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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

The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil GaimanThe Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman
Published by Vertigo on June 1, 1990
Genres: Graphic Novels
Pages: 232
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
four-stars

New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman's transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision. During Morpheus's incarceration, three dreams escaped the Dreaming and are now loose in the waking world. At the same time, a young woman named Rose Walker is searching for her little brother. As their stories converge, a vortex is discovered that could destroy all dreamers, and the world itself. Features an introduction by Clive Barker. This volume includes issues 8-16 of the original series.

So this is the great Sandman I have been hearing about for years. I liked it. But can’t say I was blown away by it though. Probably because for the most part I found the colors muddled and it was hard to read sometimes what characters were saying. And when I had to turn the graphic novel sideways to continue reading it that got annoying. Since thought bubbles tended to go over their individual panels I sometimes read things out of order too and had to go back a few times.

I am going to have to read Volume 1 next though. My friend mistakenly told me this was the first one to start with, but I hate reading things out of order.

This starts off with an introduction by Clive Barker. And then Neil Gaiman takes over and from there we hear of Morpheus (the Sandman) and how he ended up entrapped. Then it transitions to an older African village and a father telling his son a story about a city made of glass. I loved the imagery it evoked and could picture the city in my mind, as well as the Queen, Nada. I will say though we get the beginning of Morpheus’s cruelty when the story tells us sort of what happened to her when she refused to marry Morpheus. I wish we heard about her more in this volume, but my friend tells me we do hear of her again.

From there it is ‘present day’ with Morpheus trying to stop a vortex (Rose Walker). And Rose Walker is giving warnings about what is coming for her if she doesn’t stay vigilant. The first few issues of Rose going back to the states to find her missing brother Jed were interesting. But once again here’s where I got confused, how did she and her mother lose him? Also how the heck did Rose’s grandmother just magically find them through investigators like that. I had a hard time with her mother letting her go while she stayed with Rose’s grandmother, but I let that go.

Once Rose moves in and meets her new housemates I was just resigned to everyone being quirky. I wanted the story to get moving and found parts to be slow. Why I am glad I got a volume so I didn’t read this issue by issue.

I found things more smooth when we followed Morpheus around. I started to find myself bored by Rose. I didn’t get the serial (cereal) killer guy at all (yes even after his reveal) and the eyes thing is going to haunt me.

And the ending was kind of a cheat I thought. Don’t ask me how that whole thing worked, but I guess Gaiman wanted a happy ending. This graphic novel hints at something larger with regards to Rose and her family, so I’m curious enough to keep reading.

four-stars

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II by G. Willow WilsonMs. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson
Published by Marvel on December 14, 2016
Genres: Comic
Pages: 136
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

While CIVIL WAR II brews, the next generation of Avengers has bigger things to worry about - like a tri-state academic competition! As rival schools clash, Ms. Marvel's teammates Spider-Man and Nova are now her enemies! But when Kamala gets called to the real battle's front line, she faces a fight she can't embiggen her way out of. She's about to learn a valuable lesson: Never meet your idols! As war intensifies, tragedy strikes too close to home - and Ms. Marvel must choose between her heroes and her family. When friends become foes, Ms. Marvel struggles to put her life and Jersey City back together. Kamala will be forced to grow up fast and find her true place in the world. But will she be an international sensation...or a menace?

This volume was fantastic. I didn’t realize the superheroes were splintered. In this volume we have Kamala working for Carol Danvers and trying to train up Carol’s so called Cadets. Carol believes that she can stop crime from happening by using a system in which they can tell if people are going to commit a crime a beforehand. So pretty much everybody just think of the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. And if you have seen that movie you know this isn’t going to work and this is totally flawed.

What really works is that we see Kamala start to be more vocal about not agreeing with Carol, even though she’s her idol. Carol is hell-bent on protecting the city from crimes and doesn’t seem to really care about the fact that other people could be hurt. When Kamala’s friend Bruno is hurt due to actions by the cadets Kamala switches sides and decides she’ll do whatever she can to bring down the cadets, even if it means taking down Carol.

In between all that the volume switches back and forth between Kamala’s parents in Karach, Pakistan and even shows Kamala going to Pakistan.

When Kamala and Bruno have a falling-out, Kamala is left twisting in the wind a little bit and trying to figure out where she belongs.

