For those of you who simply cannot get enough of the little creature, here's Parker - now 10 weeks old - relaxing in the yard with next-door-dog Lucy. Nothing quite as satisfying as sharing a stick on a warm afternoon...
I Read: A Caribbean Mystery. New York, 2011, Harper.
Series: Miss Marple
Summary: Miss Marple is on holiday! Staying at the Golden Palm Hotel in (obviously) the Caribbean. Her days are filled with sunshine, sand and conversation -- all very nice, and frightfully monotonous, tedious and boring. Until a fellow traveler tells her a story about a husband who repeatedly murders his wives. Just before Major Palgrave produces the picture of the black widower to prove the story’s veracity, he unexpectedly changes the subject and shoves the picture back into his wallet, much to the dismay of Miss Marple.
The next day the Major is found dead, and Miss Marple is suspicious. Is she making mountains out of mole hills? Seeing a murder at the Golden Palm, just because she it a bit bored? Or was the old soldier murdered to keep him quiet?
Review:This was a fantastic mystery! In fact this is my third favorite in this series, preceded by The Moving Finger and Nemesis and followed by Murder at the Vicarage. I enjoyed reading about the partnership between her and Mr. Rafiel. Plus I loved reading the old tricks she uses to gathering information - a new method was revealed here and was fun to read. Another insight given to us is how Miss Marple perceives herself, as she identifies with Nemesis, a Greek god who avenges crimes (a lot like justice) and from whom there is no escape. I think is a great description of her, is it not?
*Spoilers contained in this paragraph!*Christie used plot device in this mystery that she’d used in The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side, with better results here, I think. The device: a look (or someone gazing) over another’s shoulder. Doesn’t sound like much does it? However in the Mirror Crack’d this look identified the motive for the murder of Mrs. Babcock and hinted at who committed it. In A Caribbean Mystery, this look identifies a murderer, seals one of his victim’s fates and helps Miss Marple catch her killer. This device allows Christie to give a clue to her detectives and readers without giving away the whole enchilada. I think it is a clever way of imparting important information while at the same time obscuring it!
The use of rumor was another interesting method of misdirection Christie used in A Caribbean Mystery to lead us astray, naking Miss Marple’s job of sorting fact from fiction more difficult. “It’s like seeing ghosts….You never meet the chap who’s seen the ghost himself. It’s always the second cousin of his aunt, or a friend of a friend.” (pg. 125), the spread of misinformation by the murderer helped to obfuscate their crime. Miss Marple initially felt misgivings about her idea of the Major being murdered, due initially to these rumors. Seeking out the root of the rumors and unable to find one helped strengthen her belief that a crime had been committed, also allowing Christie to obscure both the initial murder and method of the crime from both Miss Marple and her readers.
Did you ever wonder what people used as bandages before Johnson & Johnson? I didn‘t really, as the Band-Aid brand has been around since before I was born (they were invented in 1920 if you are a stickler for details). Until an offhanded comment by Miss Marple, “Like putting cobwebs on a cut?” (pg. 38) made me wonder, as I’d never heard of doing such a thing. My colleagues on the other hand had, and didn’t think this was overly strange. Evidentially spider webs are rich in vitamin K which helps with clotting and a natural antiseptic which helps fight infection. Apparently this technique is has been around since before the Greeks, Romans and even Shakespeare mentions it.
Now onto a complete tangent…While reading about spider web bandages, I also learned there are such things as spider web paintings. Yes, it is exactly like it sounds - webs are collected, cleaned layered treated and framed -- then someone paints on them. Less than 100 of these miniature paintings are known to exist. Who on earth thought of this? The answer - 16th century Austrian monks. Or at least they were the first to have surviving pictures made from this material. Leading to the question, who wakes up in the morning and decides to try painting spider webs? Perhaps spider webs are the secret ingredient to the moving portraits in the Harry Potter series! Adding a layer or two of charmed webs to the canvas to bring your subject to life….maybe those monks weren’t so crazy after all…..But I digress.
All in all, I found this a pleasurable mystery to read, spider webs and all!
“Conversations with you might be dangerous.” (pg. 139)
Interesting Notes: This is the only Miss Marple mystery solved on the international stage. It is also the only Miss Marple which possesses a direct sequel, Nemesis…But I will get to that book in just a couple of weeks.
