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!

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