Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

The Lee's have gathered at their father's home for Christmas. A millionaire twice over Simon Lee evokes strong passion among-st his children. When Simon lee a day before Christmas announces his desire to change his will to include new members it is evidently not taken well with his family.

While the Lee's are having dinner and coffee downstairs they suddenly hire a blood curling cry from the floor above. They all rush towards their father's chamber but the door is locked from inside. They break down the door and find Mr Lee's throat slit and his blood splattered all over the room.

Luckily Poirot is at hand to help the local police solve the crime.

Review: I have often stated that the best Poirot books are the one's where he works alone where he does not have his Watson around i.e. Arthur Hastings. This one is another example in support of that deduction.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Endless Night by Agatha Christie

Endless Night by Agatha Christie
Michael Rogers is a young and handsome fellow, who one day dreams of owning his own house and living there with the women that he would love. The only obstacle in his dream coming true is that he does not even have a farthing. Michael does odd jobs and never stays at one job for too long, his life is aimless and stuck in an endless loop. But everything changes for Mike when he meets Ellie.
Ellie is a sweet, beautiful 20 year old who also apparently happens to be an American heiress to an oil empire. Ellie has lived a protected life and her overbearing family has never her let live freely, she wants to get away from America and has come on one of her escapes to England from her mundane life. A chance meeting between the two sets the ball rolling. Ellie and Mike meet at the Gypsy’s Acre a piece of land which both would want to be theirs. As they keep on seeing each other, they become more and more affectionate towards each other. They talk about Gypsy’s Acre and how they could have a brilliant house there once they get married. Sounds like a nice love story? Sorry this is “Agatha Christie” they don’t call her the Queen of crime for nothing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

Le mystère de la chambre jaune by Gaston Leroux.

Professor Stangerson a famous scientist on the cusp of success in his ongoing experiments is living in a Chateau outside Paris. One unholy night the professor's daughter who is also assisting the professor in his work is found grievously injured in the yellow room. When the door to the room is opened which is the only entry and exit to the room it is found that there is no one inside the room.

The Yellow room is the locked room in this book. and if you are a jd carr fan like me then you know that the locked room is the most interesting thing on God's green earth. In this book : The room has one exit which is the door and the other exit is a steel barred window, there is a bed in the room and few other furniture, and no hidden or secret passages. The solitaire door to the room is watched by the professor and his faithful servant, they were working outside the yellow room in there lab when the incident happened. after hearing the cries of the daughter, professor and the servant somehow manage to get inside the room but find no one there. how can someone hurt Miss Stangerson if no one was found inside the room? no one was seen coming and escaping from the room. The Windows were not tampered with and so was the door. The Baffling case becomes an enigma for the police and a Monica Lewinsky scandal for the media.

Enter Joseph Rouletabille, the journalist cum sleuth, with Rouletabille's advent in the book comes another mystery which is also mind boggling. Rouletabille along with some help trap the killer in a corner but he somehow manages to escape their clutches by vanishing into thin air!

Can the 18 yr old solve this case and prove the great french detective Larsan wrong? or will the yellow room always remain an enigma.


The Yellow room is written by Gaston Leroux also known worldwide for The Phantom of the Opera, you read the first 20 pages and you understand why JD carr called it the "best detective tale ever written" but that is where the best part ends the book becomes a drag after that, It feels like the author just wants to procrastinate the end, honestly I would have want to cut the novel short because although there is a lot happening in the book, the characters feels very far you do not relate them. I can say in criticism that they are not well drawn and are not seamless.

About the detective, Rouletabille: he is a journalist, but he in no Tintin. Rouletabille to me as a wannabe Sherlock Holmes who fails to create the same aura as that of the Baker Street resident. He says curious phrases to people in the novel and they react even more curiously and these phrases make no sense or reason and also Rouletabille discloses or discusses the case very little.

The Mystery and the murderer are the saving grace of the book it is no doubt an unbreakable locked room and the murderer reminds you of another ending of a famous Agatha Christie(I won't say which because this is a spoiler free blog). The explanation of the assassination attempt is satisfactory but like all locked room endings you have to be a little credulous to buy into it.

Ratings: 2 out of 5

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Red Widow Murders by Carter Dickson

Lord Mantling owns an old and decaying mansion in London, in that Mansion there is a particular room. A sinister room which has caused the death of various friends and family of the Mantling's. The terror of that room claimed its first victim back in 1803 when the body of the victim was found with his face discolored, it was immediately attributed to poisoning, and then over the years the room kept on killing and got its infamous name The Red Widow Chamber. The Legend of the room is that anybody who goes into it alone dies within a couple of hours.

