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The Secret of Chimneys (Superintendent Battle #1) by Agatha Christie

The Secret of Chimneys (Superintendent Battle #1) by Agatha ChristieThe Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollins on June 1925
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 273
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
three-stars

A bit of adventure and quick cash is all that good-natured drifter Anthony Cade is looking for when he accepts a messenger job from an old friend. It sounds so simple: deliver the provocative memoirs of a recently deceased European count to a London publisher. But the parcel holds more than scandalous royal secrets. It contains a stash of letters that suggest blackmail -- and lead to the murder of a stranger who's been shadowing Anthony's every move. Discovering the dead man's identity means retracing his steps -- to the rambling estate of Chimneys where darker secrets, and deadlier threats, await anyone who dares to enter.

I can honestly say that I will probably never re-read this book in the future. It was honestly a trial to get through. The first 50 or so pages made no sense and then things get a bit smoother when Superintendent Battle arrives on the scene. But honestly, he is not even needed in this story since once again another person solves the crimes that are central to this story. I found the ending to be ridiculous and pretty implausible.

The central figure in this story is Anthony Cade. When the book begins he runs into his friend James McGrath and agrees to take on two jobs for him. He is to deliver a memoir from the late King of Herzoslovakia (I never want to read that name again). I was honestly baffled why anyone cared about these memoirs, but apparently they are very important. Anthony is also supposed to return some letters to a woman who wrote them.

Now besides Anthony, we also get several other characters we need to become familiar with. George Lomax who is a British politician, Lord Caterham, who lives at Chimneys,  Virginia Revel, she stays at Chimneys and is related to George, Bill Eversleigh who works for George and also seems to be flirting or something with Virginia and various other people along with Inspector Battle. I can usually keep people straight, but I had a hard time int his book.

I didn’t understand the character of Anthony or Virginia really. Virginia gets blackmailed, realizes the blackmailer made a mistake, but likes the sensation of it so much she decides to not tell him she’s not the woman he’s looking for. Anthony comes across Virginia and moments later is helping her deal with a dead body she finds in her home with no questions asked. I mean there were ludicrous moments dancing through this book, but those two are at the top of my list.

There are other characters in this one, but they are so underdeveloped I just don’t want to get into them at all.

I will say that Battle wasn’t needed in this book. He didn’t do anything and solved nothing.

I really didn’t care for the writing in this one either. Pretty much what I got from it was that Christie thought that all countries should be ruled since people without having a strong ruler would not be better than what they are. Also the racism that was prevalent at the time pops up in the book too. When a character announces he got married, another character freaks out that he may have married a black woman in Africa. And the man who gets married remarks:

“Come, come, it’s not so bad as all that, said (redacted) laughing.

She’s white enough–white all through, bless her.”

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The flow was pretty awful until Battle shows up I thought. Once he arrived, the plot flowed a lot better. But honestly I am still surprised Christie even had Battle in this one. He was not necessary to anything. Anthony keeps going on about how smart Battle is and how afraid of him he was, but really? I didn’t get much from Battle besides how his eyes twinkled. Seriously be prepared to read that a lot, Christie loves that word.

The ending was so random and I actually just shook my head. I was shocked at the surprise marriage between two people who literally just met. And then a random reveal of identities and I was wishing for a Poirot novel before the end.

three-stars

The Burning Wire (Lincoln Rhyme # 9) by Jeffrey Deaver

The Burning Wire (Lincoln Rhyme # 9) by Jeffrey DeaverThe Burning Wire by Jeffrey Deaver
Published by Simon & Schuster on January 1, 2010
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 414
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

Lincoln Rhyme is back, on the trail of a killer whose weapon of choice cripples New York City with fear.

The weapon is invisible and omnipresent. Without it, modern society grinds to a halt. It is electricity. The killer harnesses and steers huge arc flashes with voltage so high and heat so searing that steel melts and his victims are set afire.

When the first explosion occurs in broad daylight, reducing a city bus to a pile of molten, shrapnel-riddled metal, officials fear terrorism. Rhyme, a world-class forensic criminologist known for his successful apprehension of the most devious criminals, is immediately tapped for the investigation. Long a quadriplegic, he assembles NYPD detective Amelia Sachs and officer Ron Pulaski as his eyes, ears and legs on crime sites, and FBI agent Fred Dellray as his undercover man on the street. As the attacks continue across the city at a sickening pace, and terrifying demand letters begin appearing, the team works desperately against time and with maddeningly little forensic evidence to try to find the killer. Or is it killers...?

Meanwhile, Rhyme is consulting on another high-profile investigation in Mexico with a most coveted quarry in his crosshairs: the hired killer known as the Watchmaker, one of the few criminals to have eluded Rhyme's net.

Juggling two massive investigations against a cruel ticking clock takes a toll on Rhyme's health. Soon Rhyme is fighting on yet another front - and his determination to work despite his physical limitations threatens to drive away his closest allies when he needs them most...

