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Agatha Christie and Diana Wynne Jones

So in the past few days I've read three Agatha Christie novels (and have downloaded from the library about...let me count...fifteen of her novels?) Oh my god I love them. I had a fairly long dry spell of reading no new books and then all of a sudden I read almost one a day.


I read Cards on the Table first.

I am glad that I read her foreword where she says the suspect is one of the four official suspects. I like that she does that--doesn't try to trick you by going "AH HA, the official suspects didn't do it, it's the most unlikely obscure character!" It was fun to twist myself into knots thinking about which of them could have done it, especially since it's been so long since she's written them and 1ots of pop culture has absorbed her storytelling. Would it be the young girl? The older matron? The somewhat abrasive doctor? The mysterious man? Is there a convention that she had created that would let me guess?

So Anne killed her old employer and tried to kill Rhoda? Ouch. The doctor's murders were also particularly clever; no wonder no one could pin them on him. Terrifying though--doing them out in the public eye and still getting away with it!

I could not and did not even try to follow the bridge discussions. Afterwards I looked at Wikipedia and I still don't understand. It's okay! I don't mind. It was not that important either--just that one person of four could get up while they were dummy (no idea what this means in the game but it's easy enough to see what it means in the novel) and that there were stakes. I also don't know how to play poker and a lot of card games...I end up skimming and hoping that the important parts are sort of handed to me after all the technical explanation. I've tried looking them up but it's extremely dry reading.

Then Death on the Nile:

I think this is my favourite of the three! Something about the elaborateness, complexity, and the writing:
"Accordingly Mademoiselle Robson and Monsieur Fanthorp got out with Mademoiselle de Bellefort and for the next five minutes they are busy, on the port side of the deck. Mademoiselle Bowers’, Dr. Bessner’s and Mademoiselle de Bellefort’s cabins are all on the port side. Two minutes are all that Simon Doyle needs. He picks up the pistol from under the sofa, slips out of his shoes, runs like a hare silently along the starboard deck, enters his wife’s cabin, creeps up to her as she lies asleep, shoots her through the head, puts the bottle that has contained the red ink on her washstand (it mustn’t be found on him), runs back, gets hold of Mademoiselle Van Schuyler’s velvet stole, which he has quietly stuffed down the side of a chair in readiness, muffles it round the pistol and fires a bullet into his leg. His chair into which he falls (in genuine agony this time) is by a window. He lifts the window and throws the pistol (wrapped up with the telltale handkerchief in the velvet stole) into the Nile."

That was such a satisfying explanation. I also like how there were some really good strong suspects--like Pennington, who has the motive and the strength (of will and other things) to do it. I also really liked the characters; all of them from Linnet down to all the passengers on the ship were engaging and interesting. And in the case of the Allertons, good people (Tim's larceny aside) and neat to see the mother son duo be such great friends too. Jacqueline is so--nice--and yet she plans the cold-blooded murder of her best friend and then goes on to murder two more people. She's so cool-headed about it; Simon shouts an incoherent warning to Jacqueline that they're about to be discovered and she immediately seizes on a pistol she'd known was in another passenger's cabin (from just casual conversation too) in time to shoot a witness about to crack them wide open.

And that part where he shouts at Otterbuorne is also really well done. While reading it, I-the-reader was impatient; Otterbourne was taking her sweet time getting around it, and I easily accepted that Simon, whose wife had been killed, must be eager to know who had done it, and quite accepted the shout. Just really well pieced together.

I also really liked the aside when Poirot arranges Rosalie and Tim to get together and Col Race, who is still waiting for Poirot to explain how he thinks the case happened, tells him wryly:
“You will consent to my little arrangement, yes?” Poirot pleaded. “It is irregular—I know it is irregular, yes—but I have a high regard for human happiness.”
“You’ve none for mine,” said Race.
[snip, Race then says in reply]
“In fact the marriage has been arranged by heaven and Hercule Poirot. All I have to do is to compound a felony.”


Just really satisfying all together. What a novel.

Then The Hollow:
Oh man, I don't know how to feel about John Christow and to be honest a lot of the characters. On one hand I sympathize, because he feels trapped and unhappy, and you can't really turn off your feelings. On the other hand he is twisting a lot of people, like Gerda, into insane little pretzels because he just steamrolls over them.

I like how Christie plays with the staging of the murder/artificiality, down to the fact Poirot walks in a minute after the fatal shot is fired and all the actors are gathered around John Christow. I also like how Henrietta's art is infused through the book--how it encodes all sorts of hints and clues.

Lucy Angkatell would be impossible to live with. But her comments! The one where she tells Henrietta to come in and have some tea after she puts her car into the stable and given it some bran mash! :D

I gotta stop because I like being surprised by mystery novels (I never do try too hard to solve them, I glance over the diagrams). So now I am putting a ban on the rest of the Christie novels sitting in my calibre library.