Cheating: Cheating once again was averted, due mainly to the fact I really enjoyed reading the mystery!
Books: John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009. Dawn B. Sova, Ph.D. Agatha Christie A To Z. New York, Facts On File, 1996.
http://www.agathachristie.com/christies-work/stories/a-caribbean-mystery/157 Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, February 19, 2014.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_web#Uses Wikipedia, February 19, 2014.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Caribbean_Mystery Wikipedia, February 19, 2014.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobweb_painting Wikipedia, February 19, 2014.
http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2008/07/cobwebportraits.html Northwester University, February 19, 2014.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061009031730.htm Science Daily, February 19, 2014.
Published:The Mirror Crack’d. London: William Collins, 1962. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1963.
I read:The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side. New York: 2011, Harper.
Series: Miss Marple
Summary:During a charity fundraiser in St. Mary Mead one of the guests, Heather Babcock, suddenly dies. It turns out a lethal overdose was the cause of death, administered by a cocktail meant for the hostess (and famous actress) Marina Gregg. Miss Marple, under orders from Doctor Haydock, sets out to unravel this mystery before the murderer strikes again!
Review:I enjoyed revisiting St. Mary Mead and meeting up with Mrs. Bantry again and reading about the new mystery she found herself investigating with her old friend Miss Marple. Thick as thieves they were! The Mirror Crack’d made me a bit nostalgic, since I knew this is the last mystery set exclusively in St. Mary Mead. While this is not my absolute favorite of the Miss Marples (The Moving Finger and Nemesis hold that title) I did enjoy reading this installment, a nice solid mystery to sink into! The slightly ambiguous ending gave me something to think about after I shut the book, which is something I always savor.
This book also holds an important insight into Miss Marple. She begins to worry that with the proliferation of new homes & families, supermarkets and the general replacement of the old guard -- her insights and deductions will no longer be accurate. Her confidence is rattled until she gives her companion the slip (which I think speaks to Miss Marple’s formative years, since she circumvented Miss Knightly easily without ever raising her suspicions. How much practice did she have, in pulling off a plan like this with such ease?) and discovered, “The new world was the same as the old…the human beings were the same as they always had been.” (pg. 14), thus allowing her to move forward with confidence with proof that times and clothes may change, but people? They remain the same. Without this reaffirmation, she might not have gone on to solve some of her most difficult cases, such as Nemisis.
Forty years had passed in Christies’s writing career by the time she wrote The Mirror Crack‘d, long enough for the accusation - it is always the least likely person in the story who committed the crime - to surface. In this quote, “…How about your dogsbody, your dear Miss Knight? What about her having committed the crime?….Why should she have done such a thing?…Because she’s the most unlikely person…” (pg. 230), I think Christie is poking fun at herself and her critics. This accusation, I believe, is completely without merit - Christie plays fair with her readers. The one time president and founding member of the Detection Club, I think she might have been called out if she didn’t. Pitting her mind against her readers, it is not her fault that often the wrong conclusion is made due to red herrings, false trails or overlooked clues. And yet this idea persists….
“I admit….that one never quite allows for the moron in our midst.” (pg. 199)
The Mirror Crack’d seems to have been inspired by actual events. Twenty years (ish) before the mystery’s publication, Gene Tierney (a famous Hollywood actress whose credits include The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) contracted rubella during an appearance at the Hollywood Canteen in June 1941. Unfortunately Tierney was pregnant and the sickness caused her daughter to be born with severe birth defects. Later Tierney learned that a fan (who believe Tierney would be flattered by her ingenuity) had sneaked out of quarantine sick with rubella to get Tierney’s autograph. The fan had no idea the havoc her actions caused in Tierney’s life - the stress of her daughter’s medical problems (plus the added career and marital pressures) - all contributed in causing several mental breakdowns, bouts of depression and a possible suicide attempt.
