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Jim in NYC

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Posts posted by Jim in NYC

  1. I am going to assume that you have read her autobiography. I would like to read it at some point but I don't know if I should wait until I have read all (or the majority of) her books or if I could read it a lot sooner than that. I don't want to read it if there is anything that will influence my opinion of any of the books. So far I have only read about 7 or 8 of hers.


    Actually, I've never read her autobiography. I happened to pick up this book at a secondhand store, and it makes a very good guidebook to where the author's head was when she was writing her books:




    Quite honestly, I'm not sure I'd want to read her autobiography until I'd finished reading her books; just judging from her quotes in the Companion, I don't always agree with her evaluation of her books, and I'm not sure I'd want to be influenced by her opinions before I've read the books. She calls The Mystery of the Blue Train "easily the worst book" she'd written, but I've always found it to be fun--not on the same level as Murder on the Orient Express, but not significantly below than Death in the Clouds or Dumb Witness.

  2. I think thats the beauty of Christies writing in that I could be anyone. I also think if you were to re-read any of her books years after you first read them you would probably still suspect all the same people again even though you should remember who did it.


    My only complaint with AC books so far is that she always introduces so many characters early on that I have to keep pen and paper beside me to make little notes to remind me who is who and how they are connected. I have just started "And Then There Were None" and I am already confused with all the people.


    If you can find some of the Pocket Books editions from the 70s, they add a list of characters in order of appearance. It helps a LOT, believe me.

  3. 6- Did you work out whodunnit, who was on your suspect list?

    I am going to be a bit smug here. In the second chapter I occurred to me that the book was written from Dr Sheppards point of view, so I thought then that there must be a reason for this and that there can only be one explanation and that he himself was the murderer.



    Right conclusion, but for the wrong reason. Up until now all of Christie's Poirot books had been written in the first person - that person being Hastings - and since she'd banished Hastings to South America, one could infer that she was setting up Dr. Sheppard as his replacement--after all, if Sherlock Holmes had a doctor for an assistant, why not Poirot?


    (on a trivia note, Poirot wouldn't get the third-person treatment in a full-length novel until Murder on the Orient Express, although several short stories in Murder on the Mews are written in the third person).

  4. 3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author/has it encouraged you to read more?

    I used to read crime novels all the time, but it’s not a genre I’ve read much over the last 8 or so years. It’s the second Agatha Christie I’ve read (the first was earlier this year - Cat Among the Pigeons). When I finished that one, I ended my review saying I’m not sure I’ll actively seek out any more Poirots, but if another comes my way then I may just try it out - all I can say is that if I’d read this one first then my comment would have been totally different - I loved this.


    I'm glad you gave Christie another try. Her pre-war Poirots are considered to be her best - once the war was over, she never attained the same quality with him as she had in the past. Perhaps the character was ill-suited to the postwar world, or perhaps, having written Curtain, she couldn't make him real to herself anymore.


    In contrast, her post-war Miss Marple books got better as she went along, because Christie allowed herself to comment on how England was changing drastically from the place she'd known when she was younger. Also, Marple finishes her "last" book, Sleeping Murder, in a vastly different psychological and physical place than Poirot is in Curtain.


    5. What were your thoughts about Poirot?

    I really liked the characterisation of him. He came across as passionate about detecting and also caring about the suspects - even if they might have been the one to do the murder (before he’d solved it) he still treated them with kindness and compassion. Sorry to harp on about the TV version, but I think David Suchet plays him so well. I did find I was hearing Suchet’s Poirot when Poirot spoke in the book (that makes sense in my head!).


    Agreed 100%. Suchet is the definitive Poirot--easily better than Finney or Ustinov, and setting the bar too high for anyone to clear it for a long time.


    6. Did you work out whodunnit, who was on your suspect list?

    It crossed my mind at the start that Mr Sheppard might be the killer - only because I read somewhere that the murderer is nearly always the first person introduced in an Agatha Christie (I’ve no idea if this is true)


    I can't think of a single Poirot or Marple where this is the case - in point of fact, I can think of two Poirots where the first person introduced (aside from Poirot and/or Hastings) turns out to be the victim.


    How could Caroline not know? We already know that she’s not daft - so wouldn’t she wonder why he’d taken his life, why no murderer was announced by Poirot or the Inspector - and knowing what she’s like wouldn’t she push and push and dig and dig until she discovered just who murdered Roger Ackroyd?


    How can she? Only two people know--Poirot and Inspector Raglan. Poirot is back in London for the start of The Mystery of the Blue Train, and Inspector Raglan isn't one to gossip. If they label Dr. Sheppard's death an accident, there's no one to gainsay them.


