A Weekend With Murderers

June 22, 2012 at 3:15 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Its been an interesting, though depressing weekend of books, while I was away from the computer. Since my modem had burned up and we were patiently waiting for a new one, I decided to sit down and have as much as a reading marathon as possible with a toddler in my midst. So between a whole lot of picture and board books, I was on a mission to tick some loitering TBRs off my end table…

…Starting with Native Son by Richard Wright. I didn’t make it. I had to stop after book one, about a hundred pages into the novel. The book seriously stressed me out, and although I plan to finish it one day, I think it will take me many months of sitting down with twenty or so pages at a time. I don’t think I would have made it reading it as a student for class, so I’m thankful it was never part of my own required reading. Keep in mind, I tried to sit down with this book immediately after finishing Of Mice and Men. Clearly too much needless killing for one sitting.

So I set it aside, but moved onto to the worst choice ever: Albert Camus’ The Stranger was next on the list, the first time in my life not reading the back cover has bit me in the butt. So I go from one fear killing to another fear killing dipped in racism and onto just plain killing with no rhyme or reason. Good thing The Stranger is only about 150 pages long, or it would have been cast aside with Bigger.

All these “helpless” humans killing other humans. I got really irritated, more than a little sad, and switched over to some nonfiction where I polished the weekend off with a whole lot of Astrology and Astronomy books for a little research project. As someone who personally knows someone in prison for two accounts of attempted murder, I just have a hard time buying into the helpless unintentional killings, unless we’re talking self defense or the mentally disabled (like in Of Mice and Men).

What have you been reading?

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Agatha, Eggs, and Book Hounds

June 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In my pursuit to read all things Agatha Christie, I have been reading through her entire Crime Collection.  It’s a 23 month program that I set up for myself.  I love reading things in lists this way, but the only draw back is in getting an awful lot of Christie at once.  In doing that, I found one I didn’t care for a lot faster than I would otherwise.  Three Act Tragedy just didn’t do it for me.  It wasn’t as exciting, it wasn’t a page-turner.  I’m not sure if its my mood, if this one just isn’t my style, or if its Egg.  Yes, I have a problem with Egg, and in a bit of stream of consciousness, I will tell you why.

I’m not sure if I don’t like her character or if I’m just hung up on her name.  I just know for certain that I can’t go along with the idea of naming a character Egg.  It really bothers me.  The only remotely forgivable occasion is in True Blood, where there is a rather tall gentleman by the name of Eggs.  1. He’s a dude.  2. There’s an ‘S’ which gives me the impression that maybe its supposed to be his last name. 3. You can call anyone almost anything in the South, but Europeans should be a little more respectable in my opinion.  I can say that, I’m from Texas.

I read “Egg” and am immediately filled with images and smells:

* green lights, The Great Gatsby, and eggs for neighborhoods

* lots of colors, Easter egg hunts, odors from the yard due to un-found treasures (yuck)

* yummy smells, too…. breakfast. omelette.  Hobo omelette are the best.

* the feel of a cold egg cracking under my fingertips, I like the sound of the crack too

Good or bad, none of these sounds, smells, and recollections should be brought to mind from a charismatic female character in a murder mystery.  How funny, too, that she even says “That is a bit catastrophic. To go through life as a Mugg -” in reference to another’s name.  Whereas I think, more catastrophic than to be called “Egg”?  While pondering this, Sir Charles interrupts my thoughts with some chatter about the murder and then says, “Oh, damn, why do I beat around the bush?” At that, my middle school humor kicks in and I begin to giggle as Egg is being spoken to by a man who used the word ‘beat.’  I immediately feel the need to make a Quiche, or a cheesecake, rather than solve a murder.  Although Poirot is the best sleuth around and it is said that he has an egg-shaped head.

