Mondays are for Murder: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

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It’s our final Monday Murder for the year, so I thought I’d go a bit festive and bring you Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, a collection of six short stories with all but one featuring Poirot.  The odd one out features Miss Marple in a remarkably brief appearance.  The book also has a foreword by Agatha Christie, which I found delightful, recounting, as it does, Christie’s memories of Christmas time as a youngster.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Agatha Christie’s seasonal Poirot and Marple short story collection.

First came a sinister warning to Poirot not to eat any plum pudding… then the discovery of a corpse in a chest… next, an overheard quarrel that led to murder… the strange case of the dead man who altered his eating habits… and the puzzle of the victim who dreamt his own suicide.

What links these five baffling cases? The little grey cells of Monsieur Hercule Poirot!

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Plot Summary:

The six stories contained herein are the titular Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, The Mystery of the Spanish Chest, The Under Dog, Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds, The Dream and Greenshaw’s Folly (which features Miss Marple).  All but the first feature murders being solved ingeniously by either Poirot or Marple.  The first story, however, is about the theft of a priceless jewel.  

The Usual Suspects:

As there are so many different stories here, I can’t really go into detail about the suspects, but you can rest assured that the stories include all the old favourites, from long lost brothers returned from the African continent, to people pretending to be someone else, to people in disguise, to people hoping to inherit the murdered person’s worldly goods.  

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

Once again, specific details vary, but for the Poirot stories, our favourite Belgian is generally called in by the police or an interested party, does his questioning bit, and then casually reveals the killer before the story abruptly finishes.  Similarly, in Greenshaw’s Folly, Miss Marple only experiences proceedings second-hand, yet still manages to pick motive, method and murderer, having never laid eyes on the scene or the players.

 

Overall Rating:

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Four poison bottles for the cheery thought of a traditional Christmas party peopled by thieves and murderers.

It’s been a while since I read a Christie mystery so it was jolly good fun to jump back in with Poirot and Miss Marple and kick around some theories about who done it.  I really enjoyed the fact that these were short stories too, because I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with end of year busyness just now and the short tales meant that I didn’t have to remember names and roles across a whole novel.  I did get close to the answers in a number of the stories, guessing part, if not the whole solution, which is always satisfying and cause for a smug internal smile.  I also found it interesting that the TV adaption of Greenshaw’s Folly that I saw earlier this year (or it could have even been last year) was much more in depth than the story here.  It’s put me in just the right frame of mind to gear up for the The Murder of Roger Ackroyd that gets shown on telly here every Christmas Eve (or maybe the day before Christmas Eve).  I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a mildly festive foray into murder in short, easily-digestible chunks.

Finishing this book is especially satisfying because I pulled it from my TBR shelf and so….that’s another chink from Mt TBR!

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Until next time,

Bruce

Mondays are for Murder: Peril at End House…

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I’ve fallen back on an old favourite this month, since it’s been ages since I last got into a Poirot mystery.  The copy of Peril at End House by Agatha Christie that I borrowed from the library had obviously been subjected to a series of borrowers who clearly enjoyed a cigarette (or seven thousand) while reading, and I subsequently suffered a reading experience that included itchy eyes, runny nose and a general pervading stink…but I soldiered on and quite enjoyed the story.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Hercule Poirot is vacationing on the Cornish coast when he meets Nick Buckly. Nick is the young and reckless mistress of End House, an imposing structure perched on the rocky cliffs of St. Loo.
Poirot has taken a particular interest in the young woman who has recently narrowly escaped a series of life-threatening accidents. Something tells the Belgian sleuth that these so-called accidents are more than just mere coincidences or a spate of bad luck. It seems all too clear to him that someone is trying to do away with poor Nick, but who? And, what is the motive? In his quest for answers, Poirot must delve into the dark history of End House. The deeper he gets into his investigation, the more certain he is that the killer will soon strike again. And, this time, Nick may not escape with her life.

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Plot Summary:

It’s a classic Poirot-comes-out-of-retirement story here, with Poirot and Captain Hastings inadvertently stumbling onto a life-threatening mystery while on holiday.  The standard set-up applies: a strange event draws Poirot in, a murder happens despite his best intentions and then Poirot goes full bloodhound mode until the murderer is found and the iconic “get everyone in a room and reveal the murderous fiend’s identity” unfolds to the delight of the reader.

The Usual Suspects:

This one has a good range of expected suspects.  There is the slightly mysterious and cold best friend of the threatened protagonist, her rich (or is he?) boyfriend, the true-blue Aussie renters on the block with some connection to the previous master of the house, the beyond-reproach military man who is fond of the protagonist, the family lawyer with a possible claim on the protagonist’s residence, and a collection of servants who may or may not be acting as the “person on the inside” for the killer.  Poirot actually writes a handy list of all the suspects at one point, including a mysterious unknown person who may or may not be involved.  Or actually exist.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

I’d have to say that this is a pretty straightforward example of a Poirot mystery, with exactly the expected amount of red herrings.  If this was the first Christie you had ever picked up, I expect you would be drawn in by various twists and turns, but for the seasoned Christie fan, the hunt unfolds just in the way you would expect it, with plenty of clues dropped that will allow canny sleuths to form a viable theory of who the murderer/s might be.  Prepare for a lot of self-flagellation on the part of Poirot and the usual amount of Hastings-baiting.

Overall Rating:

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Three poison bottles for the truth in the old saying that bad things happen in threes.

Since it’s been such a long time since I’ve picked up a Poirot, I probably enjoyed this more than I would have otherwise.  It’s a textbook Christie, with all the plot twists you would expect (if you’re an experienced Christie reader) and a reveal that I probably could have guessed had I really pressed the little grey cells, but was completely satisfied with regardless.  The strange thing about this book compared to other Poirot stories I’ve read is that Christie seemed to leave obvious clues in plain sight.  I actually picked a few up as I was reading them, rather than my usual of thinking back to them later in the story as things start to come together.  Even though there was a bit of a sense of “been there, read that” with the story, I still found it really enjoyable as the characters are personable enough and the dialogue of the Australian characters was faintly hilarious.

I’d recommend this as a good starter if you haven’t read any Poirot mysteries before, or if you are looking for a fun Poirot romp that won’t make you work too hard, but will leave a satisfying aftertaste nonetheless.

I’m also submitting this one for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

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You can check out my progress toward that challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce