I Read: Towards Zero. William Morrow, New York, 2011.
Series: Superintendent Battle
Summary: "...with all the causes and events that bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day....All converging towards a given spot...And then, when the time comes -- over the top! Zero Hour. Yes, all of them converging towards zero...." (pg. 4) This is the story in a nutshell; one killer, two wives, three detectives and a house full of guests all hurtling towards the solution to four separate murders.
Review:This is the last book to feature Superintendent Battle as the lead detective, and I think it is a pity he did not find his way into more stories. His solid good sense, plus his sly ability to hide behind the reader's expectations (the expectation being that the police detectives are all bumbling) was fantastic. Unlike Chimneys or Seven Dials, this book is not an over-the-top exercise in suspense. No secret societies, jewel thieves or political machinations to be found anywhere. Instead it begins with a series of small snippets of the main characters' lives and the decisions which lead to their appearance in Gull's Point. This method of story leads naturally to the creation of tension through the whole, for example you are left wondering through almost the entire mystery as to the significance of Angus MacWhirter's suicide attempt or why Mr. Treeves tells an odd story to the group about an unidentified child. The book is a great read and is listed as one Christie's personal favorites. However I think Battle did just a bit better being paired off with the outrageousness of his prior two books - the solid clever straight man to all the crazy events going on around him. But that is just my opinion.
Now onto a tangent provided by a quote from our book of the week: "I suppose like most young people nowadays, boredom is what you dread most in the world...." (pg. 97). How many dumb thing have happened, do you suppose, because someone was bored and then had a "brain storm"? Some thing to engage their mind in an activity, any activity will do to stop the gnawing existential crisis of nothingness (The Nothing, I learned about that from The Never Ending Story; probably not the take-away they were looking for). Not that I would know anything about this phenomenon at all.....Definitely not the impetus behind an absurd incident featuring whiskey, Neapolitan ice cream and old sci-fi movies. *wink* Perhaps boredom situational, not existential this time (situational boredom - when you're stuck in a boring situation andyou are unable to leave because your parents are stuck there too) might have fueled an outrageous lie told to your second or third cousins (you never see) - confessing that you are really a Martian (shut up, I was seven).
Fortunately with age comes a slightly less ridiculous response to boredom; surprisingly enough not playing computer games or randomly surfing the internet ; they don't have any measurable output and therefore don't relieve the symptoms - cleaning or walking (usually cleaning) does the trick. Which unerringly slingshots me into inspiration for a new quilt or craft project, thus the boredom fades away like smoke and I forget it was ever there. Until the next times that is......
Christie is often credited for saying, "The best time for planning books is while you are doing the dishes.", not the most stimulating of tasks. Perhaps planning a murder over a sink full of suds - the completion of a monotonous/boring task helped Christie's creativity in the long run. Maybe a bit of boredom isn't bad if you know how to deal with it in a constructive way (YouTube is filled with unfortunate examples of what not to do). So while long bouts of boredom are to be dreaded, perhaps a little isn't so bad after all?
"A little malice...adds a certain savour to life." (pg. 81)
Interesting Note: Battle's moustache was considered impressive even to Poirot.....
Did you know the word "boredom" was coined by Charles Dickens in his book Bleak House? Or the Monty Python skit Vocational Guidance Councilor is credited with creating the lasting stereo-type that all accountants are boring? Well now you know, and perhaps it will help you win a round in a bar trivia game....
Cheating:Slightly tempted to cheat, but managed to keep my fingers from flipping pages and destroying my chances of getting to the UK!
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009.
Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, April 1, 2014.
Wikipedia, April 14, 2014.
Youtube, April 15, 2014.
Smithsonian.com, The History of Boredom, April 15, 2014.
Technorati Tags: agatha christie, bleak house, book, Boredom and Martians, Chimneys, christie, Monty Python, my 52 weeks with christie, My 52 Weeks With Christie: Boredom and Martians, mystery, seattle mystery, seattle mystery bookshop, Seven Dials, suspense, towards zero
We've received the first shipment of Amanda Quick's new novel, OTHERWISE ENGAGED. Here are the pictures!
They're not on sale until Tuesday, remember!
There are quite a few boxes for us to sort through, looking for damaged copies (which we won't sell to you! We have high standards!).
So over the next couple of days, we'll make sure they're in good shape and choose the perfect book for you!
If you've sent us an e-mail in the last 20 hours or so and have been puzzled as to why we've not responded, it is because we're not receiving any e-mail!
Our provider is doing some major work on their servers and our e-mail system is not working.