Lord Mantling's father got the room locked up after another death 30 years ago, now before this decaying mansion is taken down. Mantling wants to open the room and sit inside for 2 hours, a test of the testosterone but there are other suitors for the red widow so in the end it is decided that they will draw cards and whoever gets the highest will sit in the room alone for 2 hours.

An unobtrusive man draws the ace of spades/ the death card and moves in the room to spend 2 hours, it is decided that people sitting outside will call him after every 15 minutes to check whether is alright or not. The room itself has two entrances the front door and a french window which is barred and the screws so tight, that opening it would require a superhuman effort.

2 hours pass and the assemblage sitting outside keep on calling and the voice at the other end keeps on responding. At the end of the 2 hours the man is asked to come out of the room and have a drink but there is no one who responds, they hurry towards the red widow chamber and found the man lying dead. How can it be? no one came in as the entrance was watched and no one came out, on searching they find the room empty without any vestige of a man or a demon.

But the real twist in the tale is that when the Doctor arrives and declares the man to have been dead for over an hour, no one can fathom who or what was replying from the room if this man has been dead for over an hour?? HM is at site present as an independent witness. who must now solve one of the most scary and obscure cases of his career.

Review: I think that the abstract above speaks for the mystery. It is quite bewildering and engrossing, This is one of the best Carr's I have read and the best part is that the solution is easy to understand unlike the Hollow Man. HM is at his witty best, there is one part in the book which will have you in splits this is where Chief Inspector Masters explains to HM and the rest of the crew on how he thinks the murder was done, this is especially hilarious as the old man gets pissed off cause of Master's antics.

The Characters in the Mansion are extremes some have been drawn well others haven't been given much book space. I for one would have like to see more book space for the prima donna.
Also I felt that the book could have been a tad smaller that what it was.

The eerie ambiance that Carr creates around the room and the history/legend of the room can be immediately felt by the user.

I was impressed by the amount of research that Carr must have done for this book like the part about the French revolution or the part about the Sanson family(official executioners of France) or the very riveting little part about Ventriloquism.

Strong Buy!


Where do I get this: Unfortunately this is not in print and very difficult to find, try infibeam or that relative in NY or London.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Poirot has retired for the 100th time and is settled down in an obscure little town where he dreams of growing marrows and smoking his peculiar small cigarettes, but crime follows the Belgian Detective even if he does not go looking for it.

In this case Poirot has to deal with the Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Ackroyd is a man whose life is shrouded with mystery and suspense, he knew that someone was blackmailing the women that he loved and before she took her own life she sent him an evening post detailing who the guilty party was. But Ackroyd was found dead in his study stabbed through the neck. We begin from here and as Dame Christie says in this 1926 book: "to punkie who likes an orthodox detective story, murder, inquest, and suspicion falling on everyone in turn"

Poirot Investigates the most famous case of his career.

Review: This was the first Poirot I read infact it was one of the first Detective novels that I have read and the book had such an affect on me that I can still do a detailed review and tell you the story chapter by chapter. so let's get to it; The mystery is invariably interesting, it is very well written, characters are well drawn and the best part of the book is that Poirot is less cocky then usual and also becomes the butt of jokes of the Narrator's witty Sister. Poirot does not hog the limelight he comes and goes in the book, he is not missed in his absence and neither it is felt that he is too overpowering over the other characters in his presence.

This book also corroborates my theory that the best Poirot books are the ones where he does not have a "Watson" i.e. he works alone. The affable Arthur Hastings who is Poirot's sidekick is not missed at all. I think that Hastings had become a channel for Christie to show her frustration over Poirot because I have observed that it is always Hastings that gives the impression that Poirot is more egoistic then he actually is.

About the Mystery, it has one of the best twist endings of all time. This book is the true earth shattering book of the mystery genre which changed the rules of the Detective fiction, the paper back edition that I have has 360+ pages but I breezed through these especially through the end.

This book is not only one of the best Poirot's, it's also one of the best Christie's and also one of the best of the Detective Fiction genre. Strong Buy!!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Bantry's wake up to an unexpected visitor in their house. The servants have found the dead body of a platinum blonde in the Library, The Bantry's say they do not know who the girl is or how she got inside the house, but that denial by the Bantry's is no consolation to the wagging tongues of the villagers who accuse and start incriminating Colonel Bantry. Mrs Bantry realizes this fact and calls in the cavalry AKA the old St Mary Mead sleuth herself Miss Marple.

But then the Police find another body of a young girl whose is found burnt inside a car, is the body in the library in any way connected to the body in the car? Marple and the Police are confronted by a long list of suspects and a family whose head is a brave, crippled old man, but they all hide more then one secret.

Review: Dame Christie wanted to something sensational put a body of an unknown girl in the library of the most unobtrusive people and then unravel the mysterious puzzle from there. The characters are various in the book and all of them get a good amount of screen space, Christie puts them in situations where there personalities become vivid and colorful. I liked how she plays around with an old man and his muse, the idea of cripple age yearning for beautiful vivacious youth is appealing as a side story to the murder mystery.