Thank goodness “The Burning Wire” rebounded from a lackluster 8th book (The Broken Window). This one is also not as long as previous reads so that was much appreciated. In this 8th book, Rhyme and Sachs get called in when a mysterious figure is set on attacking the people of New York with electricity. No this isn’t Shocker. But honestly, you start thinking of this book that way when you get the POV of the man who is set on killing people due to his obsession with electricity.

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We begin with Rhyme being bored since he has no cases to work on at the moment. Since the last book when we went into Rhyme doing more rehab, he had gained a little bit of movement, but that is it. Rhyme is still focused on catching his nemesis, The Watchmaker (see Cold Moon) so we do get updates about that character via another character this series introduced, Kathryn Dance (also see Cold Moon). When a bus nearby is damaged due to an explosion because of burning wire connected to a plant nearby, Rhyme and Sachs are called in to assist. Due to the NYPD and FBI being afraid of a missed terrorist connection, the clock is ticking for Rhyme and his usual companions to track down the person or persons responsible.
I can honestly say this is the most I liked Rhyme since around the first book. We get his vulnerability when he has a medical setback and also the book does a nice callback to how suicidal Rhyme used to be in The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme #1). Rhyme knows that being able to still work cases and also his relationship with Amelia Sachs is what brought him back to the other side. Rhyme’s encyclopedia knowledge of most things science does not extend much to electricity, so we have to get more information about that via the bad guy’s POV and also what characters tell Sachs.

Sachs besides her POV working the scene here and there we don’t get much time with. I am not complaining though. I think the last book with her and the nonsense with Pammy was a bit too much for me. I do wish we had seen Sachs interact with her mother more though. She’s always this faceless character to me and that’s about it.

We also go to Ron Pulaski’s POV in this one. And either Deaver needs to toughen this character up, or just devote more of the POV to Sachs. I feel like Pulaski has not changed one iota since he was first introduced. I also find it odd that Rhyme’s dream is one day that Sachs and Pulaski run the Crime Scene department or whatever it was referred to in this book. I wonder if Sachs and Pulaski even know about his dream or would agree with it. There was an interesting development regarding Pulaski in this one that I would have been more favorable to if Deaver wasn’t so interested in resolving it by the end of the book. It could have been nice to follow up with it in the next book.

We also get Fred Dellray’s POV which I liked a lot. We get to see him struggling with the changing nature of the FBI and what place if any he has in it anymore.

We also get the bad guy’s POV and his obsession with electricity though seems at odds with his mission in this book. I won’t get into it in the review otherwise I will have spoiled what I considered a great reveal.

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I thought it was interesting in this one that we get a sense of the characters moving on with their lives between books which is nice. We get a reference to Rhyme and Sachs visiting Rhyme’s cousin Arthur (see The Broken Window) who I still don’t care for much. But also we get references to Sachs getting a new car and working on it with her pseudo niece Pammy. We get references to one of the characters still doing his ballroom dancing and everyone else asking about it.

The flow of the book works in this one though once again I have to say the little bits we get about the Watchmaker messes with things. I get why Deaver did that when I got towards the end, but I started to get tired of Dance and Rhyme talking via phone while Rhyme was trying to work the case in New York and another one elsewhere.

The book ends on a good note. Deaver tries to set up another twist but I wasn’t fooled by it for a second. I guess if I was reading this book when it first came out, I would have been worried, but since I know other books follow this one I just went eh interesting.

five-stars

Divine Evil by Nora Roberts

Divine Evil by Nora RobertsDivine Evil by Nora Roberts
Published by Bantam on 1992
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 568
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
one-star

A decade ago, sculptor Clare Kimball fled Emmitsboro, Maryland, to take the art world by storm. Now she’s celebrated as the artist of her generation. But no amount of success can eclipse the nightmares that haunt her—or the memories of her father’s suicide. Just as her star is shining brighter than ever, Clare leaves it all behind to face her demons.

Emmitsboro sheriff Cameron Rafferty loved Clare from afar all through high school. Now that she’s back, they form a bond that grows stronger each day—fueled by an attraction that’s been simmering for years. But Clare’s past soon rises up with a vengeance, rocking the town with a sinister murder that is clearly linked to her return. As an investigation gets under way, Clare and Cameron will learn that evil can linger anywhere—even in those you love and trust the most. But it’s a discovery that may come too late to save them.…

This was so long and tedious. Also there’s barely any romance and what there is you quickly forget about it when it comes to reading about the group sex, rapes, murders, and animals being killed. Heck we even get a scene of a man being beaten to death which actually turned my stomach. I don’t think the main characters or secondary characters were very developed. And there’s a topic of racism introduced and dropped quickly which was odd. The ending was a total nonstarter. I can see if Roberts had wrote a sequel to this, but since she didn’t, this book has an odd and menacing ending.