We'll answer your e-mails as soon as we can, but we don't know when that will be. There is even a chance that this week's newzine will not be going out today.
If you think you've got an emergency on your hands and need to get ahold of us immediately, use the phone to give us a call.
~ the Crew
The Seven Dials Mystery
First Published: The Seven Dials Mystery. William Collins & Son, London, 1929.
I Read: The Seven Dials Mystery. William Morrow, New York, 2012.
Series: Superintendent Battle
Summary: We begin this mystery at Chimneys, where The Secret At Chimneys took place a few short years earlier, Lord Caterham followed through on his threat and rented out Chimneys for a couple of years. Sir Oswald Coote, the current tenant of Chimneys, throws one final house party before returning the estate to Caterham and his daughter Bundle.
During this last hoorah a group of friends decide to play a practical joke on one of their number - Gerry Wade - since he seems constitutionally unable to get up at a decent hour in the morning (he's a champion sleeper) which annoys their hostess. The joke goes off without a hitch but when Gerry fails to respond, the friends investigate and soon discover he's passed away sometime during the night. Gerry's death is ruled one of misadventure and is laid to rest legally and in the minds of those around him. That is until Bundle discovers a cryptic letter written by Gerry the day before his death. Coupled with Bundle stumbling (or more precisely almost running over) a dying man, who was also a part of Coote's ill fated house party, it propels her into a mystery which will test her ingenuity and moxie.
Review: Like The Secret At Chimneys it was go big or go home. Meaning the mystery while filled with suspense and tension, also contained over top plot devices - secret societies with mystery members, a secret formula authored by a nervous scientist, cryptic clues and a very surprising twist ending. That being said.....It was great! I loved reading about Bundle trying to solve the mystery and how the male leads kept trying to contain her without ever succeeding. Add in the inscrutable Superintendent Battle into the mix (who I adore almost as much as Bundle) and you have a fun romp. I would recommend you read The Secret At Chimneys' first and then this book, as the reoccurring characters and their motivations will make a bit more sense (and are much funnier) for having read the previous installment.
As I make my way through the Christies I've noticed an interesting detail, sprinkled through out Christie's books are references to real (usually famous) crimes. These seeming off handed references, so far, have all been relevant to the mystery and/or scene they are placed in. In the case of the Mirror Crack'd and At Bertram's Hotel the mysteries are bases loosely around actual events (Gene Tierney's life and the Great Train Robbery). So far in my reading I have run across Crippen, (for those who don't know) a Doctor convicted of murdering, then dismembering his wife and hiding a portion of her body under the floor in their basement. It was the first case where the telegraph played an instrumental part in the capture of a fugitive. Christie also mentioned George Smith, who sounds nondescript enough, until you find out he murdered three wives by drowning them in bath tubs for their insurance money. This case set a legal precedent, allowing the introduction of criminal's "system" or pattern as evidence. Which is something we take for granted now when serial killers are caught and tried. Each time a crime like this was mentioned, it was easy to find the case and read a bit more about them.
I mention these references due to an allusion in Seven Dials which I could not find a corresponding crime for, " ...the Pentonville murderess that killed five children..." (pg. 280). I found this odd, since when such specifics are mentioned the crime usually easy enough to locate. Not this time.... The closest like crime I found was detailed in a 1892 newspaper article about a crime which occurred thirty-seven years before this mystery. Where a husband who murdered his mistress, his four children and finally himself due to financial problems and pressures. This case while similar-ish, but does not really mesh with the rest of the Seven Dials Mystery, nor the point Battle was making when he uttered these words. Had Christie written the book after 1966, the Moors Murders committed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley (who together murdered five kids) would fit this quote rather perfectly - only it occurred decades after Battle's statement. Perhaps the murder of children, which is considered out of bounds by most writers and readers alike (that and killing the family pet, especially a dog) cause Christie to make the case up. Even the smallest reference to a real case, invoking that kind of horror for the reader, went to far for her to feel comfortable in using. Which is totally fair.
Now to my point, I think the casual mention of actual crimes within the narratives allowed Christie to add texture, without writing a graphic scene herself. By using pop culture knowledge she cleverly introduced an element of blood and violence into her stories (or in the case of the Mirror Crack'd a sense of retribution missing from real life, and in Bertram's Hotel an extra dollop of excitement) without turning off her audience who would not expect to read explicit violence. Plus this way her readers could conveniently gloss over these references, as most are only a line or two long, if they felt any discomfort over it.
I do not know if Christie consciously used these references in the manner I am suggesting, it just seems to me there is a pattern to their use.