This is another Marple book where we also see Sir Henry, I have read a few Marples and genuinely think her books on an average are better or as good as Poirot's, although the outstanding ones are from the latter. Also I have heard there is an inhouse joke about Poirot sorry but I couldn't spot it.

I will never ever agree to the way she solves crimes by giving some obscure village analogy and then using that to solve the crime it is just fantastic to believe that one can learn so much from a simple village life. but that said Marple mysteries are the de facto torch bearers of cosy mysteries and are very enjoyable.

This one starts out as a Cracker and ends in a whimper, figuring out the murderer is not very difficult. I was hoping to be proved wrong but was disappointed. I can't reveal much about that without giving something away. Read this one for the premise and the characters.

Where can you get this: Easily available online on FlipKart, Infibeam or any of the local stores, the cover is real nice go for it!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Poisoned Chocolate Case by Anthony Berkeley

Sir Eustace is a playboy who changes mistresses like ordinary people change clothes. He is not reticent about his lifestyle and over a course of time has made more enemies then Saddam Hussein. Somebody sends him a box of liquor chocolates which he passes to someone else and who in turn passes them unto his wife. The wife is found dead after consuming the chocolates; it is discovered that the chocolates had each contained a lethal poison.
The Crime remains unsolved. Who sent the poisoned chocolates? Becomes an obscure question for the Scotland Yard. Enter the Crime Club, A club of 6 criminologists; each member is an expert and well-known name in their fields. The Crime Club takes this puzzle as a challenge and all the six members start there independent investigations into the case and then each one provides a solution to the murder mystery. The club meets every evening for six consecutive days so that each member may provide their solution to this intriguing case.
Mr. Berkeley debuts on my humble little blog and boy what a debut! This is one of the best books and not just a mystery book that I have read for a long time. The Language in the book is very clean, there is no racism or digs at any community. Also the language it is so very pure, I got to learn a new word on almost every third page. My vocabulary is not bad but after reading this one I feel like I must have learnt 40 new words. The book is full of humor, I had many laugh out loud moments in the book which frankly speaking you are not expecting out of a murder mystery. The writer I felt was totally in command everything worked for him from the humor to the mystery and the depth of the characters.
About the characters: they are so well written and so life like (I know it’s a clique but so true in this case) that I feel like I know them in real life. The six members or other characters in the book are so vividly described that you connect with them instantly.
The mystery in itself is simple its murder by poisoning, it is not an Impossible crime. But the identity of the murderer is not simple and as each member of the club comes up with their solution of the crime and the identity of the murderer the case becomes more and more mysterious and funny. Each member when concludes their dictum you feel that this one is correct and the mystery is solved but it obviously isn’t. Till the time the last speaker concludes we get probably one of the most shocking twists in the history of detective fiction. This is six mysteries packed in one, buy your copy today.

Where can you buy this? It is in print and available at all book stores like FlipKart, Infibeam, Landmark and Om Book Shop for less than Rs 500.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peril at end house by Agatha Christie

Poirot and Hastings are enjoying there vacation on the Cornish Rivera. Very soon they meet the beautiful and lively Nick. Nick is leading a charmed life she has had several very close encounters with death. A large painting fell over her bed while she was sleeping, a large boulder came tumbling down where she was bathing, the brakes of her car failed when she was going out and now Poirot discovers a hole in her hat and a bullet shell. The infallible Poirot and his faithful Watson Hastings offer to protect mademoiselle Nick.

Nick appoints the two as her protectors and invites the two to her house called the "end house". A small group of family, neighbors and friends are invited to the end house that day to watch the fireworks on the 6th of November but amidst the fireworks a shot is fired and as Poirot and Hastings are walking towards the house there is a dead body lying on the floor.

Review: The pair of Poirot and Hasting are back and this time they must prevent a murder as well as solve one. This book came as highly rated and someone have even called it a Hidden gem, I'll tell you what whenever I read a book I always in the very few chapters take my guess at the murderer , then I keep on linking events in the book to the murderer. To be very frank this isn't much of a mystery a careful reader can easily figure out who the murderer is. That said I do think that overall the book is not bad, it is fast paced and does not seem lengthy.

Dame Christie has explored some new themes in this one like drugs and its abuse, also one good think in this book is the chemistry between Poirot and Hastings. The banter between the two is enjoyable. One big negative that I felt was that most of the characters have Been left underdeveloped which is quite unlike the queen of crime, another negative is the racist references to Jews, domestic helps and foreigners. This one is not highly recommended.

Where can I buy it: flip kart, landmark any books store won't cost more then 150 rs

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