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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 Poirot Project: Appointment With Death

The Poirot Project: Appointment With DeathAppointment with Death (Hercule Poirot, #19) by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #19
Published by HarperCollins on January 1st 1970
Pages: 303
Goodreads
five-stars

Among the towering red cliffs and the ancient ruins of Petra sits the corpse of Mrs. Boynton, the cruel and tyrannizing matriarch of the Boynton family. A tiny puncture mark on her wrist is the only sign of the fatal injection that killed her. With only twenty-four hours to solve the mystery, Hercule Poirot recalls a remark he overheard back in Jerusalem: "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" Mrs. Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he had ever met.

Note from MR: This review is coming out of order in my Poirot Project recap! The bulk post for books 16, 17, & 18 will be published tomorrow.

This book is about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. It is one of my absolute favorites of the Poirot novels for both the setting – the rose red city of Petra, Jordan – and the villainy of the ultimate victim.

Christie again draws on her experience travelling with her archeologist husband, Max Mallowan, as she did in Murder in Mesopotamia and Death on the Nile. In my opinion, this mystery is loads better than Murder in Mesopotamia, and is every bit as good as Death on the Nile.

The book begins with Poirot overhearing two people speaking in the hotel room next to his, through an open window. The voice of a man says “You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?” The first section of the book occurs at the hotel, where the reader is introduced to the Boynton family, including Mrs. Boynton, who is a simply unredeemable, petty domestic tyrant. She has exercised total psychological control over the four children who travel with her: Lennox Boynton, Raymond Boynton, Carol Boynton and Ginevra Boynton. She is manipulative and extremely cruel to her family, and she has them so cowed that they have simply collapsed under her tyranny.

The book is partially narrated by a young doctor named Sarah King, because once the Boynton family leaves Jerusalem for Petra, Poirot is not present until the end. The murder occurs with him off-stage. Sarah King is also an interesting character – one of Christie’s bright young women – and she is more than capable of seeing clearly that Mrs. Boynton is mostly pathetic, in spite of her ability to terrorize her family.

Mrs. Boynton is the sort of person who doesn’t understand that everyone has a breaking point, so by the time we get to Petra, it becomes clear that she is going to come to an unhappy end. This is essentially a closed circle mystery, with an ingenious solution. The first time I read it, I was a bit blindsided by the identity of the murderer. In subsequent readings, I’ve been astounded at how cleverly Christie drops clues into the book that, with exquisite subtlety, point the reader to whodunnit.

five-stars

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