I only paid .99 for this memoir, which I read last night from start to finish. There were a lot of elements that I enjoyed, but David Suchet is a successful actor, and there are also times when his rather extraordinary ego (who does that remind you of...) got in his way.
I was fascinated, however, at Suchet's explanation of how he developed the character of Poirot seen over twenty-five years of adaptations. His point - that is this something that has not previously been done in film or television - is really well taken now that I think about it. The Suchet/Poirot adaptations are a cinematic tour de force and are really an extraordinary body of work of which he can justifiably be extremely proud.
I also really liked how much he cared that Poirot was treated respectfully. He read all of the source material prior to beginning filming, and as a character actor, his descriptions of how he developed Poirot's voice and his walk were super interesting. It was also enjoyable to get his perspective on the quality of the various adaptations. His relationship with Hugh Fraser was also quite delightful.
I still haven't watched most of Season 13, which includes Curtain, The Labours of Hercules and The Big Four (I have watched Dead Man's Folly and Elephants Can Remember) - and after reading this book, I am also pretty sure that I haven't watched a good chunk of season 3, which is the last season of short stories. I assumed that I had watched them all, but I am quite confident that I haven't watched The Theft of the Royal Ruby, which is The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, and I still haven't watched The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
I do think that my favorite part was the reproduction of his handwritten list of 93 Poirot characteristics that he created after finishing the source material, and which he apparently carried around in his wallet for 25 years of playing Poirot.
As I've previously mentioned in an update, this is a book that is really aimed at level 10 Christie fans. It spoils the solutions of many of the books, although sometimes the spoiler is fairly oblique. For someone who is just a casual Christie reader, it wouldn't make much sense or, even, be particularly interesting.
For me, though, it was a really fun book to read - although I confess that I skimmed probably more than I read because, while I enjoyed seeing the notes and learning more about Christie's writing process, there was also a lot here that I already knew. Curran focuses very much on the books, not on Christie's life itself, which makes sense given that the notebooks weren't journals - they were writing notes.
There are a couple of short stories at the end that I haven't yet read, but I've finished the sections about the notebooks. It's definitely a resource that I will return to when I reread books, and it does seem to have a good index at the back. I bought it on kindle, but given the quality of the index, I will likely buy a print copy as well so I can more easily use it a reference.
There is a second book that Curran published from the materials in the notebooks. It's a bit more expensive than this one for kindle, so I'll probably just order it used in print from Abe books at some point.
I don't think that I can talk about this book without revealing a major plot point, so if you are planning on reading, skip this review!
This book had a very different tone from our first Pymalong, Excellent Women. Where Excellent Women was rueful, A Quartet in Autumn was somber. I still liked it, but I didn't love it in the same way that I loved Excellent Women.
The story centers are four older British people, Marcia, Letty, Edwin and Norman, who all work in the same office, doing some unidentified and apparently redundant work. Marcia and Letty are retiring, a retirement which seems to be happening by imposition, as the retirement festivities seemingly just occur and then they are basically handed a box of their stuff and the doors locked behind them. Edwin and Norman must be a bit younger, because their retirement is still to come.
Each of the characters gets his/her own narrative. Letty was my favorite character by far, and I am hoping that she continues the thawing process that seems to have begun near the end of the book, as she seems to be deciding that her plan to go live with an old friend in the country in retirement isn't going to work out. I hope that she reappears in a later book and that we get to see her thriving in her retirement.
Marcia's story is the darkest and bleakest of the four - she is clearly suffering from a significant mental illness of some sort - she is hoarding tinned foods, plastic bags and milk bottles, and she essentially stops eating once she leaves the office. She has inherited a home from her mother, so her financial circumstances are pretty secure, but it seems that she is very worried about not having enough, at the same time that she is intentionally starving herself. The doctors miss the boat completely on her mental situation, and the local social workers are defeated by her stubborn stiff-arming of them.
The two men were much less interesting to me. Edwin was once married and has children, but his wife passed away leaving him a widower. He is a very religious man who enjoys services in various different parishes. It is clear how much more valued single men are than single women - he is welcomed and treated with a deference and civility that neither Letty nor Marcia receive anywhere. Norman was the least interesting character, described as a short, angry older man.
This is a perilous book to read because it brings into stark relief how lonely and disengaged the later years can be for older people living alone, although most of the wounds here are self-inflicted with their intense unwillingness to open up and accept overtures of friendship. I would've preferred to have a more obviously upbeat ending, although as I've said, I do have inklings of a positive future for the three characters who survive at the end of the book.