Clare Kimball is a sculptor living in New York. Even though she is on the cusp of making a name for herself she still feels unsettled by her father’s death years earlier. Coming home she found him dead of what looked to be an apparent suicide. And a dream she had as a child which comes back to her now and again haunts her. When her mother remarries and goes on her honeymoon, Clare decides to return to her former home in Emmitsboro, Maryland. She thinks she can stay there and work on new pieces and maybe come to terms other her father’s death and her anger towards her mother for moving on.

So Clare sucks. She has a best friend named Angie, who runs an art gallery with her husband Jean-Paul. Apparently she has no other friends though her twin brother Blair makes random appearances. She also is divorced though you don’t hear much about her first marriage. You quickly find out that Clare is angry/upset about her mother and her moving on. She feels stuck and thinks returning to a town she hasn’t lived in in about a decade is definitely the answer. When she returns she runs into Cameron (Cam) Rafferty. Can has also returned to the hometown after being a cop in DC. He’s now the new sheriff and is dealing with a lot of bad memoires due to his mother and his stepfather.

Obviously theses two are romantically interested in each other. But Roberts breaks that up with allowing readers POV of a young woman being raped and murdered and then a young teen boy who is apparently into Satanism and is obsessed with Clare.

Clare hides what she starts to discover about her father’s interest in the occult. And Cam gets into it with his stepfather and locks him up. When the man is found naked and beaten to death more things come to light in the supposed sleepy rural town.

I honestly felt like this was two stories meshed into one. Either Roberts should have had Clare investigating once she realized some truths about her father. Or Cam should have been the focus with him trying to reconcile with his mother. Instead neither characters center stage in this book. I felt more for Cam especially when there’s a reveal about how his father died and I hated that I don’t think he was told during the course of the story. I did want him and his mother reconciled but sadly that doesn’t happen.

Either way Clare does her sculptures and then all of a sudden gets emeshed in a case when a young woman she accidentally hits with her car that was running from men in the woods. Though she still wants to hide any thoughts about her father. Her brother and then Angie and Jean-Paul are in Emmitsboro trying to keep and eye on Clare. It honestly doesn’t make any sense why anyone is afraid of Clare’s return. She doesn’t go around asking questions or anything related to her father. Whatever.

Can I say that these Satanists are stupid? Who goes around abducting and murdering people thinking they will get away with it? And these seem like 80s TV movie versions of Satanists. I wish Roberts had introduced more information on how these dumb men were even lured to do things like this. Roberts tries to with the ending, but it was so out of left field I rolled my eyes.

The setting of this small town didn’t feel like Maryland to me. It felt more Midwest to me. With the talk of the smallness of the town and barely any stores or shops and small farms I had a hard time with that.

As I said above, the ending left things open ended and was a weird note to end this book on. I don’t recommend this.

one-star

Flying Too High (Phryne Fisher #2) by Kerry Greenwood

Flying Too High (Phryne Fisher #2) by Kerry GreenwoodFlying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
Published by Poisoned Pen Press on 1990
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 167
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

Phryne Fisher has her hands full in this, her second adventure. And just when we think she’s merely a brilliant, daring, sexy woman, Phyrne demonstrates other skills, including flying an airplane and doing her own stunts! Phryne takes on a fresh case at the pleading of a hysterical woman who fears her hot-headed son is about to murder his equally hot-headed father. Phryne, bold as we love her to be, first upstages the son in his own airplane at his Sky-High Flying School, then promptly confronts him about his mother’s alarm. To her dismay, however, the father is soon killed and the son taken off to jail. Then a young girl is kidnapped, and Phryne—who will never leave anyone in danger, let alone a child—goes off to the rescue. Engaging the help of Bert and Cec, the always cooperative Detective-Inspector Robinson, and her old flying chum Bunji Ross, Phryne comes up with a scheme too clever to be anyone else’s, and in her typical fashion saves the day, with plenty of good food and hot tea all around. Meanwhile, Phryne moves into her new home at 221B, The Esplanade, firmly establishes Dot as her “Watson,” and adds two more of our favorite characters, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, to the cast.

I think this book is firmly a three star read. We get introduced to Mr. Butler, though in the book series he has a wife. We have Phryne once again being led by her libido. At least she has good deductive reasoning though. Though I will say that whole last act was unnecessary with Phryne and I found myself bored senseless reading about her clothes and how much food she had eaten. She also makes an agreement with one of the culprits in this book that I found to be gross and offf-putting. I am still going to read the next book in the series though.

“Flying Too High” is the second book in the Phryne Fisher series. I fell in love with the tv show and then decided to start reading the books afterwards.

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In the second book we have Phryne investigating two cases. One involving a kidnapped child and another a murder of a man who was detestable in every single way.

The two cases do not relate to one another at all so you are going to have to follow two plot lines.

I can honestly say I don’t care that much for book Phryne at all. She is smart, but I find her ability to sleep with anyone and not care if they are in a relationship or not, not something to be admired.

