom. He becomes fascinated with the portrait, not seeing in the face the murderer that Richard III is known to be.

King Richard III by an unknown artist, late 16th century. Image from the National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/

What follows is a mystery unlike any I’ve read, at least as far as I can remember. Grant, along with the help of a young historian, sets out to learn the truth about whether Richard was truly responsible for his nephews’ deaths. We never leave the hospital room, no one is ever in danger, the players in the mystery are all long-dead, but it still grabbed my attention. It’s a fascinating story and Tey does an excellent job at presenting the evidence. It’s also a good reminder that not all facts can be taken at face value. I don’t know if he killed the nephews or not, but I don’t know that it matters to this particular story.

I don’t pass mysteries onto my mother very often, but I think this is one that I’ll send her way. It’s that good. Really, it’s amazing how engrossing a story it manages to be for nothing really happening, except lots and lots of research and reasoning. I did get a little confused with all the names and positions at times, but there are several times when Grant reviews everything which always helped straighten me out.

About Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth MacKintosh (25 July 1896 – 13 February 1952), a Scottish author best known for her mystery novels. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alan Grant.

The first of these, ‘The Man in the Queue’ (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot, whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 1929 novels, ‘Kit An Unvarnished History’. She also used the Daviot by-line for a biography of the 17th century cavalry leader John Graham, which was entitled ‘Claverhouse’ (1937). Mackintosh also wrote plays (both one act and full length), some of which were produced during her lifetime, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot. These plays often featured biblical or historical themes.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay

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The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay
Narrator: Gordon Griffin, Anne Dover
Published by Soundings on November 25, 2015 (first published 1936)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Length: 8 hrs 21 mins
Format: Audiobook
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A classic country-house murder mystery, 'The Santa Klaus Murder' begins with Aunt Mildred declaring that no good could come of the Melbury family Christmas gathering at their country residence Flaxmere. So when Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is discovered — by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus —with a bullet in his head on Christmas Day, the festivities are plunged into chaos.

Nearly every member of the party stands to reap some sort of benefit from Sir Osmond’s death, but Santa Klaus, the one person who seems to have every opportunity to fire the shot, has no apparent motive. Various members of the family have their private suspicions about the identity of the murderer, but in the midst of mistrust, suspicion, and hatred, it emerges that there was not one Santa Klaus but two.

The Santa Klaus Murder is a vintage mystery, set in a country home where the family, and a couple of others, are together to celebrate Christmas. Add in a murder and it should be a perfect read for me. Unfortunately, I found it rather lackluster.

It starts off slow, with members of the household telling their version of the events leading up to the murder. Sir Osmond was not a nice father, overbearing and holding the children’s inheritance over their heads so that they would marry someone he deemed appropriate. Everyone had their own reasons for not liking the man. I was listening to the audio version and it got a little confusing as to who was who. It definitely picked up once Colonel Halstock takes charge of the investigation, but it’s still has a few too many problems for me to really recommend it.

– Just too many characters. Maybe it was because I was listening to the audio, but between the family, servants, kids, invited and uninvited guests, it was tough to keep track of who was who and what they’re relationships were. Should I be aghast that Mr. A was actually in Miss C’s room or not surprised? Whose kids are those again? Maybe because there were so many, I never really cared about any of them.

– Colonel Halstock has known the family for years, which is fine and worked well. However, a “friend” of one of the women shows up and offers to help in the investigation and he just kind of accepts it. Obviously, he’s a good guy and no suspicion should be attached to him, even if he arrived pretty much immediately and is the ex(?) of one of the women. After all, how could an actor possibly fool you.

– Even for a mystery, some things are just harped on, like the timetable and which doors people went in and out of. And the doggone crackers. I got so tired of the crackers.

– One secondary character’s actions seemed a little over the top, even given his position.

It just wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, given the blurb. On the other hand, there are only so many Christmas mysteries so I can’t really regret the time I spent listening to this one.

About Mavis Doriel Hay

Mavis Doriel Hay (1894–1979) was a novelist of the golden age of British crime fiction. Her three detective novels – The Santa Klaus Murder, Murder Underground and Death on the Cherwell – were all published in the 1930s. She was an expert on rural handicraft and wrote several books on the subject.

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