As a huge admirer of the works of Agatha Christie, I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of ‘Agatha Christie- A Very Elusive Woman’ by Lucy Worsley.
Telling the story of Agatha’s life, from her early years with an education-averse mother, to Dame Agatha, the most read female writer ever.
Lucy Worsley has a very engaging style. Bringing together research from the Christie archives, as well as contemporary accounts and Agatha’s own words, she paints a picture of a fascinating woman. Whatever your preconceived ideas may be of Mrs Christie, this book gives a chance to reconsider. As expected the disappearance in 1926 is discussed fully, but unlike many commentators at the time and since, Lucy Worsley delves into the subject with an open mind. I found her conclusions convincing and thoughtful.
Agatha Christie was the Queen of Crime. Her work has delighted generations of readers and inspired countless writers. In ‘Marple’ we see just how important she has been to the development of mystery fiction, and to the women who have followed in her wake.
The stories cover different times in the 20th century, up to the 1970s. It is as if Marple is a character floating in time, never tied to one particular period.
As a huge fan of Agatha Christie, I have been desperately waiting to get my hands on a copy of this book. There are twelve short stories by contemporary writers. And the love for Miss Marple is obvious in each and every one.
My favourite story was ‘ The mystery of the Acid soul’ by Kate Mosse. It is exquisite in its descriptions and is beautifully written. Taking the train to visit an old friend, Jane meets a worried curate on the train. Once at her destination the reason for this becomes apparent. Once again Miss Marple finds herself at the centre of a perplexing mystery. An excellent story, capturing the true essence of Miss Marple.
Another winner was ‘The Second Murder at the Vicarage’ by Val McDermid. I loved the mention of characters I know well from Christie’s novels and short stories. You can tell she loves the books and knows them inside out. She pitches it just right and her story is entirely in keeping with the Miss Marple we all know and love.
I loved finding authors that were new to me in this collection. I particularly enjoyed the stories written by Jean Kwok, Leigh Bardugo and Ruth Ware.
‘Murder in the Cathedral’ by Cora Harrison is a fascinating historical mystery set in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s. When the archdeacon of the protestant Cathedral dies suddenly, and one of the Reverend Mother’s own flock is found dead nearby, the sleuthing nun feels compelled to unravel the mystery. Why was young Enda even in the church? And what secrets are being kept by those allied to to the church? The Reverend Mother unravels the layers of deception and intrigue, finding that people are not always all that they seem.
I found the historical aspects of the story as fascinating as the mystery itself. The author gave a very interesting insight into Irish society after the civil war . Once they were a free state, the two communities had to learn to live together within a different power dynamic. The Anglo Irish were no longer in control and that made for some interesting interactions. The story was about a country learning to live with a new reality. A new order. About two communities living in parallel . It was also about poverty and secrets. Cora Harrison has managed to weave all of this into well-written and immersive mystery. I loved it.
‘Murder At The Masked Ball’ by Magda Alexander is a historical cosy mystery, set in the 1920s. Kitty Worthington is a young society lady, expected to find a suitable husband and settle down. But Kitty loves a puzzle and has been successful in solving crimes that no-one else could. Her desire is to set up her own detective agency, much to the chagrin of her mother. To placate said mother, she agrees to attend the Midsummer Masked Ball held at the home of the Duchess of Brightwell. But the suspicious death of a guest puts Kitty smack bang in the middle of a murder investigation. Can Kitty save an innocent man from the gallows? With the help of her coterie of family and friends, Kitty is determined to find the real killer.
Magda Alexander has found a way to make Kitty the most modern and fascinating of characters. Although set in the 1920s, and perfectly pitched for that era, she has managed to make Kitty relatable. She is intelligent, loyal and steadfast. She seems like such a modern, forward-thinking young woman, with a ferocious intellect and the determination to go with it.
I liked the collaborative element to the investigation. Kitty has the support of her family and friends in trying to solve the case, and knows how to bring out their strengths.
It was a truly fascinating mystery with a great bunch of characters. I adored it and much more. I’ll just have to go back and read more in this series, and await with bated breath the next.
‘Two-Way Murder’ by E.C.R. Lorac was not published in the author’s lifetime, but thankfully the British Library has published it as part of the Crime Classics series. A mysterious disappearance the previous year is still being discussed as the local ball in Fording’s takes place. When a body is found on the road that very night, Waring of the C.I.D. is called in to investigate. It will take more than just a flair for investigation to unravel the mystery as the locals close ranks to keep their secrets.
‘Two-Way Murder’ is a puzzling mystery and one that confounded my own detection skills no end. I enjoyed the careful and methodical way Waring sought his answers. The author’s skills lie in excellent storytelling, exquisite characterisation and misdirection. I loved wallowing in the Golden Age of Crime with E.C.R Lorac, a writer deserving of more recognition.