The Mirror Crack’d and the tragic events in Gene Tierney’s life resemble each other far too closely to be a coincidence. However there seem to be some questions about this: when the book was first published, a fan wrote a letter to her publisher complaining about Christie using Tierney’s problems as fodder for her fiction. According to John Curran’s book, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Christie‘s publisher replied saying, “….Agatha Christie knew nothing about this until long afterwards…”(pg. 404). Which seems a bit of a stretch, to me, as events (and for that matter Tierney’s resemblance to Marina Gregg) mirror each other to closely to be complete happenstance.
Adaptations:Angela Lansbury, the future Jessica Fletcher, played Miss Marple in the 1980 film version opposite Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis.
Cheating: Didn’t cheat. I liked reading this mystery and was only momentarily tempted when I wanted to know if I guessed who had done it correctly. I resisted successfully and waited until got to the ending in the traditional way! (BTW I did guess right, well my second guess was correct…)
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009.
Gerald, Michael C., The poisonous pen of Agatha Christie. Austin, 1993, University of Texas Press.
http://www.agathachristie.com/christies-work/stories/the-mirror-crackd-from-side-to-side/191 Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, February 17, 2014.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mirror_Crack%27d_from_Side_to_Side Wikipedia, February 17, 2014.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Tierney Wikipedia, February 17, 2014.
Enjoying life -just off a train from Portland - basking in our usual warm welcome from Seattle Mystery Bookstore. Multiple Berry cookies galore with Gina (our freind) kickin down with "Blackberry Lemon Sage " variations on a theme, and our friends at SMB showing us the love. Thanks guys, we always love coming in to sign and munch with you!
We are lucky enough to have Carolyn Hart (Agatha Award winner and Edgar Award Grand Master) answer a few questions about Agatha Christie and her own books! -Thank You!
1.A. You have won several Agatha Awards and have a book titled The Christie Caper; my question is this, has Agatha Christie influenced you writing?
B. And if so how?
I have used many of her techniques, such as using readers' prejudices to fool them, including an important clue in the midst of a descriptive scene with another focus, beginning a book with small vignettes featuring those involved, remembering that murder is never funny but people are often very funny.
2. A. Christie was called the queen of poisons, do you have any method of murder which you prefer using (or gravitate twords) in your books?
My favorite method of murder is bashing a victim with a blunt instrument.
B. If so, any particular reason why you favor it?
It avoids the technicalities of guns and I personally find poison very harsh. Christie saw the horror of a person dying in agony, knowing someone in a close circle admistered death but not knowing who was behind the pain and suffering.
3. Many authors (including Christie) over the years have used previous training/employment as inspiration and for believeable details in their writing. Have any of your previous jobs influenced or served as direct inspiration for you?
I intended to be a journalist and worked briefly as a reporter. That accounts for Henrie O's status as a retired reporter. I also taught journalism for a few years and used that background in two books.
4. Christie’s characters were often based on brief impressions of people she saw, but she could not create a character on anyone she actually had a conversation with. Are you as a writer able to base characters on real people, are they wholly fictional or a blend of the two?
They are wholly fictional though we all draw on our knowledge of people we know and understand.
5. You recently(ish) just published your 51st book do you have a favorite book or books out of the lot? And why? (For bonus points do you ever reread any of your books?)
I was a child during WWII and that shaped my life. The impact of the war resulted in Escape from Paris. I wrote Letter from Home because I wanted to provide a picture of the reality of the homefront and the attitudes and mores that actually existed. I think Dead Days of Summer is the best in the Death on Demand series. A close second would be SOUTHERN GHOST. GHOST AT WORKis the first in the series about the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn. I wanted to write a light hearted-series about a cheerful ghost and I am thrilled readers like her.
I only reread a book if I need to check a CE or galleys. When a long ago suspense novel RENDEZVOUS IN VERACRUZ was republished, I truly found it fun to reread as it was based on my first quarter in college at Mexico City College an eon ago,. I felt like a kid again.
6. Is there any Christie book you wish you had thought of first?
7. In your writing career have you ever wanted to break out and write something completely hardboiled?
Actually I did and it has been republished. I suppose it qualifies as pretty hardboiled if not completely hardboiled. DEATH BY SURPRISE pits a savvy young street lawyer against ghosts from the past and a hard-edged blackmailer who knows too much about a gilt-edged family.
