The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Bookstagram made me do it – this was the novel that closed 2019 for me and I am so pleased that it did.

‘The Hunting Party’ was a book that I could not put down. In fact, it was the perfect travel companion as it made a recent train journey absolutely fly.

A New Year’s Eve tradition of a getaway for a group of old friends does not quite go according to plan when one of the party ends up dead. Which, as a reader, comes as no surprise as the destination of the getaway is the remote Scottish Highlands.

As the tale unfolds, there are colourful characters, dark secrets, and twists and turns. For once, I did not hold a lot of sympathy for the victim – but maybe their character was as insecure as those around them.

I enjoyed that the narrative is told from different viewpoints – each revealing different hints, clues and secrets as the tale unfolds. It was also quite a treat that the conclusion hinted at a happy ending for two characters who may have been running from their past. (And become caught up with quite a complex group of ‘friends’).

This is a book that may lead you to question if we ever really know anyone. A great read!

The End of 2019

It may be the first day of 2020 but, with festive days having been full of excitement, I have missed a round-up of the final books of 2019.

So here we go…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This book crossed over from my ‘Non-fiction November’ into December. ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is a book that I have always wanted to read but it had never quite happened.

However, this is a book that I feel many of us should read. This is not just a memoir of Maya growing up in America, but it is a study of the society and culture at the time too. It tackles some uncomfortable issues – but that is the tale of the young girl’s life, however hard it may be for us to read.

This book is an inspiration, and I am keen to read the books that follow, to learn more about this inspirational lady.

Murder at Christmas

I enjoy a festive read and I enjoy a murder mystery – so this seemed a winning combination.

A collection of short stories – classic crime capers. Some were stronger than others as tales. However, overall it was an enjoyable collection of tales for these winter nights.

The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig

Matt Haig is a writer that I admire for a number of reasons – but one of those reasons is that he can turn his hand to writing for both adults and children.

As I purchased this book, the bookseller also mentioned that he was a Matt Haig fan, but that this book may be too young for him. I tolf him that was not true, as I think anyone can enjoy these books about the Truth Pixie. They contain ideas and themes that we should all take note of.

Told in rhyme and supported with the illustrations of Chris Mould, this book is good fun for all ages, as we have all needed the friendship of the Truth Pixie from time to time.

Let It Snow

Having watched the Netflix Original Film and always enjoying some YA fiction, I have this book a read for the festive season.

A collection of three tales by three different authors, but all centred around the same town. Love and friendship are the main themes of all the tales. It is a nice read for the festive season and will inject you with the spirit of Christmas – and the desire for a white Christmas.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Maidens of Murder December pick.

This may not be a traditional setting for a Christie novel – Ancient Egypt. However, it has all the other elements of a classic Christie novel. An enjoyable read as the tale unravels – I do not want to give any spoilers.

My only slight issue as a reader was getting my around all the names of the characters – but that was probably just me.

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie

A classic that I am not sure I have ever read – why not? Who knows? I saved this until December because I feel it is a really festive tale, maybe because it is now a classic pantomime.

This book was an absolute joy, as I knew it would be. There is adventure, heroes and villains, and a little bit of magic. It is just a wonderful tale – and makes you appreciate the importance of family and friends at all times.

Som there we are; quite a collection, there was one more but that will have a post of its own – as bookstagram made me do it.

Happy New Year – here is to happy 2020 reading!

The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie

Short stories are not usually my thing, although as I have got older, I have become less averse towards a collection of shorter tales. Ones from the pen of Agatha Christie are sure to be a crowd-pleaser – especially if they are spooky at this time of year.

However, for me, this was not a classic from Agatha Christie. In fact I was a little conflicted by this book. Some of the tales were excellent – especially those that had a crime element. I love a bit of supernatural mind games, especially when there is another twist for the culprit. The traditional ghostly tales were good too. Yet, I found a few of the stories did not hold my attention and when I had reached the conclusion, I was not sure I had taken in what had happened.

This was October’s ‘Maidens of Murder’ choice, which means I was again encouraged to pick up a title by Agatha Christie that I may have otherwise missed. I am glad that I have read this book because I am a fan of Christie’s work but can risk falling into the trap of only reading the famous titles. This just won’t go down as one of my favourites.