"….a great man always knows better than to explain unless an explanation is demanded.To rush in with explanations and excuses is always a sign of weakness." (pg. 177) - A good piece of advice when dealing with a boss, I think? I epically fail at not explaining things......
Interesting Note: A piece of trivia for you...chloral hydrate mixed with alcohol is what books refer to as knock out drops, Mickey Finn, or slipped them a mickey; used to incapacitate the unsuspecting. BTW Mickey Finn was a Chicago bar owner in 1903, who was notorious for concocting this drink then robbing his customers. I thought, this was just something made up by authors to conveniently render a subject unconscious! (And in a small survey of people around me, apparently I am the only one who didn't know that these were a real thing. *sigh*)
Cheating: I did not cheat, but it was still a bit difficult...as I kept trying figure out who the killer was and failing miserably (I was way off, but if I could always guess the endings correctly I think reading mysteries would be a lot less fun!). On a side note I have developed a new habit, which I kinda like - I have stated writing in the margins of my books. This habit started with reading the Christie books to remind me of words, passages or ideas I enjoy or I think I could turn into a blog post. Just like cheating with non-Christie books makes it difficult to not cheat when I am reading a Christie - writing in the margins has finally transferred to my non-Christie reading material.
I can't figure out if this is better or worse than cheating, but I am okay with it.
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009.
Michael C. Gerald, The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie. Austin, University of Texas Press, 1993.
Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, April 1, 2014.
PapersPast, April 9, 2014.
Wikipedia, April 8, 2014.
Technorati Tags: Agatha Christie, book, Bundle, Christie, mystery, seattle mystery, seattle mystery bookshop, secret society, seven dials, Superintendent Battle, The Secret At Chimneys, The Secret Of Chimneys, The Seven Dials Mystery
1. How does it feel to be celebrating the Silver Anniversary for the Murder She Wrote series?
If someone had told me back in 1989 that I would be still writing “Murder, She Wrote” books 2014, I would have questioned their sanity. But that’s how it has ended up, 25 years and 43 novels later, all still in print. I couldn’t be more pleased. It was 10 years ago that I stopped by the Seattle Mystery Bookshop to sign copies of Destination: Murder, the 21st book in the series, and was introduced to a remarkable gentleman named Bill Farley. His love of the mystery genre was palpable and I fell in love with the shop. I still have a direct link to it on my website for those who wish to buy from a prized independent book shop.
While the TV show, still in syndication and celebrating its 30th year, has introduced millions of people to “Murder, She Wrote,” I take great pride in the books having a distinct life of their own, generating an entire new world of fans. I especially enjoy receiving e-mails from young people who have gotten into the reading habit through the novels, and from parents who use the books to kick-start their kids into reading fiction. Because the books don’t contain any gory violence, four-letter words, or sex scenes, they’re a perfect jumping off point for young readers and their parents.
2. You have written many, many books, (115 at last count) do you have a favorite out of the lot? And Why?
I’ve always been especially fond of a dramatization I wrote based on a true story set in Southern Illinois during the Prohibition era. Its working title was War in Illinois. I tried to get the publisher, Prentice-Hall, to change it but they refused. The result was considered a “regional book” which limited its sales potential. I eventually got the rights back and arranged for my alma mater, Purdue University, to publish a new edition with the title Charlie and the Shawneetown Dame. It’s a wonderful tale that involves the first bombing of a target from an aircraft in the United States. Charlie Birger was a Jewish guy from New York who settled in Southern Illinois with aspirations to become the Al Capone of the area. A rival gang, the Shelton Brothers, hired an open-cockpit bi-wing plane, made bombs out of sticks of dynamite taped together, and dropped them on Charlie’s beloved Shady Rest headquarters. The book is a combination of The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight and Goodfellas, and I smile whenever I think of spending many weeks in Southern Illinois researching the book. By the way, the Shawneetown Dame was a beautiful society babe from Shawneetown who had affairs with both Charlie and his rival, Bernie Shelton. Her perfidy led to Charlie’s demise, a public hanging. His final words were, “Bury me in a Catholic cemetery. The Devil will never look for a Jew there.”
I’m also extremely proud of the 20-plus Washington-based mysteries/thrillers in the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes series. My name is now on them. The most recent, Undiplomatic Murder, will be released this summer by TOR/Forge.
And in May my own novel (as opposed to writing with, or for others), will be published by Severn House. It’s called Lights Out! and involves a mild-mannered, ordinary guy who goes through a monumental male mid-life crisis once he meets and falls in love with a South American bombshell, Gina Ellanado. He concocts a bizarre money-making scheme to have enough money to leave his loveless marriage and spend the rest of his days in carnal bliss with Gina. Naturally, things unravel for him. I started the novel in 2003 and, unashamedly, love it.