‘The Hog’s Back Mystery’ by Freeman Wills Crofts is an Inspector French mystery written in the 1930s. Set in the North Downs in Surrey, it is the story of a mysterious disappearance that becomes more intriguing as the case progresses. Dr James Earle lives quietly with his wife in the countryside. When he goes missing, the inspector is called in from Scotland Yard. But French cannot fathom what on earth has happened to him. When a visitor goes missing too, the police are baffled. Nothing makes any sense. But the author has concocted a brilliant puzzle. I was completely fooled and thoroughly satisfied by the end.
The setting is the last place one would expect such crimes to take place. It is rural and quiet and the inhabitants apparently genteel and respectable. The writing style perfectly matches this. But as any reader of English countryside mysteries knows, so much lurks under the surface.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery where the investigation is laid out so meticulously. We see into the mind of the Inspector and begin to understand the crimes as he explains his thinking. It was a brilliant piece of investigation, broken down in the most compelling way. I was hooked. I am so glad there as more in this series for me to discover.
‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ by Louise Hare is perfect for fans of the Golden Age mystery novels of Agatha Christie and the like. Lena jumps at the chance to sail off to New York when a fantastic job offer comes her way. Working in a basement jazz club was never the plan, but a murder in the cub makes her desire to get out of London all the more urgent. Once on board the Queen Mary she is pushed into spending time with a rich and influential family. Danger lurks around every corner, even if Lena doesn’t realise it. A mystery unravels as they cross the Atlantic – and someone is intent on causing mayhem.
The story had the best setting. A murder mystery aboard an ocean liner is always going to get my vote. The mystery was well done, and the author brought in class and race issues that made it feel real. Her female characters were interesting and their lives drove the story for me. I enjoyed it.
It’s 1952 in gloomy post-war London, and a group of travellers head off for the ski slopes of Austria. The eight men and eight women can’t wait to escape and partake of everything a European ski resort has to offer. But back home Inspector Brook of Scotland Yard is faced with a terrible death to solve – and the only clue points to an expert skier. Do any of the group have a connection? Brook must sift through the evidence and find the killer before it is too late.
I loved the tandem elements of the story, with the police investigation in London, where clues point to a link to the ski trip, and the trip itself. It was very well written and immersive. It was made all the more interesting to someone in the early 21st century reading about post-war grimy and miserable London, and Europe recovering after the war and trying to get back to some sort of normality with tourism. Carol Carnac originally published this book in 1952, but it has not aged. It is as readable and impressive as it was then.
Carnac lets her characters talk, and through them we see the story unfold. She has a knack for seeing who people really are, and knows their faults and vices. After all, people are people, and a good detective can always count on that. I loved this story and now feel compelled to hunt out more by this author.
‘Murder In First Class’ by Helena Dixon is the 8th book in her Miss Underhay Mystery Series. I have grown fond of Kitty and Matt and the fascinating characters they find themselves with. I like that there are links to previous books in the series. But there is no need to have read any before as they are self contained.
This time Kitty hopes to spend some quiet time relaxing with her new fiancé, but when he is asked to meet an old comrade from the train and have him stay for a few days, that looks unlikely. When there is a murder on that train and the pair are called in to help, there is no way they will have any time to themselves. Trying to find a suspect from the unlikely collection of passengers proves difficult. And as secrets are revealed Kitty and Matt are in more danger than ever.
This was a good mystery that kept me interested throughout. The 1920s setting works perfectly for this type of cosy mystery and the descriptions of England of that time are so well crafted, that I feel as if I’m there. I can open this book and wallow in the beautiful clothes and fascinating characters. Helena Dixon has perfected the art of mystery and has found a way to bring her readers back for more. I look forward to more in this series.
‘Two For Sorrow’ by Nicola Upson is an immersive and beautifully written Josephine Tey mystery, set in 1930s London. Josephine is back in London researching her next book on the baby farmers of the early part of the century. Amelia Sachs and Annie Walters were executed for their crimes, but Miss Tey is more interested in the aftermath of their crimes. How others were also affected. While staying at her club in town, Josephine is drawn into a case investigated by her friend Detective Inspector Archie Penrose. Danger lurks all around and the pair must find the killer before it is too late.
There’s a depth to the story that you don’t see coming, and I must admit it took my breath away. The author weaves a story of personal tragedy, with a wider stain on society. And the years have not wiped away that stain.
London of that era was so perfectly described, as Josephine meets with her London theatre friends and mixes with high society. There’s plenty of name dropping- which is an absolute delight. We saw the lives of women of different classes and the choices they had to make. And we also saw the consequences of those decisions.
Nicola Upson cleverly ties in the tiny threads of her story and brings it all together with such skill.
I was left profoundly moved by the stories within ‘Two For Sorrow’. It’s a stunningly well written and researched story and would make a wonderful film/tv adaptation.