I did get a kick out of seeing this Ms. Marvel in traditional Pakistani garb. And I definitely loved her meeting another local superhero who maybe possibly could be a future love interest. I definitely liked the guy.

I think all in all though this volume was definitely about Kamala growing up and realizing that even though she admires and cares for Carol Danvers sometimes the hardest thing you can do with people that you admire and love is stand up to them. And then we have Tony Stark showing up by the way who totally kicks ass again in this volume by just being there for Kamala. I like to imagine him being a leader for all the younger superheroes because he’s definitely had some hard lessons.

I obviously love the artwork and the panels are really good and your heart breaks a little bit when you get this see how much Bruno means to Kamala. I was surprised to not see Mike though and I don’t see how they work with Bruno going to Wakandà.

The volume leaves Kamala on the outs with Carol. Though Carol does get rid of Basic Becky and her nasty self. Can’t wait til the next volume.

five-stars

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow WilsonMs. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson
Published by Marvel on July 12, 2016
Genres: Comic
Pages: 144
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

She's your new favorite. She's everyone's new favorite. And now she's joining the big leagues. Look out world, Kamala Khan is officially an Avenger! But will being one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes be everything she imagined? Or is life as a celebrity harder than she thought? But while saving the world is important, Jersey City still needs its protector too. A development company that co-opted Ms. Marvel's face for its project might well have more in mind for gentrification than just real estate. Can Kamala take down the evil suits destroying her home without ruining her personal life? Speaking of which, who exactly is that with Bruno? Get back on board and cling on, Kamala Korps, the ride is about to get wilder than ever!

Awww. Seriously. This volume brings back all the things I love about this comic series. We have Kamala interacting with her family more and we get the explanation of Arabic words and meanings. The volume ends on a good note which I won’t complain about. And heck it even had me like Tony Stark (yeah still mad about Civil War).

It’s been eight months since the last volume. I’ll eventually go find the issues that had Kamala off with the Avengers but not right now. I’m trying to finish all my library borrows since they are all due this week. Kamala is part of the Avengers but feels overwhelmed by superheroing in Jersey City and elsewhere as well as keeping up with school and family events.

This volume has Kamala coming to a realization about Bruno and they both finally (thank goodness) let each other go as love interests I think. Bruno rightfully decides to not wait for Kamala to not be too busy for him. Though Kamala responds jealously to Bruno moving on. Thank on the volume gets better when we move to Aamir deciding he is to marry an African American Muslim named Tyesha. Tyesha won me over with the Dune references. I love that Wilson also includes details on how some Pakistani Muslim would have certain prejudices against darker skin Muslims. I had no idea.

When the two families meet hilarity ensues but all parties agree to let the two marry. Due to this and Avengers missions Kamala is feeling run down and then after a mission multiple Kamala’s start to appear.

Honestly this volume is about Kamala trusting herself and also asking for help. I would have thought she got that out of her system before, but now since she is part of a team she is trying to prove herself all over again.

We get appearances from the Avengers and I cracked up at Tony Stark and Carol Danvers showing their mutual disdain for each other. What comes through though is that Tony cares for and loves Kamala though so I went awww a few times.

five-stars

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow WilsonMs. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson
Published by Marvel on December 1, 2015
Genres: Comic
Pages: 120
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
three-stars

From the moment Kamala put on her costume, she's been challenged. But nothing has prepared her for this: the last days of the Marvel Universe. Lucky she's got the help of Carol "Captain Marvel" Danvers! Between teaming up with her personal hero to rescue her brother and trying to keep her city from falling into an all-out frenzy, Kamala has barely had time to come to terms with the fact that the world is literally collapsing around her. But the truth will catch up to her, and soon. When the world is about to end, do you still keep fighting? Kamala knows the answer. Let's do this, Jersey City.

I feel bad that I wasn’t feeling this one. There is a cool scene with Kamala and her mother know. But I’m kind of over Kamala weeping over a jerk (Kamran) and I want her best friend Bruno to just catch a clue though they have a nice scene together.

Since I tend to not bounce around crossovers I have no idea what’s going on with The Avengers (shhh don’t tell me) but a huge planet looks like it’s about to crash into Earth when we follow up with Kamala in this volume. Carol “Captain Marvin” Danvers pops up in this one and Kamala finally gets to see the idol she has worshipped from afar. I did laugh at Carol Dancers being sort of horrified by Kamala and her need to wrap herself around Carol.