3. Do you try and follow the Rules Of Fair play when writing your mysteries?
There isn’t a quicker way to lose murder mystery readers than to not play fair with them. My wife, Renée Paley-Bain, with whom I’ve been collaborating on the series for a number of years, and I constantly go back over what’s been written to ensure that nothing we’ve written will unfairly mislead the reader. Still, we miss something now and then, and our loyal readers are quick to point it out to us. We have a basic rule: If something in the manuscript strikes one of us as being unfair or unlikely, there must be something wrong; it should be rethought and probably rewritten.
The novels in “Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes” series are not so much murder mysteries as Washington-based thrillers that take the reader inside a government agency, or an institution like Ford’s Theatre or The National Gallery. Because the stories are more straightforward than the “Murder, She Wrote” novels, there’s less chance of leading the reader astray. My operative philosophy is that anything you make up about Washington, no matter how outlandish, is plausible.
4. Is Jessica Fletcher considered some what of a black cat (by those who don‘t know her well) since she ends up stumbling & solving so many murders? It is said Cabot Cove has a 50% higher murder rate than Honduras, which is the world’s murder capitol.
We sometimes wonder how the Cabot Cove Chamber of Commerce feels about Jessica tripping over so many bodies in what is an otherwise tranquil, peaceful Maine seaside town. Of course we also have Jessica traveling to other places where the homocides with which she becomes involved aren’t so homegrown. I suppose it’s all in the way you view it, glass half-full or half-empty. On the one hand Ms. Fletcher seems to attract the murderous kind no matter where she goes. On the other hand having her ready, willing and able to bring the killers to justice might provide a modicum of comfort to her neighbors.
5. How do you feel about Mrs. Fletcher being likened to Miss Marple so often?
I can’t think of a more flattering comparison than this. Jessica and Miss Marple are both genteel, refined ladies who solve murders without having to resort to physical mayhem, the sort of women whom we admire and look up to. With so much abject violence in the world, both real and imagined on TV, in movies, and in books, having sleuths who use their deductive powers rather than brute strength to bring about justice is refreshing.
6. Christie was fond of bumping people off with poisons, do you have a favorite method of murder you like to use in your books? And why?
In one of our MSW books a snakebite, arranged of course, caused the death of the victim. The choice of how to kill someone depends upon a variety of considerations, including whether the murderer is a man or a woman. Female characters tend to lean towards less gruesome means of murder, although not always. Too, whether the murder is carefully planned in advance, or results from a moment of extreme anger or a jealous rage, plays a role in choosing the weapon that takes someone’s life. When considering poison, does the killer have reasonable access to the potion, and knowledge of how to use it? Is it the killer’s intention to make the death appear to be accidental, or a suicide? Or, to turn the question on its head, was what appeared to be a murder actually accidental, leading to an innocent man or woman being falsely accused?
7. Have any of your mysteries (MSW or one of the others) been inspired or influenced by one of Christie’s works?
Perhaps not in a direct, specific sense, but the Christie aura always hangs over every murder mystery writer. There were two Christie books, Murder on the Orient Express and 4:50 From Paddington that I especially enjoyed and might have played with my subconscious while writing Destination: Murder in the MSW series, in which much of the action takes place on a train in British Columbia. I happen to enjoy trains; they’re such an appealing setting for murder to occur among a group of people.
8. Is there any book in the Christie cannon you wish you had thought of first? And Why?
All of them.
9. Any Final Words?
In this age of technology run amok, digital publishing and electronic reading gadgets, independent book stores like the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, with its love for the genre, and staffed by knowledgeable book lovers, are to be treasured and preserved.
Thanks for having me on your blog. It’s been nothing but fun.
