Agatha Christie - Shastrix Books

Agatha Christie

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Poirot's Early Cases

Poirot's Early Cases

15th December 2018

As I approach the end of my decade-long read-through of the Hercule Poirot series, I come to this collection of short stories. The stories are all from early in Poirot’s career, before he was an internationally renowned detective, and were originally published relatively early in Christie’s career, although not collected like this until the end.

It’s a nice dip of the toe into the world of Poirot, but generally I found it frustrating that each of the stories was so short - they don’t contain the depth that I’ve come to expect from the mystery, and there’s not really any opportunity to work it out for yourself as a reader, given the very limited page count.

The beauty of Christie’s writing, to me, is in her ability to feed me clues at just the right pace that I can work it out at the perfect speed along with the narrative - and in these cases I don’t have the chance to do that.

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Elephants Can Remember

Elephants Can Remember

25th July 2018

Nearing the end of the Poirot canon, this story follows the elderly detective as he’s asked to investigate a very cold case - as the mother-in-law-to-be of a young woman digs to find out what really happened to her parents.

It’s a complicated case, and leads to the usual approach of interviewing a rich variety of witnesses, gathering seemingly random pieces of information before putting together a startling conclusion.

In this case, I felt that some aspects were a little too obvious. And yet other things that really stood out to me turned out to be red herrings, and I think almost too much so - it felt more like the truth was hidden behind distractions rather than assembled from little jigsaw pieces.

Overall though a good story, and one that does the series justice as the final ‘regular’ episode.

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Hallowe'en Party

Hallowe'en Party

4th May 2017

I've lost count of what number this is in Agatha Christie's epic series of Poirot stories, but it's certainly one of the later ones, and yet retains the charm, comedy and mastery of mystery that she wrote throughout.

Although a seemingly simple tale from the outset, it becomes increasingly more complex. I'm not sure whether I was distracted, but the resolution had me baffled right up to the end, and honestly it felt like it may have been a bit over complex towards the conclusion.

Perhaps not one of the best in the series, or one that I would recommend, but definitely a worthy entry in the canon and an entertaining read.

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Third Girl

Third Girl

6th July 2016

I decided to do something different with this Poirot novel. Instead of just read along, get a bit confused between characters, and eventually stumble upon the right answer moments before the big reveal, I would take copious notes, in the form of triples, that would mean I could take in the entire plot, make logical connections, identify contradictions, and come to some sensible conclusions as early as possible.

I started taking notes on my phone's notepad application, then when that proved awkward and slow switched to scribbling longhand notes in a notebook. I managed to keep this up into chapter seven. A week had passed, and I was barely making any progress with the story. Perhaps I was noting down too much - but how did I tell what was important and what wasn't? I gave up on this approach and continued reading in the more traditional manner.

Third Girl has an interesting set up for Poirot, in that it isn't clear at the start of the story if a murder has taken place or not, and much of the narrative is focused on investigations that are different from the usual. Christie once again makes great use of her crime-author character, Ariadne Oliver, to add some fantastic comic moments to the plot and keep the story flowing.

It's another good mystery from the leader in her class. Christie puts together a complex plot, and I just about managed to work out one of the key secrets that came at the end, while many more managed to slip past unnoticed and left me feeling surprised at what I'd missed.

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The Clocks

The Clocks

2nd February 2016

Agatha Christie's The Clocks continues the theme of Poirot novels without really featuring the character for most of the narrative, as if the author head by this point become horrifically bored of her star detective but has to keep him in for the marketing value of his name on the cover.

It's a fairly straightforward story with a mix of suspects, clues and red herring that you might expect, with an interesting subplot between some of the characters. It doesn't really add anything dramatically new, and a lot if the clues seemed fairly obvious and I managed to successfully work out the solution before the reveal.

The best feature of this novel is actually the humour. Christie writes with sharp sarcasm introducing a wide range of quite deep characters as witnesses are visited and interviewed by the investigators. There are many winks to a knowing audience and this I absolutely loved.

