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All the World's a Murder Monday

What I've Finished Reading

The Hound of Death was a great collection of short stories, about 2/3 spooky unexplained events and 1/3 cynical humans being cynical. Some of them are excellent, and some are just fun. I'm predisposed to enjoy Christie whenever she stretches her muscles (or doesn't, for that matter), so I would probably have enjoyed this walk on the spooky side even if the stories had been less well-constructed in general. One man fakes a haunting in order to cause his aunt's death, another is changed into a cat, for some reason, but gets better. There's a case of possession and a seance gone horribly wrong, and a few other things besides. "The Call of Wings," about a rich man who changes his life after hearing mysterious music, is an interesting experiment in inspiration.

What I'm Reading Now

Enter Sir John by Helen Simpson and Clemence Dane:

She crossed to the witness-box, self-possessed, but with eyes a little puzzled, that opened wide to take in the court from this new angle. A watcher in the gallery admired her every pose. Breeding! thought this watcher. It tells; guilty or innocent, it tells.


:|

Despite some unseemly concern for "breeding" and its tales, Enter Sir John is not bad. The prose is brisk rather than witty and the theatrical cast is not quite as memorable as any of Ngaio Marsh's companies - which isn't really fair, and besides, there's time yet. A young actress was overheard in a heated argument with the wife of the manager; a short time later the wife was found dead, her head bashed open with a poker. Martella Baring, the actress, can't remember a thing so she supposes she must have killed poor Magda and there's nothing to be done about it. Things look pretty black for the ingenue, but maybe not everything is as it seems? Sir John Saumerez, nee Simmonds, is a successful actor-manager who takes an interest in Martella because he met her once in an audition and thought she had potential. Can he apply the technique of his art to the problems of daily life, and succeed where the defense failed, despite being a nosy outsider unconnected with the case in any way? Since this is a book, the answer is probably yes. After resolving to overturn Martella's conviction, Sir John repeats the phrase "It isn't as if I were in love with her," three times in as many pages and fantasizes about casting her as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew. This can't be helped, I guess; there's no aphrodisiac like a murder charge.

Best things about this book so far: the street on which the murder takes place - populated with drowsy and irritated witnesses who are too put out by all that noise in the middle of the night to process what they might be witnessing - and the totally unmethodical and irrational jury whose deliberations are given a whole chapter to themselves.

What I Plan to Read Next

More Christie, probably! It's time for Lord Edgeware Dies, which I haven't read but which has a nice matter-of-fact title, and then MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, which was so good that it changed my life! though probably not in any immediately useful way.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
liadtbunny
May. 15th, 2017 02:38 pm (UTC)
I'd rather be found guilty than be grateful to a man who wants to cast me as Kate in TotS (or wants to put on TotT full stop)!

'Murder on the Orient Express' changed your life? Wow! I'm impressed by people's lives that have been changed by books as it hasn't happened to me except to buy more books.
evelyn_b
May. 15th, 2017 02:55 pm (UTC)
I'd rather be found guilty than be grateful to a man who wants to cast me as Kate in TotS (or wants to put on TotS full stop)!

Right? I love that that's the first place his mind goes when he's trying to admire someone, of all the possibilities afforded by the History of Drama.

Don't be too impressed; my life is very small so the least breeze knocks it off course. But I was alive for an embarrassingly long time without really understanding what it meant for a story to be "plot-driven," and Orient Express was so beautifully plot-driven that it threw a big "on" switch in my brain. That made other plot-driven books easier to understand and enjoy: a small change, but a good one.

(I also experience the Buy More Books revelation frequently).
liadtbunny
May. 15th, 2017 03:55 pm (UTC)
People run round is my idea of plot driven;p
sallymn
May. 15th, 2017 08:51 pm (UTC)
I must get out The Hounds of Death and reread it sometime - Christie was better at atmosphere than she or a lot of her critics think (not brilliant, but quite solid IMO)

And I'll be interested to hear what you think of Lord Edgeware Dies it's one I like quite a lot (does involve some serious sleight of mind that, when you think about it afterwards, should not have worked, but while you're reading... does)
evelyn_b
May. 15th, 2017 10:44 pm (UTC)
That's the best kind of sleight-of-mind! I'm looking forward to it.

I agree; Christie's pretty solid on atmosphere when she wants to be. Her forays into 100% straight-faced haunting in The Hound of Death are just about as good as her tricks and puzzles in the same collection. It's not what she's the absolute best at, but credit where it's due. And "The Call of Wings" really is fascinating, spooky fantasy with a dash of religion; it could almost be a G. K. Chesterton story.
sallymn
May. 16th, 2017 08:33 pm (UTC)
She's a much better writer per se than I think she'd given credit for by critics {nods}
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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