Book Dot is a bit judgmental of Phryne, but loyal. I did like the parts of the book showing how Dot was so happy to have a room of her own with a door she can lock.

We get reappearances of Detective-Inspector Jack Robinson who has learned to not underestimate Miss Fisher. And we also get Bert and Cec.

The kidnapping case was okay, but I still feel dirty about the deal that Miss Fisher makes with one of the kidnappers. And we find out that Miss Fisher’s grand scheme was unnecessary in the end so I was annoyed about reading it. It didn’t make much sense honestly.

The murder case was a bit too much to swallow for me. I did like the characters in that one, it be nice to see what happens to Amelia and her brother Bill.

The writing was okay, but at times I found myself bored with the endless description of Miss Fisher’s clothes, shoes, and hats. Also I don’t really care what she eats for dinner or tea. There were long soliloquies about tea and I found myself yawning.

The setting of Australia does make this series appealing to me and I do like trying to get a sense of the country from this time period (pre-WWII).

The ending was a little odd though both cases are wrapped up rather neatly.

three-stars

Roadside Crossed (Kathryn Dance #2) by Jeffrey Deaver

Roadside Crossed (Kathryn Dance #2) by Jeffrey DeaverRoadside Crosses by Jeffrey Deaver
Published by Simon & Schuster on June 9th 2009
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 397
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
two-stars

The Monterey Peninsula is rocked when a killer begins to leave roadside crosses beside local highways -- not in memoriam, but as announcements of his intention to kill. And to kill in particularly horrific and efficient ways: using the personal details about the victims that they've carelessly posted in blogs and on social networking websites.

The case lands on the desk of Kathryn Dance, the California Bureau of Investigation's foremost kinesics -- body language-expert. She and Deputy Michael O'Neil follow the leads to Travis Brigham, a troubled teenager whose role in a fatal car accident has inspired vicious attacks against him on a popular blog, The Chilton Report.

As the investigation progresses, Travis vanishes. Using techniques he learned as a brilliant participant in MMORPGs, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, he easily eludes his pursuers and continues to track his victims, some of whom Kathryn is able to save, some not. Among the obstacles Kathryn must hurdle are politicians from Sacramento, paranoid parents and the blogger himself, James Chilton, whose belief in the importance of blogging and the new media threatens to derail the case and potentially Dance's career. It is this threat that causes Dance to take desperate and risky measures...

The only reason why I gave this book two stars is honestly because I was kind of fascinated by how Deaver looks at internet blogs, comments on those blogs, and how you can start to see how something that he looked back at when this book was published has morphed into what it is today with a lot of people on the internet claiming to be experts on something or how easy it is to spread a rumor about somebody with no factual basis and how it could be picked up and be counted as real news. Other than that the book lost me on multiple levels.

In book two “Roadside Crosses” we have Kathryn Dance still dealing with the fallout from the events of book number one. It appears that this book takes place a couple weeks after those events. Dance and her colleague and friend, Mike O’Neill or off to give a deposition about what transpired in book number one.  He and Dance are determined to make an agent who they believed murdered people pay. They are called back from an oddly arranged romantic interlude and are brought in on an abduction of a young girl who was placed in a trunk of a car. Dance and O’Neil find themselves trying to use a local blogger for clues to what could be behind this abduction and what appears to be planned murders of people.

Dance and her skills definitely take a backseat in this one. I think that there were only two times that she got to use her skills as a body language expert and the rest of the time was just her flailing around and listening to men give her lectures on what the internet is and gaming. I found myself really bored by her character and she doesn’t seem like the strong smart woman that she was in “Cold Moon.” And I don’t know what Deaver’s deal is with having every man that comes across Dance be a potential love interest, but I really hope that stops in the next book. I thought it was a little bit weird and odd that she seems to be developing friends feelings for her married colleague but also was attracted to a professor that they just met who was called in to help out on this case. And I maybe I wouldn’t say anything except the last guy that she liked turned out to be a murderer so maybe her sense of who’s a good person to date is just flawed.

A really big problem with what I think pushed me away from Dance this time though was the fact she’s in her late thirties and has two kids, one of who is 12 and she seemed completely baffled by the internet. She did not seem to understand how to use it, what blogs were, etc. I mean I don’t work with computers for a living but even I know about all that stuff so I thought that was very far-fetched. Especially since Dance has her own website. We find out in this book and I think that’s it in the last one as well that Dance and a friend of hers go about recording what’s considered folk music songs and record it and sell it on her website. So if she does that she has to be able to use a computer.

I can’t really speak about any other characters. Everyone else was very paper-thin and we didn’t really get a chance to get into other characters mindset.

Dance’s partner O’Neill was missing in action for half of the book but every time he and Dance are in the same room together it was awkward.

