I do love my Agatha Christie novels. I kind of feel like I need to go back and re-watch the Dr. Who episode with her in it, even though the whole premise was pretty silly.
Anyway, this one’s a Miss Marple (which makes me want to go back and re-watch “Murder by Death,” with Miss Marbles and her nurse) from 1942. The story begins with the discovery of a BODY IN THE LIBRARY – a young lady who is a total stranger to everyone in the house. The library also belongs to Colonel and Dolly Bantry, good friends of Miss Jane Marple. The young lady is done up like a tart, which eventually leads to some not so nice rumours about the Colonel (not true, of course). There’s a new guy in town who works in film, who dates a blonde tart, so he’s of course a suspect. But his blonde tart is alive and well. This girl may turn out to be Ruby Keene, a dancer at a hotel (back when people touched when they danced, and not in the grindy twerky way). She’s identified by her cousin, who seems more angry than sad about this.
Ruby had just been taken under the wing of a wealthy widower, who is staying at the hotel with his son-in-law (widower as well) and daughter-in-law (widow) – they’re the only family he has left, because his wife, son and daughter were killed in the same accident that crippled him. The widower took a shine to Ruby, because she was a nice naive girl. Turns out he might have been planning to leave her a bunch of money. Meanwhile the in-laws aren’t exactly solvent, and are totally dependent on dad.
Then another young girl turns up missing, and then dead in a burned out car. Miss Marple of course figures out the connection, and the whole thing, while visiting her friends at the fancy hotel and just generally drinking tea and being Marple-y. The twist wasn’t too difficult to figure out, but the story did keep me guessing for most of the time. I always recommend these books, they’re just fun light reads.
Oh, I love Agatha Christie. Her stories are so fun, even if the mysteries are usually easy to solve. Five Little Pigs is one of the Hercule Poirot mysteries; he flies solo on this one. The book was originally called Murder in Retrospect, not sure why it was changed, but it also makes sense.
Amyas Crale was murdered, and his wife Caroline was executed for the crime. Sixteen years later, their daughter returns to England (after being raised in Canada) to try to clear her mother’s name. Her mom wrote a letter just before her execution saying that she didn’t do it. However, she raised almost no defense at her trial, and everyone figures she did that, because she did it.
The daughter enlists Poirot to re-investigate the crime, so he goes back to scene of the crime and speaks to everyone who was involved. Our Five Piggies are: Phillip Blake, a stockbroker (“went to market”); Meredith Blake, Philip’s brother, a reclusive former amateur herbalist (“stayed at home”); Lady Dittisham (nee Elsa Greer), Amyas’s lover (“had roast beef”); Cecilia Williams, the governess to the Crale’s child (“had none”); and Angela Warren, an archaeologist and Caroline’s sister (“cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home”). Each had motive, means and opportunity. But so did Caroline.
Poirot interviews everyone, and has each write out their memories of the events leading up to the murder. He also talks to the police and lawyers involved in the case, and in the end, he figures it out, and does the whole “gather everyone together & reveal the real killer” bit. For me, that never gets old. Highly enjoyable, like all of Christie’s books.
I have never read an Agatha Christie novel before. Sure, I’d seen one or two of the Hercule Poirot films, but had never actual picked up one of the books. That said, this novel felt very familiar and formulaic – the setup of a closed community of genteel English folk, the murder, the arrival of the great detective, subsequent deduction, then the grand drawing room reveal as the finale.
This novel was published in 1936 – something I needed to check after the first few instances of horrifyingly offhand racism. I had been lulled into thinking the book was in fact more recent, as the language and structure are very accessible for the modern reader. This is why I was so surprised at the racism; it was so casually expressed as part of the story and I simply hadn’t expected it going in.
The story is fairly tedious and the grand reveal not terribly thrilling. Really, all the characters seem to do is to talk and drink cups of tea within their confined location and I don’t think I would have missed too much by skipping the middle 100 pages entirely.
I think I will be limiting my future Agatha Christie consumption to the occasional late night film on the telly.
Yours truly, Lady Cordelia