    Likewise, the Ackroyd household has no reason to believe that Poirot is telling the truth when he says that the murderer is in the room in the final meeting...for all they know, this ridiculous foreigner could be trying to rattle them some more.

  5. 3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author/has it encouraged you to read more?



    I'm not a huge fan of Agatha Christie or crim/detective novels in general, but I have strayed into that genre now and then, and I am not a stranger to Agatha Christie - "Murder on the Orient Express" is a good read but I have always loved and come back to "And Then There Were None" (or Ten Little Niggers as it was so... charmingly named for a long time)

    I will problaby read these kinds of novels in the future too, but I will not strive to do it because of this book, or any other that I have read of this genre.


    hee hee hee...to be fair, the word isn't anywhere near as loaded in the United Kingdom as it is in the United States.



    4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

    As a "modern woman" I struggled with the fact that women of that time didnt do much, other than spy on thier town and faint at the drop of a hat,


    I should point out that only Mrs. Ackroyd fits the fainting description--Flora faints, too, but that's a clue that she's hiding something, because, as Poirot himself says, "young ladies do not faint nowadays without considerable provocation!"



    8- Do you feel justice was done?

    No, I don't see how ending your own life equals justice at all, and I don't buy the "Save Caroline from hurt" argument either... If your brother commits suicide and leaves no explanation, when to my knowledge he has never been prone to do so, well I believe that would cause more pain, and probably a much deeper pain that that of your brother going to jail, where he rightly belongs.


    Except that he wouldn't have gone to jail. England was still about 30 years away from abolishing the death penalty when this was written. Dr. Sheppard would have been tried, condemned, and hanged--publicly. That, I think, would have been infinitely more painful to Caroline than her brother's suicide.


    Also, even though we know that accounts of Poirot's cases are published (thanks to the sterling pen of Captain Hastings), it doesn't necessarily follow that Poirot would allow this one to be. My feeling is that he withholds it until Caroline herself dies, so that she never needs to know the whole truth.

  6. 1- Who was your favourite character?


    The obvious answer is Caroline, because it's interesting to see Christie's first experiment with the character type that eventually became Miss Marple. But I also love watching Poirot work--making himself somewhat ridiculous to these English people, but knowing all the while that he's got them pretty much where he wants them, and only slipping up once (when he makes the point about the fingerprints and ruffles Inspector Raglan's feathers).


    2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest

    Count me among those who enjoy the mah jongg party. In retrospect, I also love the scene where Poirot explains his methods to Dr. Sheppard - it's a brilliant piece of writing by Christie.


    3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author/has it encouraged you to read more?


    This was the last of her major works that I picked up; I'd already gotten through And Then There Were None, The Body in the Library, and Poirot's Big Five (Thirteen at Dinner, Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders, Cards on the Table, Death on the Nile). I'd also read sporadic works here and there. Recently, however, I've made a concerted effort to read all of Christie's books in order, and Ackroyd was the seventh (as a trivia note, her eighth book, The Big Four, actually takes place before Ackroyd; the stories in it appeared in serial form in the newspapers before being collected and published in book form).


    4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

    I have to admit that I had no idea what a vegetable marrow was until I found this thread. Likewise, I can't quite see how Ralph Paton meekly allowed himself to be gotten out of the way--that part didn't ring true at all.


    5- What were your thoughts about Poirot?

    I love the character, especially since I know that at least half of his schtick is an act--in Three Act Tragedy, he admits that he exaggerates his foreign-ness and conceit for effect, and to put people off their guard.


    6- Did you work out whodunnit, who was on your suspect list?

    Not even close. I knew there was a twist coming, but I thought it would be something along the lines of a character we'd seen once turning out to be the criminal. That Poirot's Hastings stand-in turned out to be the killer completely took me by surprise, and I can see why half the mystery world wanted Christie's head on a platter when this was first published--but I can also see why the other half thought it was the most brilliant deception in the history of the genre.


    7- In hindsight, were there clues early on as to the guilt of Dr Sheppard?

    Yes, but that was one of Christie's gifts - she was an expert at dropping clues within the story that you passed over without noticing.


    8- Do you feel justice was done?

    As Mrs. Ferrars says, a life calls for a life. Dr. Sheppard pays for his crime just as surely as if he'd been hanged for it, and while his suicide won't spare Caroline the grief of his death and the embarrassment of knowing her brother was a murderer, it WILL spare her having to see him arrested, tried, condemned, and publicly executed.


    9- Overall was reading the book an enjoyable experience?



    10- Would you recommend the book and if so to whom?

    Anyone who enjoys the "cozy" genre of mysteries - the Mike Hammer crowd, probably not so much.