There was also something involving Dance’s mother that I had a hard time with and I don’t know why it was even introduced in this book. I think Deaver was going for some intrigue but it totally totally lost me. If you read the first book you know that a colleague of Dance’s died after being injured on the first case. We find out in this book that somebody did a mercy killing because he would not have lived long. Dance’s mother is accused of this. There doesn’t seem to be any real evidence why she would have did this and I thought it was a big stretch. But I think that that really got me there was that  Dance is completely oblivious to the problems and trouble her mother is in and even has a dinner party to have people come over and insist that her mother and father come over after she’s (the mom) been arrested for murder.  I kind of scratched my head at that one.

I also rolled my eyes at Dance and her mother questioning O’Neill’s wife parenting cause she dared to travel.

Say something nice. It was interesting how Deaver tied the book into the internet with actual links that a reservation could go to and read. I think he wanted to make it as immersive as possible. Unfortunately I don’t think he thought about what happened a if you’re not reading on an e-reader or computer though. I assume hardback or paperback readers just were out of luck.

I do think that Deaver’s description of gamers was off the mark though.

The flow was pretty awful in this one. Every chapter seemed to hang on a mini cliffhanger and we get some twists thrown our way that don’t work. Ot of nowhere we have the solution to who is behind these abductions, but wait, here’s a twist. And the twist didn’t even make any sense. Same goes for Dance’s mother’s arrest.

The book ends on an odd note with it looking like Dance may be torn between two men.

two-stars

Black Coffee by Hercule Poirot

Black Coffee by Hercule PoirotBlack Coffee by Charles Osborne
Series: Hercule Poirot #7
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 15th 1999
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
dnf

Inventor Sir Claude Amory feels a bitter taste in the mouth, when the new formula for explosive material stolen by someone in the household.

In order to quickly remedy the situation, Sir Claude locks the door and turns off the light, giving the thief a chance to return the formula without being detected. But darkness brings death and Hercule Poirot has to untangle family strife, love and suspicious visitors tangle in order to clarify the murderer and prevent disaster.

This book sucked which is why I kicked it to the proverbial curb when I got to 40 pages in. I often say that a good DNF review can steer potential readers away from a book that the reviewer articulates why it would be a waste of time. Honestly, all you have to know is that Agatha Christie did not write this novel. Instead, Christie wrote a play called “Black Coffee.” However it was not turned into a novel. Decades later, Charles Osborne would take up the mantle and write this. I have no idea why anyone thought the guy could pull this off, and the foreword by Christie’s nephew talking about what a good job Osborne did must have been in jest.

This is a bad novel aping to sound like Christie. I don’t know how else to spell it out. It’s like trying to see your reflection through a really dirty mirror. You can almost see yourself, but then you move a little and that’s all she wrote. I just could not get past how unlike Poirot this sounds in Osborne’s hands. He obviously did not get our egg head shaped detective at all. Yes, Poirot is vain, but is not so far up his own ass that he would be acting like he does in this book.

The overall mystery, did not interest me either. Poirot is called in when a man named Claud Amory is worried that someone in his home is hoping to steal secret formula.

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Don’t even get me started on why Amory doesn’t just leave his home and come to Poirot. That would make too much sense. Instead Poirot goes to Amory’s home to help and of course finds him dead. Amory has been poisoned by coffee he had after dinner. Of course my first thought is who drinks coffee after dinner. I can’t drink coffee after noon or I will be up all night. Insomnia sucks. Oh wait, back to this terrible book. Poirot now has a household of suspects. Hastings is also in this one and of course just like Poirot acts so alien you think he and Poirot have been body snatched by aliens.

I finally called it a day at page 40. Back to the library this book goes. Well I got my first DNF of 2017, maybe the Book gods are coming back….sigh.

dnf

The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie

The Labors of Hercules by Agatha ChristieThe Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #26
Published by William Morrow on 1947
Genres: Classic Mystery/Suspense, Mystery
Pages: 412
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

In appearance Hercule Poirot hardly resembled an ancient Greek hero. Yet—reasoned the detective—like Hercules he had been responsible for ridding society of some of its most unpleasant monsters.

So, in the period leading up to his retirement, Poirot made up his mind to accept just twelve more cases: his self-imposed 'Labours'. Each would go down in the annals of crime as a heroic feat of deduction.

Many long time Christie fans know that Hercule would go on and on about retiring (at least it felt like it) well in this collection we have Hercule talking about going into retirement and growing the perfect vegetable marrow. This makes me think that the events in this collection all occur before the events in “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.” Poirot’s conversation with his friend, Dr. Burton leads into the Greek hero named Hercules and his 12 labors that he undertook. What did make me laugh was Poirot finding Hercules to be a brute who was not smart at all (I tend to agree when you read the Greek myths, Hercules sucks a lot). But, Poirot decides that he will investigate 12 more cases that interest him before setting in the country.