I ALSO just devoured Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant and that's why the Christie reviews are so short, I have to talk about these right now too.

So these were delightful and I couldn't put them down but oh my god they were also horrifying. I admit it is because I came in through DWJ through Howl's Moving Castle and I was expecting more unalloyed charm and whimsy. Which there is, in spades. Lots of neat, clever, charming writing too.

But the losing of lives! AHH! AHH! The horribleness of Gwendolen! She is just awful! She put his lives in a matchbook (destroying one in the process)! Sold him to horrible people so she could be queen and lord it over other people! Took his magic for years and years! RAWR. Then Christopher Chant's uncle is just so sleazy and takes such awful advantage of Christopher it was kind of horrible. The lives thing is also because, well, we've only got one so it's kind of precious, but the way Christopher and Cat were losing them! Ah!

I also wish that they would come clean about things. I know both of them are often miserable or feel like they're trapped and can't say, but seriously it would definitely help if they could talk freely. I mean at least then they won't have to sneak around...hopefully.

So glad that Gwendolen got exchanged for Janet. The inversion of most fantasy tropes (i.e. someone from our world goes to another) is always entertaining; poor Janet has no idea about the ins and outs of even the most basic things and manages to drop information in a subtle way about the main framing world.

Also yay we get to see Millie! Her eventual fate was telegraphed to me but I did like the little twist at the end with Mother Proudfoot not actually sacrificing the young goddesses--thank goodness. I feel a bit bad for the cats but at least they can spare one!

More to come about DWJ I hope.

Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/171454.html.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 31st, 2015 01:25 pm (UTC)
I love all the books in this post - Death on the Nile was such a fave and I &heart; the Chrestomanci books so much. Your excitement makes me want to read them all over again. :) CHRISTIE! DWJ! So many emotions!!!
Oct. 31st, 2015 08:58 pm (UTC)
AHAHA yes go and read them! Read them all! *enables*

Death on the Nile is so well put together! I want to bask in the neatness and cohesiveness.

I am trying not to rush in and read all the Chrestomanci books at once (gotta yuletide review!) BUT I WANNA. I wish they did not skip protagonists though, I'd love to see more with Christopher's POV (or Cat's).
Nov. 1st, 2015 01:18 am (UTC)
Yes, Christie is just SO GOOD at plot construction and structure. They are so concise and well put together.

I wish there were more with Christopher and Cat too. She always left us wanting more. ;_;
Nov. 1st, 2015 04:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah! I end up re-reading bits immediately after finishing just so I can appreciate how it all ties together.

;__; Time to go to the fic-mobile!
Oct. 31st, 2015 06:00 pm (UTC)
I love DWJ's Chrestomanci books, especially the Christopher-centric ones!
Oct. 31st, 2015 09:00 pm (UTC)
He's such a dear. Though you wouldn't notice it in Charmed Life! He's so absent minded (at least on the surface).

The In-Between Place is like the world of many still silent pools in Narnia and gives me the same sort of feeling - like it's the wrong place to be in, and potentially quite dangerous.
Oct. 31st, 2015 11:19 pm (UTC)
Wait, these weren't your very first Agatha Christie books, were they?!

I love her too, although skipping your first two reviews because I havent read those yet! I did love The Hollow though, and there was a good episode of Poirot adapted from that one.

And omgggg so much nostalgia rn over you mentioning the Chrestomanci Quarter! I was all over those as a kid! I especially loved the one that took place at the boarding school and had "witch" in the title...those are actually the only DWJ books I have read!
Nov. 2nd, 2015 05:13 am (UTC)
No - I read the one set on the Orient Express (awesome book, but I got spoiled for it :( ) but still really great, and a few Miss Marple ones - I think the Body in the Library? Something like that, it involved the vicar.

They're such good books! I love Poirot.

Ooh..I don't think I've read that one yet! Trying not to burn through them too fast :P (do you want a copy of Howl's Moving Castle? I can send you an epub if you like!)
Nov. 6th, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)
I really must get around to the Chrestomanci books; I hear such good things about them!

I've never read Christie, but I like both the Joan Hickson and Margaret Rutherford versions of Miss Marple a lot, and I love the Poirot series with David Suchet...
Nov. 7th, 2015 05:05 am (UTC)
You should! They are so lovely! and slightly horrifying. (do you want ebooks?)

also let me repeat the same sentiment for Agatha Christie! So many of her stories are just really beautifully put together and it's so fun to watch Poirot or Miss Marple un-ravel the mystery. (ditto offer on ebooks? though I have so many so I will just pick my favs?)
Nov. 7th, 2015 09:07 am (UTC)
Oh yes, ebooks would be most gratefully received in both cases!
Nov. 8th, 2015 03:00 am (UTC)
I've sent you an email! :D
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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