Classic Poirot: a great mix of drama and mystery. 4/5 stars.
The blurb: The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting’ nothing is ever quite what it seems...
This review will be rather sparse to avoid any and all spoilers.
I read my first Agatha Christie last year: Murder on the Orient Express. I “only” gave that book 3 stars because I felt it lacked build-up: it was too economical with its descriptions of the setting and background to the murder. Death on the Nile, another Hercule Poirot mystery, lacks in none of these departments. The pre-death drama is top-notch and Christie gives us just enough descriptions of Egyptian temples and other tourist hot spots to create a sense of the exotic without turning the book into a travel guide.
In fact, this book contains a great balance of dialogue, narration and description. My only slight gripe – as with Orient Express – was that there were too many characters to keep track of. On the bright side, this does mean there are so many plausible suspects that the guilty party remains hard to guess. I felt the edition I read would have been improved by featuring a diagram of the boat, showing all the cabins the characters were staying in (Agatha Christie: Cluedo game board edition!).
Overall: a classic murder mystery with great pre- and post-death drama. I’m planning for my next Christie read to be a Miss Marple. Any recommendations?
Claire Huston / Art and Soul
Almost as good as the original. 4/5 stars.
The blurb: In freezing London, November 1890, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a man unnerved by a scarred-face stalker with piercing eyes. A conspiracy reaches to the Boston criminal underworld. The whispered phrase ‘the House of Silk’ hints at a deadly foe.
If you enjoy Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures then it’s likely you will enjoy this book. Anthony Horowitz does an admirable job mimicking the style of the original tales for this new Holmes-Watson adventure. However, this mimicry extends to the perhaps less enjoyable aspects of Conan Doyle’s style. For example, characters are allowed to sit down and give three-page long monologues to explain their predicament. If that sort of thing bothered you in the original stories – which are usually only a few pages long – then you might not be able to stick with it over the 300 pages of The House of Silk.
The mystery at the heart of The House of Silk is sufficiently complex to keep you puzzled. Its resolution is also far darker than we might have come to expect from Holmes’ stories. Watson warns us of this in the prologue, but I was still surprised by just how grim the big secret turned out to be. Apart from a couple of moments which dragged slightly, the pacing is excellent and our heroes face enough peril to keep you turning the pages.
Overall: an entertaining mystery in the company of one of my favourite fictional duos. I already have the sequel waiting!
Claire Huston / Art and Soul
A compelling study of what the mind and body will do to survive. 3.5/5 stars.
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review.
The blurb (click on the cover image above to go to the book’s Goodreads page):
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. And so her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.
Peggy is not seen again for another nine years.
1985: Peggy has returned to the family home. But what happened to her in the forest? And why has she come back now?
This review will be spoiler-free.
As you can see from the blurb, the story of Our Endless Numbered Days switches between scenes pre-1985 (which cover Peggy’s early childhood, her trip to the forest and time there) and late 1985 when she is back in her family home in London. The main advantage of this time hopping: I was never concerned that the main character and first-person narrator would die during the harder moments of her time in the woods (and there are some incredibly difficult moments). This meant I could relax and give my undivided attention to the descriptions of Peggy’s experiences. And these descriptions are fantastic. The narrative voice is compelling, even though it’s slightly detached and numb, which you would expect from someone who had survived what she has. Most of the time you feel right there in the forest with her. The experience is so immersive that being transported back to 1985 London is at times an irritating jolt and at others a blessed relief.
The 1934 classic is a lesson in how to make the highly unlikely both entertaining and plausible. 3/5 stars.
It’s happened to us all. You’re on a luxury sleeper train travelling across Europe. One night the train gets stuck in a snow drift and someone gets murdered. All the passengers but one in that carriage are suspects. And, as luck would have it, the odd one out is Hercule Poirot, Belgian master detective. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
I think most people know, in general, “whodunnit” in the case of Murder on the Orient Express. But if they can remember all the ins and outs then they have a far better memory than I do. The devil is most definitely in the detail in this surprisingly short tale (only 250 pages). The sheer number of passengers/suspects means it’s quite hard to keep track of who’s who and what’s what, diverting our minds from asking questions such as: “Really?!”, “Would that ever happen in a million years?” and “Would even Sherlock Holmes be able to make such accurate intuitive leaps?”
This book is like a slice of perfect cake: light, fluffy, delicious and ideal to enjoy when curled up with a nice up of tea. 4/5 stars.
I was lured towards this book by the delightful, gold-embossed cover. Inside, the story is also peppered with cute illustrations. And “cute” and “delightful” are good words for this story. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is what you get if you mash together Nancy Drew, The Famous Five, Sherlock Holmes and set the action in a glittering London department store at the start of the twentieth century.