The Nemean Lion (5 stars)-This one tickled my funny bone a lot. We have Poirot becoming intrigued by the case of a gang of thieves who appear to abduct rich women’s Pekingese dogs. Reading about how Poirot has to deal with each of these rich women (there are two in this story) and how many of them are pretty terrible people was fun. Due to Poirot being called in to investigate by one of these women’s husbands was what made Poirot intrigued. The main reason why I liked this one besides the awesome solution though was that Poirot revealed something about someone else in this story and I loved it. Great ending.

The Lernaean Hydra (4.5 stars)- Poirot investigates when a dentist is being hounded by gossip about being behind the death of his wife. Of course it doesn’t help that the man was not really in love with his wife and had fallen for his assistant. The only reason why this case is not five stars was that I guessed at who was behind the whole thing.

The Arcadian Deer (3 stars)-This one was weird to me. Poirot gets stranded in a remote village and is asked to find out about a missing maid. Poirot travels to Italy and Switzerland in this one. And I had so many questions about how much money Poirot has that he is able to do things like this. The solution to this one was pretty odd I thought.

The Erymanthian Boar (5 stars)-Due to Poirot still being in Switzerland due to his last case, he is called upon by a local policeman in helping to track down a highly wanted criminal. I do have to say though, there is a side character called Schwartz who I did find highly annoying. He and Poirot’s comments on women traveling alone was aggravating. I imagine that Christie was drawing some ire towards Poirot and this other fictional character. The solution to this one I found to be pretty clever.

The Augean Stables (5 stars)-This once again was a pretty cool case. Poirot was called in to help out the current Prime Minister who is trying to get ahead of the scandal due to his predecessor who is also his father in law.  How Poirot goes about dealing with the scandal was quite clever and the ending that came with Poirot almost getting throttled for the first time in his life cracked me up.

The Stymphalean Birds (5 stars)-This story starts off a bit differently. We follow a man (Harold Waring) who is on vacation where he befriends an older woman (Mrs. Rice) and her daughter (Mrs. Elise Clayton) who are also vacationing. Harold becomes increasingly afraid of two older Polish women who seem malevolent to him. Harold also finds himself becoming increasingly attracted to Elise and feels sorry for her based on what her mother has said about her marriage. When Elise’s husband shows up and accuses her of having an affair with Harold. Murder ensues. We have Poirot who also seems to be vacationing who comes along and meets Harold who is freaking out over the whole situation. When Poirot reveals all once again you are left surprised. Or at least I was.

The Cretan Bull (3 stars)-This one was a lot of nonsense to me. A woman (Diana) comes to Poirot due to the fact that her fiancee (Hugh Chandler) has called off his marriage claiming that he is going insane. Apparently it’s genetic (yeah, not touching that at all) and he has seen signs that he has done some things. Poirot goes down to visit with Diana, her fiancee, and her fiancee’s father and his best friend and of course gets to the bottom of things. I have to call boo towards the solution though. Also we have Poirot and his odd brand of justice taking place in this story.

The Horses of Diomedes (2 stars)-A friend of Poirot’s, Dr. Michael Stoddart calls for his help. Poirot arrives and Dr. Stoddart tells him about a possible cocaine epidemic going through a crowd. Stoddart is particularly worried about a young woman named Sheila Grant. Sheila is the daughter of a retired general and has three other sisters. Stoddart is worried that Sheila will become addicted which can lead her towards ruin. Poirot meets with Sheila’s father and others nearby to see who could possibly be bringing drugs into the area. I have to say that the solution to this one did not make any sense to me at all. And who would even set up something like this?

The Girdle of Hippolyta (3 stars)-A man called Alexander Simpson asks Poirot for help when a painting goes missing. Poirot is told that the painting is most likely on it’s way to France and Simpson wants him to find it before it is carried off. On top of this case, Poirot is asked to look into a kidnapping of a teenage girl called Winnie King. Winnie goes missing on a train (Christie and her trains) and is later found drugged up. Winnie was supposed to be heading to France to school and what happened to her and why leads Poirot down a long winding path. I just didn’t buy the solution in this one at all. It made very little sense to me. Then again maybe I was getting flashbacks to “Mystery of the Blue Train” and got irritated.

The Flock of Geryon (5 stars)-A character we meet in the Case of the Nemean Lion is back in this one. I won’t reveal this person’s name since it may clue people into the solution in that one. I did enjoy though that Poirot had a side kick again in this one. Poirot is asked to look into a cult and the leader’s possible connections to the deaths of some of the older members of the cult who were thinking of leaving money to him.

The Apples of Hesperides (2 stars)-Honestly I was bored with this one from beginning to end. I guess the moral of the story is that rich people get sad too. I don’t know. I just was glad to be done with it.

The Capture of Cerebus (3 stars)-Even though this one stars one of Poirot’s favorite women, the Countess Vera Rossakoff, I found myself bored. Poirot is invited to visit Hell (a new club in London) and once within its gates he finds that not all is what it seems. He meets a fairly aggravating girl that is engaged to the Countess’s son who is away in America. And Poirot also meets a very large dog which would have given Cerebus a run for his money.