A Treacherous Curse is the third in Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell series, and, as is usual with Raybourn, this book is a delightful romp. Veronica and Stoker have wonderful chemistry, although one does wonder how the thirsty Veronica hasn't overcome his manly scruples so that the two of them can take their romping off the streets of London and into the bedroom, where they both very much want to be.
I'm a long term fan of Raybourn - I loved Lady Julia and mourned when the series was dropped; I love her three loosely connected 1920's books, and I even liked the undeniably mediocre vampire stand-alone. I also follow her on twitter where she is funny, self-deprecating and delightful. She is an auto-buy for me.
I'm saving up the next Speedwell for a bit, perhaps to get me out of a reading slump.
I don't know who her cover designer is, but these covers are gorgeous. I may have to pick up print copies just so that I can admire them on my shelves.
I finished A Treacherous Curse, so I'm finished with my Snakes and Ladders game!
1. Author is a woman: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King; rolled 1 & 5.
7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D: Why Didn't They Ask Evans by Agatha Christie; rolled 3 & 7.
14. Author is dead: Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain; rolled snake eyes
16. Genre: fantasy: Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey; rolled 5 & 3
24. Set in Africa: Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie; rolled one die for 6
30. Someone travels by train: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha; rolled 5 & 3
39. A reread: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; rolled 3 & 1.
43. Characters involved in the law: Island of the Mad by Laurie King; rolled 5 with one die.
48. A book you acquired in February, 2019: The Huntress by Kate Quinn; rolled 6 & 1
55. Is more than 500 pages long: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (734 pages long); rolled 5 & 3;
57. Was published more than 50 years ago: She Came Back by Patricia Wentworth (published in 1945); rolled 4 & 2.
63. Cover is more than 50% blue: ladder: The Black Cabinet by Patricia Wentworth; climb ladder to space 95
64. Cover is more than 50% yellow: The Sittaford Mystery; rolled a 6
70. Something related to fall/autumn on the cover: The Smouldering Fire by D.E. Stevenson; rolled a 3 & a 6.
79. Main character is a woman: Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie; rolled 4 & 4.
87. Snake - go back to 57: Ugh. Landed on this one, so back to 57 I go.
95. Memoir: Wolf Pack by C.J. Box; rolled one dice for a 6.
100. Let BL pick it for you: post 4 choices and read the one that gets the most votes: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn came out on top of the poll.
Well, Marcia does not seem to be a well woman, with respect to both her physical and her mental health.
I do like Letty quite a lot, though, and I wish she would unfreeze a little bit.
I had four more bags of books to take into the UBS today, so I nosed around a bit while I was there - and look what I found!
Four matched Highsmith Vintage Crime editions of the Ripley books! I couldn't resist them, and the shop owner told me that they were sold back in the last couple of days. What luck!
I am just guessing on the percentage read because my book is in the other room. I'll be more accurate in my next update.
I have really been looking forward to this book, and so far, while it is more serious than Excellent Women and lacks the lighthearted charm (which was a bit deceiving, since there was definitely more to Mildred and her adventures than necessarily meets the eye), it is living up to my expectations. It is a melancholy book, about four aging, unmarried co-workers who are eyeing retirement with varying degrees of trepidation.
Pym does like to marry off her vicars - we've already had one mildly unsuitable clinch between a widow and a (much) younger vicar who are now engaged.
Silverhill by Phyllis Whitney: After decades away, Malinda Rice returns to the New Hampshire estate of Silverhill to make sure her departed mother is buried in her rightful place in the family plot. Still carrying the scars of her past, she’s determined to solve the mysteries behind the bad blood that has divided her family. But, like old memories, Malinda is not welcome at Silverhill.
She faces her embittered grandmother, a manipulative tyrant to be feared and never crossed. And her disturbed aunt is lost in a fantasy world, desperate to be rescued. Malinda finds solace with the handsome family doctor, whom she discovers is the only person she can trust, however guarded. The secrets in this deceptive hall of mirrors run deeper and darker than she imagined. Now, while seeking the truth in a mansion haunted by lies, twisted memories, and ruined lives, she must also fight for her sanity—and her life.
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn: London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker.
His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.
But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past.
Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .
Dark Threat by Patricia Wentworth: Miss Silver visits the country to keep an eye on a friend who may be in perilIt is time for Judy to get out of London. Her sister and brother-in-law have just perished in an air raid, leaving her in charge of their four-year-old daughter, and Judy wants no more to do with death. She arranges for work in a piece of the countryside untouched by the war: a charming manor called Pilgrim’s Rest. But it may be that she has more to fear than the Blitz. When she tells Frank Abbott of her plans, he warns her that strange things have been happening at Pilgrim’s Rest. The family patriarch is recently dead of mysterious circumstances, and his heir has just suffered a series of near-fatal accidents. He cannot sway Judy, for she needs the work. But he does convince the governess-turned-detective Maud Silver to follow Judy to the village, to be on hand in case country living turns dangerous.
Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander: Set amid the beauty and decadence of the Ottoman Empire, Lady Emily’s latest adventure is full of intrigue, treachery, and romance.
Looking forward to the joys of connubial bliss, newlyweds Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves, diplomats of the British Empire, set out toward Turkey for an exotic honeymoon. But on their first night in the city, a harem girl is found murdered, strangled in the courtyard of the Sultan’s lavish Topkapi Palace. Sir Richard St. Clare, an Englishman who works at the embassy in Constantinople, is present and recognizes the girl as his own daughter who was kidnapped twenty years earlier. Emily and Colin promise the heartbroken father that they’ll find her killer, but as the investigation gains speed, they find that appearance can be deceiving—especially within the confines of the seraglio
As a woman, Emily is given access to the forbidden world of the harem and quickly discovers that its mysterious, sheltered walls offer no protection from a ruthless murderer. As the number of victims grows, Emily must rely on her own sharp wits in a heart-stopping finale if she is to stop a killer bent on exacting vengeance no matter how many innocent lives he leaves in his wake.
You can tell I've been busy with non-reading pursuits, because I haven't done a TBR Thursday in two weeks, and I've only got 7 finishes to report (and one of those was a very short radio play.
Recently finished: The Black Cabinet and She Came Back (Miss Silver #9) by Patricia Wentworth; , The Lost Plays, The Sittaford Mystery, Murder in Mesopotamia & Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie; Smouldering Fire by D.E. Stevenson.
I've been sort of stuck at 64% in Sense and Sensibility for a while - I just need to go back to it and finish it; I'm at 51% of Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks, although I think there might be quite a bit of back matter because it seems like content wise I'm more than 50% done; I'm reading A Dance To The Music of Time with a GR group, and I'm at 40% of the first book, which puts me on schedule.
The newest installment in the Joe Pickett series delivered to my kindle on Monday, so I started reading it last night. I'm at 60%, and will likely finish it tonight.
To read very soon:
The Quartet in Autumn Pymalong happens tomorrow! In addition, since I just reread Murder in Mesopotamia, I decided to do a compare and contrast with Appointment with Death - two young women narrators (Amy Leatheran/Sarah King), two archeological settings, one Belgian detective...
I am also finally ready to read Gaudy Night, which I have been looking forward to for a really long time! In addition, I'm two behind in Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell series, which I plan to remedy very soon!
This is one of Wentworth's standalones. It started out strong, sagged in the middle and pretty much fell apart at the end.
“I don’t want to be anybody’s wife; I want to dance.” She laughed over her shoulder at him. “You dance a heap better than you make love, Bernard. Look here, I’ll give you a really good tip,” she added as he got up and gave her his arm. “It won’t work with me, but it might with some one else. Next time you propose to a girl—no, don’t interrupt; it’s rude—next time, you try telling her what a lot of interest you’re going to take in her and how you’re going to put your whole heart into making her happy. And—don’t talk so much about yourself.”
Ha! I am very much liking Chloe Dane.
Our next pymalong starts on 3/15/19 - just two days away!
use the tag pymalong to collect the posts/updates and reviews and happy reading, everyone. I am looking forward to this one!
“It is so good of you to let me know just how matters stand. I am really very much interested, especially after the rather curious thing which happened yesterday.”
Frank Abbott felt a lively curiosity. What sort of rabbit was Maudie going to bring out of the hat? He had an inward spasm as he thought how much the simile would have shocked her. Or would it? You never knew with Maudie.
This one is sooo deliciously entertaining. Honestly, guys, Agatha Christie could've taken some lessons in how to write a spy thriller from Patricia Wentworth - between this one and the last one, The Key, she has proven that she is capable of mixing espionage, romance and mystery into something both delightful and convincing.
Miss Silver has appeared:
The lady who had got in was Miss Maud Silver. Her original occupation had been that of governess, and she still looked the part, but for a good many years now her neat professional card had carried in one corner the words Private Investigations. It was part of her business to be a good mixer. She owed no small measure of her success to the fact that people found her astonishingly easy to talk to. She neither repelled by stiffness nor alarmed by gush. If there is a middle way between these two extremes, it could be said that she pursued it equably. She now produced a mild but friendly response and remarked that it was always very annoying to miss a train—“but my watch is out of order, and I had to depend upon my niece’s dining-room clock, which is not, I am afraid, quite as reliable as she gave me to understand.”
I'm also pretty sure that we've got our first murder victim...