8. What are you working on right now?
I have just turned in GHOST WANTED for fall 2014. Bailey Ruth plunges into three mysteries while trying to gently encourage a long ago romance. Coming out in May 2014 will be DEATH AT THE DOOR. A doctor looks across a room and sees evil in a glance. What can he do? I am hoping to start a new Annie and Max, CHARMED DEATH. A literary author comes to the island to revisit the past but some will do anything to make sure he keeps their secrets.
9. Any final words?
I very much appreciate you and JB and everyone at Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Thank you for being my friends and for telling readers about my books.
1. Setting: Side hill down to Pioneer Square in the oldest most historic part of Seattle: Red brick, and quarried stone, sea gulls pinwheeling over the waterfront, and ships coming and going carrying cargo.
2. Character: Character: the staff at this store Starting with J.B. and Adele are true afficianadoes in the bullfighting sense of the word I suppose. It's what makes going to a book shop so far superior to buying on line. Talking to someone who has read a book gives you a sense of whether you are going to like a book or not. You can read it in their face and their body language when they tell you about it with they say a book is, "Okay" or "Fine" you will know.
3. Plot: They treat you great here. Always. I've never had a bad experiance. But it is never what I expect, I always come out with something unexpected but it alwawy turns out good. Every time.
Seattle Mystery Books is a "Must See" when in Seattle. Not far from the Public Market and the Art Museum. Not far from the Sea Hawks. You have no excuse not to stop by.
Highly reccomended, for all Alaskans, all earthlings.
AKA: What Mrs. McGuillicuddy Saw!; Murder She Said
Published:4:50 From Paddington. William Collins, London, 1957. What Mrs. McGuillicuddy Saw!. Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1957.
I Read:4:50 From Paddington. New York, Harper, 2011.
Series: Miss Marple
Summary:While on the way home from a shopping excursion Mrs. McGuillicuddy, relaxing in her first class rail car, witnesses a murder on a passing train. Reporting the crime to the authorities, they conducted a quick inquiry into the incident - when no body turns up, they quickly close the case. Knowing what she saw really happened, Mrs. McGuillicuddy quickly contacts her friend Jane Marple, who believes her, and starts her own investigation into this mysterious murder.
Review: This was an interesting way to spin a murder story out to your audience. First, other than Miss Marple’s conviction, you’re not really one hundred percent sure a crime has been committed. When we know a crime actually occurred, we have no concrete proof who the murder victim is for ninety-eight percent of the novel (I did the math) that this is the case. This makes both Miss Marple’s (and our) job a bit more difficult, since motive for the crime is largely indeterminate. This playing with the reader’s perception to tell a story, I found, was a fun way to tell a mystery.
Now, while I found the story-telling method interesting, the way the story wraps up is a bit of a let down. Christie violates rule number seven in the Rules of Fair Play - she does not disclose all the clues Miss Marple or Miss Lucy Eylesbarrow find. I say this because - while the victim’s identity and the motive are mentioned/hinted at - their link to the murderer is not. Marple does not state what scrap of information led her to the murderer (Now if Lucy or Miss Marple stooped to listening at keyholes, her grand deduction at the end of the book might make more sense, however this type of action isn’t mentioned and I cannot really see either woman condoning that sort of behavior.).
While the ending is a bit underwhelming, this is still an important novel in the Miss Marple series. This is the first mystery in which her age/health considerations impact her inquiries: first, her resolve wavered for a moment, “She was old - old and tired. She felt at this moment, at the end of a tiring day, a great reluctance to enter upon any project at all…” (chapt. 3, pg. 25). Her inability to dash about (not that she dashed exactly, more along the lines of brisk or bustle I think) and actively investigate the crime brought on this brief flicker of doubt. At least, until inspiration struck on how she could locate the body and vindicate her friend.
From this point forward in the series, Miss Marple must devise even more clever strategies to catch her killers (as I am faster at reading than I am writing I feel safe in making this assertion). In 4:50 From Paddington, Miss Marple literally makes a list of assets (people) she could employ to help her solve the mystery which dropped so unexpectedly in her lap. Ultimately, in this mystery, she hires Miss Lucy Eylesbarrow to run hither, thither and yon for her, to go undercover and report back. So while not exactly on ground zero for all the mundane discoveries, Miss Marple receives all the needed information to solve the mystery and bring a bit of verve into her life.
