Absent in the Spring

by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)

IMG_4329Returning from a visit to her daughter in Iraq, Joan Scudamore finds herself unexpectedly alone and stranded in an isolated rest house by flooding of the railway tracks. This sudden solitude compels Joan to assess her life for the first time ever and face up to many of the truths about herself. Looking back over the years, Joan painfully re-examines her attitudes, relationships and actions and becomes increasingly uneasy about the person who is revealed to her.


This book was quite interesting. Nothing like I’ve ever read by Christie before. Quite profound really, and a bit uncomfortable. Joan has the perfect family, perfect house, perfect life. And she likes to take credit for all of it. She is a woman full of self-importance.

“Joan felt a little gentle glow as she turned away from her image in the glass. She thought, Well, it’s nice to feel one’s been a success at one’s job. I never wanted a career, or anything of that kind. I was quite content to be a wife and mother. I married the man I loved, and he’s been a success at his job – and perhaps that’s owing to me a bit too. One can do so much by influence.”

She goes to Iraq to ‘manage’ her daughter’s household and help out when Barbara is sick.  The trip home is somewhat complicated with many connections and difficult terrain to get through.  She runs into an old school friend, Blanche, at a Rest House in Baghdad as she waits overnight for the car to take her on to Tell Abu Hamid to the Turkish railway terminal to catch the train to London. An interesting conversation ensues revealing much about both women. Joan, almost bragging about how busy her life is and how essential she is to so many, comments that it would be wonderful to have a whole day or two with nothing to think about. Blanche retorts…

“I wonder, if you’d nothing to think about but yourself for days and days I wonder what you’d find out about yourself…”
Joan looked skeptical and faintly amused.
“Would one find out anything one didn’t know before?”
Blanche said slowly: “I think one might…”

The next morning Joan leaves by car for the long trip to the train station. Its the rainy season and the weather turns on them and the dirt roads are making travel rough. They barely make it through to the station and find when they get there they missed the train.

“That right, Memsahib. Miss train last night. Very unfortunate. Track very bad, rain very heavy in night. That means no cars can go to and from here to Mosul for somedays.”
“But the trains will be all right?”
Joan was not interested in the Mosul track.

You guessed it, the train did not make it the next day. Joan was stuck in the middle of the desert in a small Rest House with the Indian manager and one Arab boy. She had read all the books she brought with her and she had nothing to do with herself for several days but think!

Alone in the desert.
Alone in this very unpleasant prison-like room.
With nothing to think about but herself.

I was amazed that a story about one self absorbed woman stuck in the desert with nothing to do but think kept me turning pages! It was quite a fascinating book. It made me a little uncomfortable at times (was that the intended purpose?) wondering about my own motives and how others might perceive my actions.

Does Joan see herself clearly during this time or does she hold on to the veil she’s constructed about herself? Will she chose to act on the truths she finds? Excellent book!

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Easy to Kill

by Agatha Christie

IMG_4175Someone was getting away with MURDER!
1…
2…
3 “accidental” deaths in a row. And only prim little Miss Lavinia Fullerton guessed they weren’t really accidents at all. She told Luke Fitzwilliam that Dr. Humbleby would be next. But she was wrong.

Hours later Miss Fullerton herself became victim number
4.
Dr. Humbleby was number
5.

So Fitzwilliam began his own one-man campaign to end a terrifying, ghoulish chain of murders. He knew he had taken on a dangerous, perhaps impossible, job. For Miss Fullerton had said that the killer “just the last person anyone would suspect.”

That’s why this homicidal maniac had found it so
EASY TO KILL.


Loved the plot to this one! Luke Fitzwilliam was retired from a police career in Asia. He meets Miss Fullerton on the train to London. She was on her way to Scotland Yard to stop a killer and when she is killed before she can get there he can’t get the story she told him or the look on her face off his mind so he had to go to Wychwood under Ashe and find the killer.

This is a Superintendent Battle book. I’ve never read one of them before. He doesn’t actually come into the story until the last two chapters though so I didn’t get to know him at all. It was published in 1939 in the UK under the title Murder is Easy and in the US under this title, Easy to Kill.

A good solid English countryside mystery by the master!

Ordeal of Innocence

B668A458-900F-47CC-902B-E94948871285By Agatha Christie

Whoever killed Mrs. Arygle was still at large. With seven likely suspects and as many reasons for wanting her dead, no wonder everyone suspected her nearest and dearest. But what made this Murder so baffling was that it had to be solved twice!


Excellent book! Mr. Calgary came to late to save Jacko. Jacko was arrested for murdering his mother and six months later he died in prison from pneumonia. He swore he was innocent. Claimed he hitched a ride into town that night and a search began for the man who picked him up, to no avail. The evidence was overwhelming and without the mysterious driver Jacko was convicted.  Two years later Mr. Calgary appears and says he was that man! He had been on an Artic expedition and didn’t even know about the trial until recently and he needed to set the record right and clear Jacko’s name. He thought the family would be thrilled and thankful. But they weren’t. That meant one of them did it!

“Going on so about justice! What does it matter to Jacko now? He’s dead. It’s not Jacko who matters. It’s us!” (Sister Hester speaking)

”What do you mean?”

”It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent.”
She caught his arm, digging her fingers into it.
”It’s we who matter. Don’t you see what you’ve done to us all?”