Kamran is in this one focused on making sure that Kamala’s brother is turned into an Inhuman since he hypothesizes that he and Kamala have the same gene that will be affected by Terrigen Mist.

This volume felt so slow. It felt like it took forever for Kamala to confront Kamran. And I still don’t get why she even listens to the mess he spews. They are on different sides so I hope he ends up with an ax to the skull eventually (reason 1,020 why I can’t be a superhero, I’m all about the vengeance).

And Carol Danvers irks a bit too since she won’t reveal to Kamala what is going on that makes her (Kamala) and me think the end of the world is around the corner.

As I said above, the most moving moment was between Kamala and her mother in this one. And also Kamala gets to hear her brother Aamir defend her and finally realizes her brother is on her side.

The kids at Jersey City in the end dance and refuse to be cowed by what looks to be the end.

There’s some material from Spider-Man (2014) issue #7 and #8 that I shrugged my way through.

three-stars

Good at Games by Jill Mansell

Good at Games by Jill MansellGood at Games by Jill Mansell
Published by Headline Review on January 4th 2001
Genres: Chick Lit
Pages: 512
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
two-stars

Love is always just around the corner in a Jill Mansell novel - with a few surprises and a lot of humour on the way to happiness

Suzy fell for Harry the moment she showed him her husband's sperm sample. It didn't really belong to her husband, though, because she wasn't married. It wasn't a sperm sample either, it was a drinks carton containing the dregs of her milkshake. But when you're trying to get off a speeding charge you just have to improvise, don't you? And it wasn't actually love at first sight. Still, it was undeniably a healthy attack of lust...

I will have to come back and think of a pithy title for this review some other time. For now, I am just going to go with the title of the book. I honestly don’t have much to say about this book besides finding it boring as sin and also very rage inducing at times. I do love my romance reads, but from the beginning I found the whole premise of this book a bit hard to take. It made me think of a grown up Dawson’s Creek (and a truly terrible 90210) since most of the people in this book were married, divorced, or had sex with each other at certain times. You do want to say to them all don’t you know anyone else? I only talk to a handful of people I knew in high school. My circle of friends from undergrad and grad school is even smaller.

 

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“Good at Games” follows Suzy, Jaz, Fee, Rory, Lucille, Harry, and Leo. There’s Jaz’s girlfriend Celeste and Suzy and Rory’s sister Julia, but this book is overly long so don’t expect me to discuss them much.

The main character is supposedly Suzy, but honestly this book shifts perspective so much I just consider her one of many of the characters “Good at Games” follows.

Suzy works with her brother Rory in his real estate business. After Suzy uses the worst excuse ever to get out of a traffic ticket (her husband and her are running to have her impregnated with his sperm which was in a drink cup from a fast food place) Suzy daydreams about the hot cop (Harry). Suzy then runs into Harry at a party (doesn’t give him her information) and later on when she and her siblings (Rory and Julia) are getting ready to listen to their mother’s will being read. There they find out their mother had an affair and had another child, Suzy’s half sister Lucille. While that seems like a lot, it’s nothing when you factor in Suzy living next door with her ex husband’s first wife, Fee and she is still on friendly terms with her ex husband Jaz. Did you follow all of that?

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Through a ridiculous set-up Suzy eventually gets to go out on a date with Harry, but though she likes him, she wonders if that is all there is since she apparently thinks that a man who treats you okay is a terrible boyfriend to have. She wants some fire (drama). Enter Leo, Harry’s older brother who sets up Suzy and honestly shows that she is not someone that anyone should date. Of course Suzy then starts thinking about Leo cause hey when a guy treats you like dirt he is totally the one. Do not even get me started of the many times Leo accuses Suzy of cheating on Harry and practically spiting whore at her.

I honestly don’t even want to get into the other characters. The main premise of the book though is that Suzy finds herself engaged to Harry though she doesn’t want to be. And though Harry initially seemed to be the only one who was a decent character except for Fee, he quickly descends into douche-bag territory so you want Suzy to dump him.

The writing is typical Mansell, but honestly this does not have the humor of her other books. Reading about terrible people doing terrible things gets old after a while. A good part of this book could definitely have been cut.

The flow was off too. I think honestly since the book kept jumping around you honestly don’t know who is doing what to who or why you should care.

The ending though has a HEA for everyone except for two people who honestly I hoped would be eaten by sharks at this point.

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

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
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