 

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five-stars

The Sleeping Doll (Kathryn Dance #1) by Jeffrey Deaver

The Sleeping Doll (Kathryn Dance #1) by Jeffrey DeaverThe Sleeping Doll by Jeffrey Deaver
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on July 26th 2007
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 448
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

When Special Agent Kathryn Dance -- a brilliant interrogator and kinesics expert with the California Bureau of Investigation -- is sent to question the convicted killer Daniel "Son of Manson" Pell as a suspect in a newly unearthed crime, she feels both trepidation and electrifying intrigue. Pell is serving a life sentence for the brutal murders of the wealthy Croyton family in Carmel years earlier -- a crime mirroring those perpetrated by Charles Manson in the 1960s. But Pell and his cult members were sloppy: Not only were they apprehended, they even left behind a survivor -- the youngest of the Croyton daughters, who, because she was in bed hidden by her toys that terrible night, was dubbed the Sleeping Doll.

But the girl never spoke about that night, nor did the crime's mastermind. Indeed, Pell has long been both reticent and unrepentant about the crime. And so with the murderer transported from the Capitola superprison to an interrogation room in the Monterey County Courthouse, Dance sees an opportunity to pry a confession from him for the recent murder -- and to learn more about the depraved mind of this career criminal who considers himself a master of control, a dark Svengali, forcing people to do what they otherwise would never conceive of doing. In an electrifying psychological jousting match, Dance calls up all her skills as an interrogator and kinesics -- body language -- expert to get to the truth behind Daniel Pell.

But when Dance's plan goes terribly wrong and Pell escapes, leaving behind a trail of dead and injured, she finds herself in charge of her first-ever manhunt. But far from simply fleeing, Pell turns on his pursuers --and other innocents -- for reasons Dance and her colleagues can't discern. As the idyllic Monterey Peninsula is paralyzed by the elusive killer, Dance turns to the past to find the truth about what Daniel Pell is really up to. She tracks down the now teenage Sleeping Doll to learn what really happened that night, and she arranges a reunion of three women who were in his cult at the time of the killings. The lies of the past and the evasions of the present boil up under the relentless probing of Kathryn Dance, but will the truth about Daniel Pell emerge in time to stop him from killing again?

I was really intrigued by the character of Kathryn Dance in “Cold Moon.” Having a character that uses kinesics in order to get witnesses and suspects to open up and or confess.

In “The Sleeping Doll” we get more information on the character of Kathryn Dance. She works at the California Bureau of Investigation (think of a state office set up like the FBI) and is about to interrogate a man who murdered a family decades earlier (Daniel Pell). Pell is seen as similar to Charles Manson due to having his own family (teenage girls) who he commanded to steal from stores and homes in order to support the family. When new information comes up linking Pell to a murder Dance is set in to break him and get him to confess. Too late Dance realizes that Pell is up to something and then he escapes. This books follows Dance’s efforts to track down and stop Pell as well as following Pell as he continues to wreck havoc.

There are multiple POVs in this book per usual for a Deaver book. We get Dance, Pell, and some of the teens (now older women) who came under Pell’s spell decades earlier. We also get a POV from a writer who is going to write about the family that was murdered and the lone survivor of that murder (the so called Sleeping Doll). Deaver manages to do a good job shifting from each POV. I was honestly surprised since I thought it be too much.

I can say I wanted more of Dance though. Deaver was slow to reveal details about Dance, but at least I had questions answered about her from “Cold Moon.” Due to Dance being a widow she has a lot of trouble trying to establish a new relationship without dealing with her kids disapproval. And because of Dance’s special abilities she does a lot of analysis of her friends and family. It’s kind of like being around a human version of a Vulcan.

Deaver gets a bit too in depth at times when explaining Dance’s methods when interrogating cooperative and uncooperative witnesses. We also get to see how Pell manipulates people around him. And we definitely focus more on people’s motivations, thought processes, and even body movements. I found this whole thing pretty fascinating.

The flow worked nicely in this one and of course we get typical Deaver twists, though they work in this one. Unlike with the Rhyme books I didn’t feel like these were meant to shock. If you’re paying attention you realize that Deaver was giving clues all along the way.

The setting of this one takes place in California. What I wish we had gotten more details about is the areas near Dance. Deaver provides details on Dance’s home and her deck (which features prominently in this book) but I would have liked the same attention of detail regarding the history of the state and town they are in like he does in the Rhyme books.