1 – Kat Richardson, Greywalker, Ace - Signed Copies Available
2 - tie
Ingrid Thoft, Loyalty, Berkley
C.J. Box, Breaking Point, Berkley
4 - tie
Mary Daheim, The Alpine Xanadu, Ballantine - Signed Copies Available
Harlan Coben, Six Years, Signet
6 – tie
Louise Penny, Still Life, St. Martin’s
Gail Carriger, Soulless, Orbit
8 – tie
Greg Rucka, Alpha, Mulholland
Laura Childs, Sweet Tea Revenge, Berkley
Donna Andrews, The Hen of the Baskervilles, St. Martin’s
Robert Crais, The Monkey’s Raincoat, Bantam
1- Pamela Christie, Death Among the Ruins, Kensington - Signed Copies Available
2 – Jo Nesbø, Cockroaches, Vintage
3 – Lawrence Block, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, LBBooks - Signed Copies Available
4 - tie
Donna Leon, The Golden Egg, Grove/Atlantic
Peter Spiegelman, Thick as Thieves, Vintage
Ǻke Edwardson, Room No. 10, Simon & Schuster
William Kent Krueger, Ordinary Grace, Atria
8 – tie
Jim Lynch, Truth Like the Sun, Vintage
Burt Weissbourd, Inside Passage, Rare Bird
10 – tie
Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish, Penguin
Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Keeper of Lost Causes, Plume
The Secret Of Chimneys
First Published:The Secret of Chimneys. The Bodley Head, 1925, London
I Read: The Secret Of Chimneys. William Morrow, 2012, New York.
Series: Superintendent Battle
Summary: No good deed goes unpunished. In the case of Anthony Cade, this old axiom turns out to be very true. Cade is asked by an old friend for two favors, one he will be paid well for - deliver a possibly very scandalous manuscript to its London publishers. The second favor is a bit more delicate: Cade is asked to deliver some letters used to blackmail a married woman, saving her from a jealous husband, who needs never to find out. Well, these two simple tasks lead Cade into a web filled with international intrigue, the theft of the Koh-i-Noor, and of course a murder….
Review: This is not a whodunit like the Marples, this is a novel of suspense which read much differently for me. After the first couple of chapters I thought I didn’t really care about the outcome, and it was simply a task I needed to finish so I could move onto the next book. My issue stemmed from one very large MacGuffins right in the beginning of the book, *Spoilers* in which Virginia Revel upon first laying eyes on Cade (who is a complete stranger at this point) would ask him to help her dispose of a dead body of and he agrees! The book lost a bit of its luster for me at this point and became more and more difficult to pick up -- Chimneys fairly teems with impossible situations (I am not going to list them here and ruin the book for you….).
However - and this is a large “however” (I would change the font size if I could to emphasis this point, but then the post would look weird….) - by the end of the book I was hooked, and didn’t really care anymore if the plot was a bit of a stretch! In fact I was so hooked, that I read the last few chapters while I walked home from my Metro bus station (and miraculously made it home without being hit by a truck, bike or a pole). I’m not sure when exactly I was suckered into the plot, but I was and I am glad because it turned out to be a very fun read, perhaps due to its over the top-ish-ness!
Favorite Quote: There are so many in this story! I only listed my top three favorites….
“People who have been close as an oyster all their lives seem positively to relish causing trouble when they themselves shall be comfortably dead.” (pg. 14, This reminds me of Mark Twain and his autobiography which he stated could only be published 100 years after his death.)
“You are doubtless acquainted with the works of Shakespeare, and his remarks about the unimportance of the nomenclature of roses.” (pg. 154)
“I shouldn’t recommend driving with you as a tonic for nervous old ladies, but personally I enjoyed it. The last time I was in equal danger was when I was charged by a herd of wild elephants.” (pg. 257)
Interesting Notes: There is an interesting twist to this particular title -- up until 2003, this was one of the few Christie novels which had never been produced as a play or television show…..or so the experts and the Christie estate thought. In 1931 Christie adapted the book into a play to be performed at the Embassy Theatre in December of that year. For some inexplicable reason, at the last minute the theater substituted another play, and Chimneys (the shortened tile of the novel) was never performed. The theater has since folded and precious few records are left to enlighten us to the reasons behind the switch-a-roo! Chimneys was forgotten until 2001 when a director in Canada came across the play and asked the Christie estate for permission to perform it. Mathew Prichard (Christie’s grandson) had never heard of the play and discovered the British Library had a second copy. Chimneys débuted in 2003, seventy-two years after it was first adapted, at the Vertigo Mystery Theater in Canada.
Chimneys is by no mean the first work by Christie which has been found under a layer of dust over the years. Just last year, the short story Hercule Poirot and The Greenshore Folly was published (it was the predecessor to Dead Man’s Folly, Christie reworked the short story into a full length mystery). Edgar winning author John Curran (who graciously answered some interview questions for the blog last month) found two previously unpublished short stories in Christie’s notebooks, one Marple and one Poirot. So perhaps there is just one more novel hidden away out there? Time will tell.