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

July’s pick for ‘Maidens of Murder’ bookclub was ‘Destination Unknown’; one of the only works by Christie not to have been brought to life on the screen – big or small.

This has more the feel of a thriller than Christie’s usual works. A standalone novel set against the early days of the Iron Curtain it is a tale of secrets, science and suspicion. There is, of course, a hint of murder, but it is not quite as central to the tale as it would be with some of Christie’s more well-known works. However, it is enjoyable to read something that is not traditional for Agatha Christie, and that really reflects the post-war era she was writing in.

However, it is a little worrying that a novel that is 65 years old is still relevant today or seems to be as we live through some turbulant times. Certainly thought-provoking.

So, thank you again ‘Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read a Christie I would never have picked up otherwise. As always, looking forward to next month’s pick.

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

This novel was ‘Maidens of Murder’ May book club choice. I am so pleased that it was because I have had a little bit of a slow reading month (I blame the day job) and this book seemed to pull me out of the slow slump.

Anyone who regularly reads the blog will know that I am a Poirot fan, so I am always happy to discover a book where he takes the lead. This one was slightly different to the usual books, as it was a full novel, but each chapter was like a self-contained story as Poirot embarked on his self-motivated challenge ‘The Labours of Hercules’.

I usually do not like short stories, but this I did enjoy. There was a level of satisfaction as Poirot solved a mystery by the end of each chapter. Of course, Poirot also finds satisfaction as he manages to solve a crime in the vain of the labours of Hercules (his namesake also).

I also find it interesting how this novel compared to the David Suchet TV adaptation. It was clever how they incorporated the tales for the TV and which tale they selected to make centre stage. Now I have read the book, I would quite like to watch the TV adaptation with a little bit of a critical eye. Although, I am pretty sure the book was better.

Have you read any novels in May which were not quite what you expected?

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

One of the best things about books is the chance to share (I know, I have said it before). So it was a joy when a little book collection sent my way from my Auntie included ‘Force of Nature’ by Jane Harper.

I really enjoyed meeting Aaron Falk in ‘The Dry‘, so was keen to see where the story would take us next.

This novel is a great crime theory. The events that take place in the wilds of Australia are told simultaneously alongside Falk’s investigation. I really enjoyed this method of telling the story. It added to building the tension as the chapters alternate, as you were always keen to see if the investigation was accurately reaching the same points as the real events.

I am not sure this novel is as atmospheric as ‘The Dry’. However, it does not take away from the enjoyment because this books develops Falk as a character, reveals a little more about him as a character and builds an empathy between him and the reader.

Again, it can be difficult to review stories with a twist so this is more my personal opinion. I would love to see how else Aaron Falk’s story develops, as I think he will become a much-loved character of the fiction world.

The Age-Old Question…

So, since joining in with ‘Maidens of Murder’ Agatha Christie Bookclub I have found myself reading more of a range of her work. While doing this, it has brought me to the age-old question – Who is the best sleuth, Miss Marple or Poirot?

Now, I am sure that many will be thinking why do I have to make such a decision? I suppose I don’t have to – but I have been pondering it for a while.

When reading the novels I find, as a rule, I prefer Poirot. There is a charm and quirk to him as sleuth which I adore. His relationship with Hastings and Japp are some of the best fictional friendships. It reminds me of my favourite: Holmes, Watson and Lestrade. And even when Poirot is thrown out into the world without his allies, he has a great manner with all of those that he encounters. His eccentricities are also part of his lasting charm.

Also, having grown up with David Suchet as TV’s Poirot, I have many fond memories of watching the sleuth at work. ‘Poirot and Me’, by David Suchet is a memoir that sealed my view that he is Poirot and he has the same love for the Belgian sleuth as we all do as fans.

But then I pause and reflect for a moment – Miss Marple is a marvellous female lead and inspiration. I mean, if I have the determination to take on challenges the way she does at her age, I would be one happy lady. She is sometimes unfairly presented as a nosy parker but, to me, she is quite a hero.

