The past week has been a struggle, to be honest. This is not unusual at this time of year as I settle into my yucky seasons. Things have been exacerbated this year by the fact that, for various reasons, I did not get my usual rest and recovery time in autumn and winter so I am starting off the difficult time of year already at a deficit. I'm always tired in April, but not usually exhausted until later in the summer. I'm starting early. However, it is what it is. It's not unexpected and I have a lot of practice. During times like this, I am even more happy to have good books available to distract me and to give me something for my mind to focus on. And there are booktube videos and book podcasts that I enjoy as well, both of which got me into some Agatha Christie during the month of April.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie was mentioned in a book tube video I listened to and Poirot was the subject of a recent episode of the Shedunnit podcast. This put me in the mood for some Christie. This is a book I probably read decades ago and while I remembered small bits of the plot—mainly the very beginning—most of it was as if I was reading and enjoying it for the first time. Bobby, the vicar’s son, is playing golf on some cliffs with a doctor friend when he messes up his shot—he’s not a very good golfer. As he goe to find his ball, he sees something below. Turns out to be a dying man. The doctor says there’s no chance he’ll live and asks Bobby to stay with him while he goes to summon help. Soon after the doctor leaves, the man opens his eyes, looks directly at Booby and asks, ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans?’ Then he dies. Bobby is late for a job he promised his father, who can be rather stern, so when a stranger comes along to see what’s going on, Bobby asks him to stay with the body. The inquest returns a verdict of accidental death, assuming that the man lost his way in the mist and fell. But it soon becomes apparent to Bobby and his friend, Frankie (Lady Derwent), that all is not what it seems and that someone pushed him to send him tumbling over the edge. They set out to find out what really happened.
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a booktube video and the person mentioned this book, the second Tommy and Tuppence book Christie published. It’s been decades since I read it and decided to read it again. However, to my surprise, it was not on my e-reader. I have 60+ Christie books, but not that one. ‘Well, OK,’ I thought, ‘I’ll just borrow it from the e-book section of the library.’ Nope. They don’t have it, either. So I asked Bill to look for it at the usual places he gets books. He did, found it, bought it, and it arrived. I will be keeping it. It’s a fun collection of short stories in which many other fictional detectives are alluded to. Christie didn’t write many Tommy and Tuppence books, which is kind of a shame as there’s a humorous thread running through them. Even as they age as the books go on, the sense of humour between the two of them remains. I enjoy both of them and their relationship.
In this book, someone from Scotland Yard arrives, on a day when Tuppence is complaining of boredom, to ask them to take over Blunt’s Brilliant Detective Agency. It seems that Mr Blunt may be involved in some international criminal shenanigans, so they want Tommy to ‘be’ Blunt and to run the detective agency. Tuppence is to be the confidential secretary, Miss Robinson. In the course of this investigation, they get clients with mysteries to be solved. As they take up each case, one or both of them decides on an approach taken by a fictional detective.
Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World by Mark Aldridge
I heard the author on a Shedunnit podcast episode and instantly wanted the book. Bill bought it for me as a surprise, not telling me it was on the way until a couple days before it arrived. I was reading it when the next episode of the podcast dropped and he was a guest again.
There’s always a risk that a book I’ve been eager to get my hands on turns out to be extremely disappointing once I’ve started reading it. That is definitely not the case here. I love this book. I must admit that Miss Marple is my favourite Christie character, but I like Poirot, too, so reading about him in this book was fun. Aldridge takes readers through the many lives of Hercule Poirot, decade by decade. We learn about his creation and Christie’s ongoing relationship with him, which was sometimes fraught. Poirot made his debut in The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. By the 1930s, film adaptations of a few books were being made. I happened to see a 1934 version of Lord Edgware Dies on youtube. It was awful. Poirot, Japp, and Hastings were completely miscast. This would not be the last time Agatha Christie had problems with what other people did with her characters. The author describes these situations with regard to plays, films, radio, and television featuring Poirot. Sometimes things were based on Christie’s books and sometimes they borrowed the character and stuck him into new stories. Christie liked some and hated others. So many people have turned Poirot into so many different kinds of person through the years.
I got hooked on Christie when I was a kid and used to buy book after book. Sometimes this would lead to frustration, because I’d buy a book knowing I didn’t have that title, be excited about a new Christie, and open it only to learn that I’d already read the book. Since they were sometimes published under different titles in the US and UK, but the book store sold both, I would be fooled.
One thing I enjoyed about reading this book was realizing how my understanding of Christie’s writing was often based on viewing the early years of the David Suchet TV series, when it was shown on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service in the US). I read her books voraciously as a kid and then only once in a great while after that, but I loved that series, which started in the 80s, as well as the Miss Marple with Joan Hickson (which stayed more true to the books). So when I would watch Suchet’s Poirot, I wasn’t really thinking about the time the stories were set in, which were often different from the books, or the fact that Georges the valet wasn’t there but Miss Lemon was, or that Hastings appeared on the TV series in stories where he wasn’t in the book. Aldridge explains why these choices were made.
With very rare exceptions, I don’t like movies, so I hadn’t seen the film versions he wrote about, but I quite enjoyed reading about the backgrounds of them nonetheless. If you’re not a big Christie or Poirot fan, this book probably isn’t worth your time. But if you are a fan, it’s definitely worth reading. It’s made me want to go back and re-read all the Poirots I haven’t read in so many years--in order!
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Life and Times of Hercule Poirot by Anne Hart
I read the author’s ‘biography’ of Miss Marple years ago, I think, and since I was on something of an Agatha Christie kick, when I saw this in the library e-book list, I borrowed it. It was a fun book, which went well with the Aldridge book. Where he wrote some about the character of Poirot, he also wrote about how other people interacted with and adapted the character. Hart is all about Poirot as presented in the books. This is how the book is described on the website:
‘‘My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world. 'The dapper, moustache-twirling little Belgian with the egg-shaped head, curious mannerisms and inordinate respect for his own 'little grey cells' has solved some of the most puzzling crimes of the century. Yet despite being familiar to millions, Poirot himself has remained an enigma – until now. From his first appearance in 1920 to his last in 1975, from country-house drawing-rooms to opium dens in Limehouse, from Mayfair to the Mediterranean, Anne Hart stalks the legendary sleuth, unveiling the mysteries that surround him. Sifting through 33 novels and 56 short stories, she examines his origins, tastes, relationships and peculiarities, revealing a character as fascinating as the books themselves.’
I'm taking a break from Christie for now--I have a couple dystopian novels borrowed from the e-book section of the library and will turn to one of those next. I've pulled a non-fiction book from the shelf and will see if I find it worth reading. The library's e-audiobook collection has had a lot of new additions in the past couple of days--many radio dramas based on books and short stories that I'm interested in. I've borrowed some already, so when I'm really tired and can't read myself, I'll stick in my earbuds and let someone else tell me a story. 😀 Gotta get my lit fix one way or another! I hope that there are plenty of good books in your world, too!