This idea of missing, lost, or forgotten works has always been a fascination of mine. The idea that your favorite author left just one last work to find…..well it seems like the ultimate treasure hunt! It adds a level of romance (which is often lacking) to the perusal of “treasures” on Saturday morning during garage sale season. You hear of books being found in the back of a desk drawer or filing cabinet, attics and estate sales (fancy garage sales, in my mind). What Shakespeare lover doesn’t wish for Love Labor’s Won or Cardenio to show up in some dusty shelf some where? Philip K. Dick, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Hardy, Lord Byron and many more have missing plays, poems, pamphlets and novels just waiting to be found
Just to beat a dead horse and continue with my tangent - and because I love this topic - missing media is not limited to just the written word, but includes television and film as well! Most missing pieces tend to be from the 1980’s or earlier, with the advent and popularity of the VCR most lost media after this point can be found again in private hands if needed. Remember the first episode of The Ed Sullivan Show; the series My Living Doll (boy was that a creepy show), the first television appearance of Elvis Presley all of these episodes are missing. The BBC is missing so many of it’s pre-1980’s recordings (TV, radio and film) they have set up an Archive Treasure Hunt to enlist the public’s help in completing their collections (boy, would it be great to get the 97 missing Doctor Who episodes back…).One of most interesting bits of missing film footage -- the Apollo 11 Moon landing slow-scan television tapes. The original tapes recorded by NASA are missing, and are presumed to have been accidentally taped over….but, well, conspiracy theories abound around this particular loss.
Christie is a great example of found literary treasures, one which gives me great hope that some day, perhaps if we are very, very lucky we will find one lost Shakespearian play…
Cheating: This book was really hard for me not to cheat with, due to the fact I read a couple of other books before I started this one, and I cheated with them. So when I picked up this book, my old habits once again were in place and were very difficult to suppress. I did manage to contain myself, but only just. So I might need to finally go cold turkey and not cheat with anything I read to keep me out of trouble…..
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009.
Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, April 1, 2014. http://www.agathachristie.com/christies-work/stories/the-secret-of-chimneys/205
Wikipedia, April 1, 2014.
BBC, Forgotten Christie Play Uncovered, April 1, 2014.
1 – Patricia Briggs, Night Broken, Ace
2 – Cara Black, Murder in Pigalle, Soho - Signed Copies Available
3 – Mary Daheim, The Alpine Yeoman, Ballantine - Signed Copies Available
4 – C.J. Box, Stone Cold, Putnam - Signed Copies Available
5 – John Straley, Cold Storage, AK, Soho - Signed Copies Available
6 – Benjamin Black, The Black-Eyed Blonde, Holt
7 – tie
J.A. Jance, Moving Target, Touchstone - Signed Copies Available
Harlan Coben, Missing You, Dutton
Samuel W. Gailey, Deep Winter, Blue Rider - Signed Copies Available
10 – tie
Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg, The Chase, Bantam
Brude DeSilva, Providence Rag, Forge - Signed Copies Available
Randy Wayne White, Bone Deep, Putnam - Signed Copies Available
Dear Colleagues, Friends and Valued Customers,
Over the last few months, we’ve all read and heard stories about the National Security Association prying into the privacy of Americans through e-mails and phone calls, vacuuming up massive amounts of communications as well as utilizing certain keywords for searches.
We have wondered, beginning even back in 2001, if our e-mails and various writings would run afoul of these efforts due to the words that repeatedly appear in the titles of mysteries and crime novels, as well as the plot synopsis of the books. We no longer have to wonder.
We have been notified that we need to stop using certain of these key words or our e-mails will be heavily censored by the various govermental agencies, and/or our e-mail accounts and websites will be shut down. Writing about the books will become very difficult as how can we adequately describe plots if we can’t use the words such as murder, assassin, kill, bomb, guns or terrorist? Not evenlk;n;j;;kjbn;on!
In addition to these, other words forbidden are lknl;knkn, kkkhhh, ppihoihoin poj;pionjoin, and, if you can belive it, even jjl. While we think this is taking national security too far, we have no choice in the matter if we wish to continue selling .,mlkkn books. And lord only knows how they'll deal with electronic books. Don't be surprised if your kindles start to sound rather hollow from all the redactions.
In the past, we’ve reached out to you, our supporters, to write to someone to protest these actions, but we’re hesitant to ask you to put yourselves in the bullseye of the NSA, Homeland Security, the FBI, or the Justice Department. (And those are only the few departments that have contacted us.) Who knows how many other super-secret, alphabetically-named section is watching what we do. Our fear is that we’ve dragged you into this already, simply by receiving our lkijoihj or by you having sent us j;lkj;opijh or visited our ;lokn;oiiooknoin.