Equally, I have such happy memories of watching Miss Marple portrayed on TV by Joan Hickson, as well as my love for June Whitfield on the radio version of the sleuth.

However, I am never sure Miss Marple’s cases are quite as engaging in novel form. They are enjoyable (as all of Christie’s work is) but Poirot just always seems to pip Jane Marple to the post.

So, my answer to the age-old question is Poirot. What about you?

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Reading a novel by Agatha Christie at this time of year is like a hug. Although this is not a festive read, it has been selected by ‘The Maidens of Murder’, as the BBC has an adaptation of this classic in its festive TV schedules.

One reason why this novel makes me happy is that our dear friend Hastings provides us with the narrative (well, the parts that they can). Returning to a novel with one of my favourite fictional teams already means I will enjoy the story. And I did…

I found this to be one of Christie’s most clever tales. You really do fall for the huge red herring that is marked for you from the start – even though you know you probably should not. Our murderer really does go out of their way to try and get away with murder.

Of course, you know that Poirot will always get his target. However, this also reminded me of Sherlock and his foe Moriarty, as this is more of a case of puppet and a puppet master as many of their classic encounters can be.

As a bold statement, I think this could be one of Poirot’s most wonderful cases – especially as the big reveal was as much of a surprise to me as the characters in the room with man himself.

I would like to thank ‘The Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read of a scope of Christie’s work – I look forward to more in 2019!

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

This months ‘Maidens of Murder’ book club choice is ‘The Seven Dials Mystery’. This was not a title that I was aware of but, as regular readers of the blog will know, I am always happy to give a Christie novel a go. It also seems fitting that I finished it on Agatha Christie’s birthday, which is a fitting tribute to the ‘Queen of Crime’s’ memory.

I found this novel an absolute joy to read. It really reminded me of the novels of PG Wodehouse, as there was a humour and charm to this novel that resonated with me from the first page.

This is not a novel that involves Poirot or Miss Marple, but instead Superintendent Battle (who appears in five of Christie’s novels). However, for me, other than his part in the big reveal that we¬† all associate with Christie’s work, he is not the star of the story. This novel in fact has a wonderfully strong female lead in ‘Bundle’. A young (and fairly wealthy) lady who sees herself as a little bit of an amateur sleuth and ends up embroiled in the ‘Seven Dials Mystery’ when two young men from her social circle wind up dead.

It is a beautifully crafted novel, as you would expect, but does read in a slightly different style to the Marples and Poirots I am used to. This made it even more appealing to me as it demonstrated that Christie is a consistently skilled writer but can make small adjustments to her style to keep the stories fresh.

I absolutely can not wait to see what next month’s offering is as so far each title has reignited my love of Agatha Christie’s work.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

I have been a fan of Anthony Horowitz since I was a child. My sister discovered his comic children’s novels and I used to read them too. Also, being a huge fan of murder mysteries, I have watched many episodes of ‘Foyle’s War’ and ‘Midsomer Murders’ with Horowitz’s screenplays.

I am ashamed to say that ‘Magpie Murders’ has been on my ‘to be read’ pile for a long time, but I finally picked it up this month. It just seemed like a great novel for autumn, as it has so many hints of classic crime fiction.

This novel is a clever concept, like a novel within a novel. You start off reading the final Atticus Pund story by the author Alan Conway. You are reading it as his editor reads it, realising alongside her that the novel is not completed. However, the problem is Alan Conway appears to have killed himself and nobody seems to know where the end of the novel is. There also seems to be something odd about the death of its author. So, Susan Ryeland, a fan of crime fiction, finds herself not only on the hunt for the final chapter of ‘Magpie Murders’ but also for the truth about Conway’s death.

It is incredibly clever how Horowitz intertwines the two stories, as well as all the little nods to so many of the fictional detectives we know and love. It is certainly a book for crime fiction lovers, especially fans of Agatha Christie classics.

For me, the setting of Suffolk, especially little towns like Woodbridge, was an added joy, as I have so many happy memories of spending time with my extended family there.

This is quite a long read but it is certainly an enjoyable one especially as the nights draw in.