Oh Hercule Poirot! “That man! Is he back in England?” “Yes.” “Why has he come back?” “Why does a dog go hunting?” – 3rd Act, Part 10

Although, naming a character Sir Bartholemew Strange nearly makes up for this little irritation about the Egg.  In fact, it would be a great name for a dog.  I would call him Bartie for short, and I think perhaps he should be a hound of some kind.  I have a beagle named Geoffrey Chaucer, perhaps Bartie could be the Walker Hound of my future.  I’d love to have a Jack Russell named Agatha.  Mmmm, no, not a Jack Russell.  I’d like Agatha to be a Fox Hound…

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Titles, Actresses, and of Course Murder… Oh My!

April 30, 2012 at 6:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

First Edition UK Cover 1933

Title: Lord Edgware Dies/ 13 At Dinner

Author: Agatha Christie

Going through my own personal Agatha Christie Crime Collection challenge, next on my list for April was 13 At Dinner.  My copies are leather bound editions with 3 titles per volume, in no particular order, so I thought my eyes were just going bad when I couldn’t find the title.  Finally I settled on 13 Problems and thought I was ready to go, but opening it up, something didn’t feel right.  So it was back to the internet to check over my list.

That’s when I discovered that 13 At Dinner was originally published as Lord Edgware Dies, and low and behold, I actually have a copy of THAT.  The story follows the trail of a woman suspected of murdering her husband because, quite frankly, she told everyone he would and then he drops dead.  It happens during a dinner party at which there are 13 guests, hence the republished title.  But that doesn’t explain why they chose to retitle the book.

I was doing a little research into this phenomena, and discovered that this happens quite often especially in crime fiction.  For Christie alone, there’s a fabulously long list of retitles, mostly between the first edition UK and the first edition US:

After the Funeral  (UK) = Funerals are Fatal (US)

Death in the Clouds (UK) = Death in the Air (US)

Destination Unknown  (UK) = So Many Steps to Death (US)

Dumb Witness (UK) = Poirot loses a Client

(US) Five little Pigs (UK) = Murder in Retrospect (US)

4.50 From Paddington (UK) = What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw (US)

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (UK) = Murder for Christmas (US)

Hickory, Dickory Dock (UK ) = Hickory, Dickory Death (US)

The Hollow (UK) = Murder after Hours (US)

Lord Edgware Dies (UK) = Thirteen at Dinner (US)

The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side (UK) = The Mirror Crack’d (US)

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (UK) = Blood will Tell (US)

The Mousetrap (UK) = Three Blind Mice (US)

Murder in the Mews (UK) = Dead Man’s Mirror (US)

Murder is Easy (UK) = Easy to Kill (US)

Murder on the Orient Express (UK) = Murder in the Calais Coach (US)

One, Two, Buckle my Shoe (UK) = The Patriotic Murders (US)

Parker Pyne Investigates (UK) = Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (US)

Poirot’s Early Cases (UK) = Hercule Poirot’s Early Cases (US)

The Sittaford Mystery (UK) = Murder at Hazelmoor (US)

Sparkling Cyanide (UK) = Remembered Death (US)

Taken at the Flood (UK) = There is a Tide (US)

Ten Little Niggers (Original UK) = And Then There Were None (Current UK) = Ten Little Indians (US)

They do it with Mirrors (UK) = Murder with Mirrors (US)

The Thirteen Problems (UK) = The Tuesday Club Murders (US) T

hree-Act Tragedy (UK) = Murder in Three Acts (US)

Why Didn’t they Tell Evans? (UK) = The Boomerang Clue (US) T

– taken from http://www.gaslightbooks.com.au/checklists/mchanges.html

While looking into that little curiousity, I stumbled onto another bit of fun.  One of the characters in this particular Poirot adventure is based off a real historical person.  Inspired would be more correct, as Ruth Draper wasn’t going around getting herself killed.  Christie’s actress Carlotta Adams was an invention conceived from watching the American actress Ruth Draper in action.

Draper was known for her monologues, ability to become something new with few props, and to immitate anyone.  When Christie discovered Draper she thought “[…] how clever she was and how good her impersonations were; the wonderful way she could transform herself from a nagging wife to a peasant girl kneeling in a cathedral. Thinking about her led me to the book Lord Edgware Dies.” (from Christie’s autobiography which I desperately need to read!).