In fact, ;oin[oih[oin oiioion uhhy and oipo wlkn oin[oin[oinpoinpoinopinoinopinio should make us all oinpoin. How these people have the gall to tell us “l;kn;oi oo opioub or we’ll oioiboibuiobju.” That really made our brains exlode. [ouibpi oubpiobju;puiobp iobjupioubipbju piubjpijubpiu bjpiubjp; ju bpiubpiubipubpiu b0000000000000 000000000 00000 00000000000000000000 000000000 00000 000000
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000is beyond us.
In fact, according to what our lawyer has told us, " kno;nopinoininoinor oinhhhdthereby does stink, but in legal terms, its a clear matter of the powers granted to these agencies by hhdhdhdehoinaoinonki ooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooo oooooo oooo oooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo". Can you believe it? It is astonishing to us that in this day and age, the kkn thinks they can get away with this. What’s going on? Are we living in Crimea? Frankly, we’re outraged by lkn;obn;o hhh opiho0 iiuopiubavd njojk h;oihpouib ahuiob; oauibouibp iouuuuuuuuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuu uuu uuuuuuuu uuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu but how can you buck city hall? We won when it came to the sandwich boards but the alphabet soup in DC is out of our league.
So, for the foreseeable future, you may be a bit confused by how we describe upcoming books and how we alter the titles to not be objectionable to the authorities. It will take some time for us all to get used to this. We’re looking upon this as our contribution to the security that we all want, that we won’t be befouling the government’s overloaded search for villains with our simple works, and that these self-censoring efforts will be to the common good. Really, it’d be foolish to view it in any other light.
Thanks for your understanding,
~ the Crew
The Sleeping Murder
First Published: Collins Crime Club, London, 1976.
I Read: The Sleeping Murder, William Morrow, 2011.
Series: Miss Marple
Summary: “…one crime gave them what they wanted and they were content.” (pg. 42), Gwenda Reed and her new husband don’t understand Miss Marple’s reluctance in reopening a possible murder case. Gwen saw a woman murdered at the base of the stairs when she was just a child. Unwilling to let a murderer get away with their crime, they begin to investigate, stirring up long forgotten memories and trouble!
Review: The Sleeping Murder is a lovely mystery, one which does a great job in creating a sense of suspense for the reader. I enjoyed reading it, however…..there are two issues I have with the book, with an unusual twist - they don‘t relate to the mystery itself. The first problem for me relates to the statement on the front cover “Miss Marple’s Last Case”. While this book is the last Marple to be published, it is not her final case - that distinction belongs to Nemesis. The Sleeping Murder should come either just before or just after A Murder Is Announced. There are definite continuity issues in placing this mystery at the end of the series - SPOILERS! - Colonel Bantry is still alive, and he and Mrs. Bantry are still living at Gossinton Hall (as of The Mirror Cracked From Side to Side - Colonel Bantry had died and his widow had moved to a small home on the estate). Miss Marple has not yet been banned from doing work in the garden by Dr. Haydock and is still doing her own investigative leg work (which she needed help with as of 4:50 From Paddington). I know this seems trivial, but this is an issue which really frosted my cupcakes, as I tried very hard to read the Miss Marples in series order - not in publication order as most people seem to.
Which leads me into my next issue, which has nothing to do with the Sleeping Murder mystery at all (but I kept hearing it because of my problem with the series order), but with a common generalization of Christie’s work - “It doesn’t matter if you read Christie in order“. In the case of Miss Marple (I haven’t read Poirot yet) - yes, it does! Yes, it does! I hear that coming out of someone’s mouth and it makes me just want to howl! While they do not contain the over-arching story lines we are used to seeing in our series today, they do build on one another. You learn about Miss Marple - watching her age and hone her investigative abilities through the series. She is the glue of the series, and you get far more out of the books if you read them in series order, and all together instead of reading in the order of publication.
This is what made the Sleeping Murder such a shock to read, as I was expecting a series ender, like Curtain, and got a mid-series book instead. Now, I understand why it often does get stuck as the final installment; legend states Christie wrote the book during the Blitz and squirreled it away in a bank vault for safe keeping. Christie didn’t expect to live through the war (this was a common fatalistic view during WWII), but wanted her books to make it. She didn’t authorize the publication of the Sleeping Murder and Curtain until she realized she would not be writing any further books, and Sleeping Murder was published posthumously. So perhaps an asterisk for this title would be wise? Letting people know where it should go in the series? Seems silly I know, however I discovered I have strong feelings about this….who knew?
“She’s a very celebrated lady, is Miss Marple. Got the Chief Constables of at least three counties in her pocket…..So Miss Marple’s got her finger in this pie.”
“She’s made an awful lot of helpful suggestions,” said Gwenda.