The ending left me with some questions regarding Dance, her romantic relationships, and her family. I can’t wait for the next one.

five-stars

Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie

Murder is Easy by Agatha ChristieMurder is Easy by Agatha Christie
Published by William Morrow on June 1939
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
four-stars

A new 'signature edition' of Agatha Christie's thriller, featuring the return of Superintendent Battle. Luke Fitzwilliam could not believe Miss Pinkerton's wild allegation that a multiple murderer was at work in the quiet English village of Wychwood -- or her speculation that the local doctor was next in line. But within hours, Miss Pinkerton had been killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Mere coincidence? Luke was inclined to think so -- until he read in The Times of the unexpected demise of Dr Humbleby...

I love me some Christie. She is getting me through some bad times right now. I plan on reading the rest of her backlist and didn’t realize until after the fact I grabbed up the Superintendent Battle series (this is number 4) and am reading out of order now. I will correct that later.

“Murder is Easy” confused me a bit since I recall this being a Miss Marple television episode. So when I started reading about Luke Fitzwilliam and there was no sign of Miss Marple anywhere I was not pleased. But the story grabbed me and I found myself rushing to finish it.

Luke is back in England after being a policeman out East. He ends up talking to an elderly woman named Lavinia Pinkerton who proceeds to tell Luke that she is going to Scotland Yard to report someone she thinks is a serial killer in her village. Luke though he doesn’t say it to Ms. Pinkerton’s face thinks that she may be imagining things. However, the names that Lavina provides him stick in his head, especially a man she said would be the next victim, Dr. John Humbleby. Luke puts the whole thing out of his mind until he reads how Ms. Pinkerton was killed by a hit and run driver. And when he then reads later that Dr. Humbleby is dead as well he decides to dig deeper into Wychwood under Ashe.

Due to a connection that Luke has, he is able to pretend to be a cousin of a woman named Bridget Conway that lives there and is to be married soon to Gordon Whitfield.

I honestly liked how Luke goes about investigating whether a potential killer is on the loose in Whychwood under Ashe. He pretends to be there to investigate some potential witchcraft/death ceremonies that I don’t know how in the world anyone bought that. I would have been all:

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Luke ends up getting a lot of gossip and feelings and starts to think that Lavina was right that there is something darker going on with one of the residents. Of course Christie throws in some some random I hate you, but I love you story-line between Luke and Bridget and it doesn’t quite work because I honestly don’t even get why either one of them is attracted to each other.

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Hmmm, I may go watch the Notebook later. And I tend to loathe all things Nicholas Sparks.

So we have Luke trying to figure out who killed previous residents and also barely able to contain his loathing for Bridget’s ridiculous fiancee.

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I loved the writing in this book. The atmosphere that Christie evokes in the village is creepy as anything. I maybe turned on more lights while reading this book. I just felt like someone was reading over my shoulder and had a very sharp knife ready to stab me with it.

The flow in the book is a bit off though. I think that’s because we have Luke running around and then we go to Bridget for a bit and then back to Luke. And we get a quick appearance by Battle who does nothing really in this book.

The ending and reveal of the villain was creepy and very well done. If I were Luke and Bridget I would have thrown some holy water at the murderer, they were one of the most memorable villains in one of Christie’s books for me.

four-stars

Crooked House by Agatha Christie

Crooked House by Agatha ChristieCrooked House by Agatha Christie
Published by Minotaur Books on March 1949
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 259
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

The Leonides are one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That is until the head of the household, Aristide, is murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection.

Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiancé of the late millionaire’s granddaughter

Honestly I don’t have that much to say here besides the fact that I really really love this book.

This was one of Agatha Christie’s favorite books and I can see why.

There are a lot of twists and turns and I thought I figured out the perpetrator, but per usual, I was wrong.

“Crooked House” follows the character of Charles Hayward, as he goes about investigating who could have murdered his potential fiance’s (Sophia) grandfather, Mr. Aristide Leonides.

Christie sets up the book so readers get to read about Charles and Sophia and their time together before the war (WWII) before the book transitions over to post war England with both of them back dealing with the aftermath of Sophia’s grandfather’s death.

Due to Charles’s father having a high position at Scotland Yard he is called upon to go down and determine if he can figure out just by watching and listening who killed Sophia’s grandfather. Sophia smartly realizes they cannot have a future until it is determined who murdered Mr. Leonides.

We do get some interesting characters in this book such as Sophia’s younger sister Josephine, and her younger brother as well. Also Sophia’s father is kind of a cold fish and her mother is an actress which apparently means drama drama drama. There’s also an interesting uncle and aunt as well as the great aunt of Sophia’s grandmother that still lives with the family. I like that Christie does a very good job in just a few short scenes of showing who all these characters are and what ultimately moves them by the end of the book.

Christie’s quite smartly lays out a couple of clues that if you’re paying attention you could figure out who the murderer is, but honestly I didn’t notice any of this till the very end. One thing that I did like though is that you get to see Charles hypocrisy in a couple scenes with him feeling bad for Sophie’s step-grandmother and just kind of ignoring the signs of what type of woman that she really is.

The writing is top-notch Christie. I know this is no “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” but I can definitely see myself re-reading this again and again in the future.

five-stars
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