Apparently, Draper loved to perform at parties as well as on Broadway.  It was said that she would watch people, taking note on all their little quirks and behaviors, and then turn what she gathered of them into one-person sketch, worthy of all sorts of accolades.  She traveled throughout Europe as well and was quite the sensation.  The character of Carlotta Adams is one in the same, aside from the small little detail that she doesn’t live to the ripe age of 70 because she gets wrapped up in a murder mystery.

I’m enjoying my weekly sit downs with Christie, and Lord Edgware Dies has been no exception.  Its fun, interesting, and Poirot always keeps me on my toes.

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Evenings With Agatha

January 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title:Murder on the Links

Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery

Length: 173 pages

One of the most wonderful parts of January has been the cold – and Agatha Christie.  At the start of the year, I committed myself to a 23 month plan to read all of the Agatha Christie Crime Collection, of which I own a beautiful black and red leather set.

The picture may be old, but its the same fireside.

In the evenings, my daughter and I light the fire in the fireplace, turn on the radio (its one of those old school looking wooden ones from Target, complete with turntable, cd player, and tape deck) and jazz immediately warms the living room with sound.

I keep my Scentsy burners on constantly and this month we’ve had a lot of Honey Peared Cider, Weathered Leather, and Cozy Fireside going.

Ayla, my daughter, is 14 months old.  The jazz comes on and suddenly its dancing time!  We sway and swing until the tea kettle is ready (it doesn’t whistle to my utter chagrin), and then curl up together and I read aloud the selected Agatha Christie for the evening.

This is the one time of day that we spend in the living room, most of our ‘living’ happens in the library where all my books and Ayla’s play mats are.  How silly of us that our living room is where we do all our reading on death and murder.

This arrangement is everything I imagined would be wonderful about spending time with my daughter, and Agatha always lives up to her end of the deal, with all the excitement of a three ring circus.

In this second installment of the Poirot investigations, Poirot cleverly and humorously antagonizes other detectives as he and the narrator, Hastings, solve the crime together.  If I said anything more, I would give away all the best parts!

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Christie the Queen of Mystery

January 7, 2012 at 3:01 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Mysterious Affair at Styles

Author: Agatha Christie

Buy Now!

Join Hercule Poirot in Christie’s classic whodunit series, starting with the first!  The lady of the house of Styles is poisoned and it’s up to Poirot and the narrator to uncover the culprit.

I’m sure you’ve heard that Christie is the mother of all mystery, and after reading my second Christie mystery ever, I must say I understand where that idea comes from.  I was reading another blog today (http://resolution52.com/adventures-in-resolution52) and the writers really summed my thoughts on Agatha Christie and the mystery world up well when they wrote:

 Agatha does it better – but, without Doyle, she probably wouldn’t have done it at all.

You can feel the cornerstone in the structure politely put in place by Doyle’s existence as a writer, but despite my deep love for Sherlock Holmes, you can tell Christie really mastered the whodunit art.

I’m on a mission to read all of Agatha Christie’s crime collection and starting at the beginning did not disappoint.  Christie’s cozy mysteries make for pleasant little “FridayReads” (if you’re a twitter follower you know how much I love those) and I look forward to continue my year with Poirot!  And soon after following with Miss Marple and the rest.

The goal is to finish the entire crime collection in 23 months, starting now.  I’ll be reading three titles a month, so feel free to join me for some or all: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/79392/discussions/418226/Agatha-Christie

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The Ghost and Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly

November 29, 2009 at 8:53 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

The first of the Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series is adorable.  I want to shop Buy the Book (a small bookstore that reminds me of Houston’s Murder By the Book), hug Penelope McClure, and exchange witty dialogue with her resident ghost P.I. Jack Shepard.  Like her Coffee House Mystery Series (written under the name Cleo Coyle), Alice Kimberly’s bookshop murders are fun, endearing, and most importantly, cozy.

Buy it Here!

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