This book counts for Just the Facts Ma’am @ Bev’s My Reader’s Block. Gold Era Detective Notebook (1958) – category  – Why – made into a film/TV/ play

I picked this book to read because the BBC did a TV movie of this book that was suppose to air around Christmas. But one of the stars was accused by one woman of sexual harassment and they pulled the movie!

Murder at Hazelmoor

by Agatha Christie  –  published 1931
Also published as The Sittaford Mystery

RACE AGAINST DEATH

IMG_0285Inspector Narracott was the perfect model of a professional police inspector – calm, methodical, doing everything by the book.

Beautiful young Emily Trefusis was his perfect opposite – impulsive, intuitive, irreverent toward all rules and regulations.

Together, they entered into a competition to solve the baffling case of a man who had died at the very moment his murder was being forecast at a seance miles away.

And it was not long before even the Inspector had to admit Emily was as effective a sleuth as he could ever hope to be…

…unless, of course, she was a murderess, leading him on a merry chase…


 

Another fun tale by Agatha Christie. I had seen the BBC drama based on this book before I read it and was shocked to find Miss Marple wasn’t even in the book! I’ll have to re-watch the movie now that I’ve actually read the book. I wish they wouldn’t take such license with the book when they do the movies!

This has all the ‘fixin’s’, small village, big house, snow storm, big family and plenty of red herrings. Enjoyed immensely.


This fulfills the ‘dead body‘ category on the Gold Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt @ My Reader’s Block. That puts me at 10 on this card!

 

 

 

That Mustache, Really!?

Finally made it to the theater to see the new Murder on the Orient Express. I’ve heard such mixed reviews. I figured the cinematography would be worth it if nothing else. Sorry to say I was a little disappointed in that too. The costumes and the train were perfect, but so much of the snow covered mountain landscape seemed artificial to me.  In a few scenes almost like the actors were filmed against that ‘green screen’ with the background put in later. Maybe we are just spectacularly spoiled with the quality of the films today!

Of course I think after years of David Suchet perfectly playing the character, no one is going to be able to step into the role without taking a lot of heat! I didn’t care for Branagh’s Poirot. But maybe he will grow on me, I hear he is doing Death on the Nile next.

And that mustache was ridiculous! Have you seen any pictures of it yet? I’m sure it’s been hard to miss with all the publicity about it.

BUT! I found this article online about it and it states that Agatha Christie described Poirot’s mustache as ‘magnificent’ and ‘immense’ and she was very protective over him. It was said that her husband had a disagreement with Albert Finney over the size of the mustache in the 1974 film version, which they loved, aside from the tiny mustache! So the tiny one we are used to seeing is  not what Christie visualized on Poirot and he is her creation, so… Branagh said the size of the mustache was very important to Christie’s family for this film version and they worked as advisors on the film . Read the article, it’s good!

Have you seen it yet and what did you think? It’s a wonderful tale and you know, I don’t think I’ve ever read this one!

 

Crooked House

by Agatha Christie first published in 1949

IMG_3242

Pocket Book edition

POISON BY PRESCRIPTION
The old man suffered from diabetes. He had regular injections of insulin – until someone switched the insulin for eserine. Anyone in the house could have done it. Everyone had a motive. The old man was enormously rich. And his wife was beautiful. Of course, beauty is no crime. But his wife was fifty years younger – and in love with another man!

I read this one getting ready for the film version due out December 22 in the US. I can’t wait! When I got to the end I remembered reading it a long time ago!

Charles Haywood is in the Diplomatic Service and comes home to England after a couple years away from his sweetheart Sophia, whom he met in service in Cairo. They were planning on getting married. But Sophia’s rich, patriarchal grandfather had just been murdered and she isn’t sure she can marry him now.

“Their suspicions may be quite unjustified. But putting that aside, supposing that they are justified, how does that affect you and me?”

“It might under certain circumstances. You’re in the Diplomatic Service. They’re rather particular about wives. No-please don’t say all the things that you’re just bursting to say. You’re bound to say them-and I believe you really think them-and theoretically I quite agree with them. But I’m proud-and I’m devilishly proud. I want our marriage to be a good thing for everyone–I don’t want to represent one half of a sacrifice for love! And, as I say, it may be all right…”

 “You mean the doctor-may have made a mistake?”

“Even if he hasn’t made mistake, it won’t matter-so long as the right person killed him.”

And when he asked her to tell him about it She said…

“No, Charles. I don’t want you to see us from my angle. I want you to see us unbiased from the outside point of view.”

   “And how am I to do that?”

 She looked at me, a queer light in her brilliant blue eyes.   “You’ll get that from your father,” she said.

Charles’ father is Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard! So Charles starts tagging along with the detective as he investigates. He gets to know her family from the eyes of investigation.

Of course this is an Agatha Christie book so its going to be great. What is there not to like her books! This one is a stand-alone, no Poirot or Miss Marple or Tommy and Tuppence. I really enjoyed it. Very clever plot and a house that seemed almost a character. My edition was a 9th Pocket Book printing. You can look at all the different covers of this book here.

Glenn Close and Gillian Anderson star in the movie. Glenn Close will be a perfect Aunt Edith! If I’m not mistaken I heard this is the first time this book has been made into a movie, is that correct?

Watch the trailer for the movie…

 


This fulfills the “red object” (Red hat and gloves) category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card for Bev’s Vintage Covers Scavenger Hunt