An average Christie novel I think, though worth it if you've read a few for some good fun.

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The Secret Adversary

The Secret Adversary

24th September 2015

I picked up this first novel in Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence series much earlier than I'd planned - partly inspired by the recent TV series (despite not having watched it), but mainly because we agreed for it to be the first book we read in our small new book club.

The story opens with quite formal language, which was a little surprising, as we meet the characters and they dive into some exposition to introduce themselves. Abruptly switching tack, they become the best of friends and set out on an adventure.

The writing style reminded me a lot of Wodehouse, and the narrative is particularly dialogue driven - much of the action being summed up in flashback from one character to another. There are a lot of light-hearted moments, and it was certainly an enjoyable tale.

Of the main characters, Tuppence is well defined from the start, but Tommy seemed quite bland and generic until about halfway through where he is described by another character - and from that moment on he seems to obtain that persona. The other characters are varied, and a few are explored well while others feel like wallpaper.

The adventure itself is as convoluted as one would expect from Christie, and while there is one big give away moment, the reader needs to carefully follow the twisting plot and drip-fed clues to work out what's really going on. All the necessary information is there - but still Christie managed to catch me out.

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The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

26th July 2015

Almost certainly the most unusually titled entry in the Poirot series, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding put me in mind of episodes of the Postman Pat and Vicar of Dibley TV series, in which each of the title characters have to eat too much at Christmas. However that’s not the case here, where in fact this is just one of a collection of short stories released under this banner.

The first two stories are fantastic, and depict Poirot at the height of his abilities, and Christie presents both in a way that leaves the reader wanting more. Both carry the rich array of characters and intrigue that make the series so strong, and the mystery is pleasantly and enjoyably resolved.

The three later Poirot stories in this collection didn’t quite grip me with the same intensity - while they are all good mysteries, they didn’t feel quite as substantial and indeed in two of them I felt it was rather too obvious what was going on.

The final story provides an interesting twist, as I was thrown back into the world of Miss Marple - a character who I thought I had read everything about, and it was very nice to experience a story again from that perspective, even though it suffered similarly to the two earlier books in being rather obvious what was going on.

All in all, a nice little collection, with a couple of chunky substantial stories and some other short diversions.

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Other reviewed books

Cat Among the Pigeons
Dead Man's Folly
Hickory Dickory Dock
After the Funeral
Mrs McGinty's Dead
Taken at the Flood
The Labours of Hercules
The Hollow
Five Little Pigs
Evil Under the Sun
One, Two, Buckle my Shoe
Sad Cypress
Hercule Poirot's Christmas
Appointment with Death
Murder in the Mews
Death on the Nile
Dumb Witness
Cards on the Table
Murder in Mesopotamia
The ABC Murders
Death in the Clouds
Three Act Tragedy
Murder on the Orient Express
Lord Edgware Dies
Peril at End House
Black Coffee
The Mystery of the Blue Train
The Big Four
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Poirot Investigates
The Murder on the Links
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Miss Marple's Final Cases
Sleeping Murder
Nemesis
At Bertram's Hotel
A Caribbean Mystery
The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
4.50 From Paddington
A Pocket Full of Rye
They Do It With Mirrors
A Murder Is Announced
The Moving Finger

Unreviewed books

And Then There Were None
By the Pricking of My Thumbs
Curtain
Death Comes as the End
Destination Unknown
N or M?
Parker Pyne Investigates
Postern of Fate
The 13 Problems
The Body in the Library
The Hound of Death
The Listerdale Mystery
The Man in the Brown Suit
The Murder at the Vicarage
The Mysterious Mr Quin
The Sittaford Mystery
Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Top books

  1. Cat Among the Pigeons
  2. Poirot's Early Cases
  3. Evil Under the Sun
  4. Hercule Poirot's Christmas
  5. Mrs McGinty's Dead
  6. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
  7. Death on the Nile