“I bet she has,”…(pg. 219)
Interesting Note: An early draft of this book was called Cover Her Face, but Christie changed it when P.D. James published a book with this title. It was James’s first book with Adam Dalgliesh as her lead detective.
Cheating: When I started reading this book all kinds of bells started ringing in my memory, as the whole premise seemed very familiar. When I read the bit about Gwenda knowing where a door was, which had been sealed for years and finding the wallpaper in a cupboard she had imagined putting up on the walls of her new home…..Well I discovered I had read this book before! I find it a bit disconcerting to have forgotten, as normally I remember everything I read. So my assertion I had never read Christie before was true when I made the claim - however it is not quite as true a statement as I had thought. I cannot hold my twelve year old self too much to blame…. Summer vacation at the beach is not the most conducive setting for focusing on a book, so you can remember reading it twenty plus years later! (that’s my story and I am sticking to it!)
I didn’t cheat, as I knew who the murderer was, I enjoyed reading it again and reminiscing about my summer vacation!
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009.
Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, March 26, 2014. http://www.agathachristie.com/christies-work/stories/sleeping-murder/199
Wikipedia, March 26, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Murder
John Curran, a Christie expert & author, was nice enough to answer a few questions for the blog! Thank you so much!
1. Your first book, Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks, has won some of the biggest mystery awards out there, an Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards, how has is felt to have your work so widely applauded?
Very surprised! Although I knew Christie was popular I had no idea just how truly worldwide her appeal was. Since Secret Notebooks appeared I have visited – apart from numerous venues in the UK and Ireland (where I live) – the US, Japan, Turkey, Iceland, Finland, Germany and the Canary Islands; and have been guest speaker on an Agatha Christie Cruise. People frequently approach me after an event to say that, since getting a glimpse at the creative process behind her work, their interest in Christie has been re-ignited. And that always please me – that my work has contributed to a better understanding of just how good a detective novelist Christie was.
2. Are you working on a third installment of Agatha Christie’s notebooks? Or on something completely different?
I will be writing another book but not about the Notebooks. It will focus on a different aspect of Christie but which one has yet to be finalised.
3. As an expert in Christie’s writing, while studying her notebooks, did you find out anything in her writing which surprised you? What was the oddest item you found in the notebooks?
The biggest surprise was the lack of ‘order and method’, as Hercule Poirot would say! All of her fans know that the plotting in a Christie is impeccable and that everything clicks neatly into place in the last chapter. Not so with the Notebooks. Notes for a novel could be – and were – scattered over as many as a dozen Notebooks; plotting notes are interrupted by a list of Christmas presents or a page of bridge scores. Piecing it all together was like a giant jigsaw. The most unexpected pages were those devoted to the novel she was planning to follow Postern of Fate, the last novel she wrote. It was to have been a dark psychological crime novel with a final Christie twist. But, alas, it was not to be. (See final Unused Ideas of Murder in the Making!)
4. It is always the hope of the fans of an author who has passed away, that a new story will be found in the back of a desk drawer of in a filing cabinet. As a man who has actually found several hidden gems, do you think there are any more new stories out there to find? Or is the latest, Hercule Poirot and The Greenshore Folly, most likely the last one?
I hope to bring her radio plays to the public in the next few years. She wrote four plays specifically for radio. Two – Yellow Iris and Three Blind Mice – became, respectively, the novel Sparkling Cyanide and the everlasting play, The Mousetrap. The remaining two – Personal Call and Butter in a Lordly Dish – are wonderfully clever scripts complete with Christie twists. And almost completely unknown.
5. Is there anything we ought to know about Christie’s writing that is often overlooked?
As a writer she is very under-estimated. Commentators and critics dismiss her style while admitting – almost reluctantly – her plotting genius. But I often wonder how much of her output have they actually read. I don’t consider her a Jane Austen or a George Eliot but novels such as Five Little Pigs, The Hollow or Ordeal by Innocence are as much character-driven as plot-driven. And even a cursory comparison with most of her crime-writing contemporaries from the 1930s and 1940s shows how much better she was at every aspect of her craft: plot, character, dialogue, pace and sheer readability. After all, if what she did was so simple why has no-one ever duplicated her success? Ever...
6. Any Last Words?
Some facts to ponder:
· It is possible to read a different Christie title every month for seven years.
· She is the only crime-writer to create two equally successful detective characters.
· She is the only crime writer to be as successful on the stage as the page.
· She is the only female dramatist in history to have had three plays running simultaneously in London’s West End.
· She is the most widely translated and best-selling author of all time.
· ...and she never went to school!