Reader Question: From: Yvonne L.: “Miss Marple is my favorite Christie detective (*), and _4:50 from Paddington_ is my favorite Marple. My question for Amber is, who does Lucy Eyelesbarrow marry?”
For those of you have not read 4:50 From Paddington yet, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, Miss Marple’s undercover sleuth, is introduced to several eligible bachelors. The two main contenders are Cedric and Bryan. At the end of the book Miss Marple hints Lucy will marry soon, when asked who - she replies “Don’t you know?” (pg. 271), leaving the readers guessing who Lucy will choose.
I believe Lucy marries Cedric.
The first reason I came to this conclusion - starts from our initial introduction to Lucy, “She… quite frankly, liked money.” (pg. 31). I don’t believe Lucy would marry for it, as she built a wonderful career & has her own; however, I can see her factoring it into any decision she makes. This is the chief reason I cannot see her marrying Bryan, whose money making schemes never seem to come to fruition. Nor can I see them working well as a team to make these ventures work, Bryan seems a bit to pliant to me. Nor would she, I think, be very willing to put her own money into any scheme which didn’t look to be successful. On the other hand Cedric who, at the whim of a murderer, became the prime beneficiary to the money and estate - started immediately preparing for this eventuality, with some solid ideas.
Another issue? Lucy never stayed in one place for very long (a fortnight was the standard), nor did she commit her services very far in advance (no bookings more than six months in advance) and took regular luxury vacations (back to money again). So again, I don’t think Bryan would appeal to her in the long term. He longed for nothing more than to live on the estate, with his son; he’d had enough excitement during the war. On the other hand, Cedric planned to travel. In addition, Cedric had already traveled extensively and lived abroad for many years before venturing back home again.
Lastly Cedric challenged Lucy: they had verbal skirmishes, he was crass and she could speak plainly to him. Bryan needed more of the mothering and coddling type, someone to take care of him. Again I cannot see Lucy being happy in the long run with Bryan. He wouldn’t challenge her, make her mad or think, he would allow her to guide him along whatever path she deemed best
I know most of the film adaptations have Lucy choosing Bryan in the end (and how I would love to pick a Bryan as it is my husband‘s name). Both men possess their own appeal, but to me Cedric feels like a better fit. The issue movies run into, I think, it is easier for an audience to cheer for a wounded war hero like Bryan in a compressed amount of time. You need to extra time allotted for a Cedric romance, since the audience needs to be coaxed into rooting for Cedric, which would take time away from the main story, the murder mystery, being broadcast.
For A Final Ruling: According to John Curran, in Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Christie knew who Lucy would eventually marry, “ Cedric…a rolling stone, uninhibited- (eventually to marry Lucy Eylesbarrow)” (pg. 214).]
“Sharp Customer…So Sharp that he cuts himself sometimes.” (chapt. 9, pg. 96)
Interesting Fact: The title of this mystery received more adjustments than any of Christie’s other books: 4:15, 4:30, 4:54, and 5:00 were tossed around for a bit, before they landed on 4:50 as the time in the title. The original American title differed greatly from the British; What Mrs. McGuillicuddy Saw!. Plus there is the 1961 movie tie edition named; Murder She Said. The Chicago Tribune used the title Eyewitness to Death when they printed the book in serialized form in their paper. A rose by any other name…..
Adaptations: This story has been adapted several times to the small screens, radio and once into a French feature length film. The most interesting, to me at least, this marked the first time a Christie mystery was turned into a PC game!
Cheating: Nope, still virtuous on that front!
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009. Dawn B. Sova, Ph.D. Agatha Christie A To Z. New York, Facts On File, 1996.
http://www.agathachristie.com/christies-work/stories/450-from-paddington/19 Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, February 4, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4.50_from_Paddington Wikipedia, February 4, 2014. http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/C_Authors/Christie_Agatha.html Stop, You’re Killing Me, February 4, 2014.
Now, bear in mind, he doesn't live here and he's not here every day. Right now, he's here Monday mornings and almost all of Tuesdays, but that will change as our home schedule changes - and as he's old enough to stay in the yard by himself and the weather is warm enough for him to stay in the yard by himself.
But he's a smart little guy, playful and curious and not too destructive!