Love fiction--classic to light, serious to comedic. Selective non-fiction. These days lots of mysteries (not too violent, please :-)
Nothing makes me happier than discovering a vintage mystery series I didn't know about, unless it is also discovering that it turns out to be a great read! I gather that this book, starring Miss Withers and Inspector Piper was made into a movie at the time, and I hope to find it.
Miss Withers, a teacher who has brought her young class to the aquarium, is there when a murder occurs at the penguin pool. She demonstrates very quickly that she has a good, grounded sort of common sense, and is able to point out things to the inspector to keep him on track during the inspection. She tends to be immediately accepted by the inspector, who realizes that as she offers good ideas and takes conversations down in shorthand, she is indispensable to solving the crime. Even though she is not officially part of the case, one quickly realizes that the author intends her to be the brains behind the process of solving it.
This book is written with a bit of comedic touch, but I doubt the author could have possibly anticipated how much more enjoyable it would become 80 years later to a completely different audience. In these days, we have authors who create female sleuths, trying to insert them into this same time period (just around the timeout of the stock market crash), and they are are fun to read. But this is the "Real McCoy," a woman who was developed into a clever and observant detective (of sorts), even though she is not really acknowledged that way around 1930 or so.
I love this book, and cannot wait for the next ones. The narrator does a very good job, getting the accents just right! This has been a total treat! Thanks, Audible, for bringing this one on board!
This book was a wonderful surprise. As I am listening my way through all the Agatha Christie books that I read 35-40 years ago, they have so far all been narrated by the great Hugh Fraser. I mean no disloyalty to him when I say that just having listened to "Black Coffee," narrated by the late John Moffatt (one of the actors who played Hercules Poirot over the years) all I can say is, "Wow"!
Agatha Christie originally wrote this as a play, rather than a novel, somewhat of a departure from her usual style, and Charles Osborne has put it into book form. Many years ago I actually saw the play. (Can you tell I have been a life-long Christie devotee?) As well as I recall it, I think this book is quite faithful to the play--I believe it has kept the same plot/characters/development. This is a "classic Poirot" where he actually does line all the family members up at the end to do his wonderful thing of announcing how the murder was committed, and by whom. Very pleasing to old mystery readers like myself.
The premise of the book is that Sir Claud Amory, a scientist who has been working on a secret formula for something that has the potential to become a more powerful weapon than any currently available, has reason to believe that someone in his own household wants to steal it. So he hires Poirot to come to the house and help detect who that is. Unfortunately he arrives just in time for Amory's murder.
This book lays out the plot well, has very good character development, neatly suggests (or leaves the reader guessing) the various possible reasons any person could have killed Sir Claud, and it all flows as well (if not better than) any Christie herself could have written. I think he was largely faithful to Christie's own language and style. My only regret is that I believe he made Poirot a *tiny* bit more pompous and narcissistic than Christie portrayed him, and left me feeling sad with the way Poirot made fun of poor Hastings. I know there was a slight suggestion of that in Christie, but I don't recall it being as strong as Osborne has made it.
But if you listen to this book for no other reason--I would recommend that you do so just to hear the extraordinarily talented John Moffatt read the whole book, but especially the role of Poirot. It was just stupendous! There were opportunities throughout the book to speak English (mostly), French and Italian. And as far as I could tell, he spoke all three with perfection. But mostly he was able to capture the nuances of tone that left no doubt that is was, indeed, Poirot who was the main feature of the book. I'm not planning to abandon listening to Fraser, for whom I have great fondness, but I certainly am planning to listen to more of the Christies read by Moffatt. His narration was the true gem of this book.
George Gideon is a superintendent in Scotland Yard, written (I believe) in 1955. Unlike most books that are contemporary, where the heroes seem often to be on the outs with their peers in some fashion, this book (much like the Ellery Queen mysteries) still depicts the police as admirable heroes, and the criminals as somewhat stereotyped "baddies."
This book is a bit interesting, because the author has taken a slice out of Gideon's life by making this all be about what a typical day is like for him. There are a couple of threads that go through the entire book--cases that are dangerous, important, must be given full attention with use of his forces and wits that provide the ongoing interest for the reader. But this book also humanizes him, as well as providing some back story, by having insight into his personal life which has a bitter-sweet quality to it. Gideon is portrayed as a tall, large man with good powers of observations and memory for details. He works at the Yard, and often delegates, but also feels the necessity of being on the spot with what is happening himself. He seems well-liked and respected by the other police, and appears to have earned his place with sharp, honest work.
What is different about this book, is that it is not one case that keeps the whole force tied up for weeks or months (though they are tackling cases that have that sort of history behind them). This is all portraying things that take place in a 24 hour period of time. I think it is the introduction to a series that will most likely be told in more the conventional way. Here, serious cases get taken on/solved, though the stereotyping is what one might expect for the time. It is quite interesting, actually. At first I had thought it might not be, but as I got into it, I found it was a good window into the mindset of the times, as well as having one or two threads running through the whole book, which hold it together. I would not exactly call this a mystery, it is more a police procedural story. In the end I enjoyed it, and now plan to find more. Recommend.
Ngaio Marsh’s background in the theater (for which she was named a Dame of the British Empire) is evident in the “casting” of the characters that make up this ensemble. Sir Henry is a elderly, retired Shakespearian actor and head of a family full of people who are absolutely revel in their eccentricities. Indeed, the story begins when Sir Henry’s son arrives at Chief Inspector Alleyn’s wife’s London flat and begs her to do a portrait of his father. He dangles the eccentricities of his family before her, giving a quick sketch of all the personalities. Unwillingly, she becomes fascinated enough to succumb to his request.
Ngaio Marsh is known for her characterizations, and each of the characters is drawn with enough depth for us to see both redeeming qualities in the repellent and weaknesses in the most noble. You find yourself quite liking the tantrum throwing child, “Panty” and eventually becoming sympathetic to the common, gold-digging fiancée.
I love the stories in this series which feature Agatha Troy, Alleyn’s artist wife. This story occurs near the end of World War II when Troy and Roderick have been separated for several years due to wartime activities, and includes their reunion when Rory returns to England in time to solve the mystery. The glimpses of the British wartime lifestyle are an interesting backdrop to this tale, as are the jobs to which the Alleyn’s have been put by the war. Other stories which are key in their relationship include “Artists in Crime” where they first meet, and “Death in a White Tie” where Alleyn wins Troy’s consent to marry, and “Tied Up in Tinsel” is the story of another portrait painting job gone awry.
I recommend this mystery both as an interesting puzzle with a surprise ending, and as one of the milestone tales in the Alleyn’s personal lives in this wonderful series.