Book musings

Monthly wrap-up – May 2018

During May, I read:

Having hoped to read fifteen novels during May, I managed ten (slacker!) and yet another two Agatha Christie audiobooks.

Unfortunately, this month has not been a great experience with the Queen of Crime:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Christie’s first Poirot story and (obviously) her first ever whodunit. I was pleased to have the excellent narration by Hugh Fraser but – as I thought I had remembered from reading it before and the TV adaptation – for me, it is really, really boring! As I have said before, I love a country house murder mystery, but for some reason, this one leaves me cold.

Partly, I think it’s the (to me anyway) completely irrational way that some of the characters behave and partly the absolute tedious nit-picking breakdown of every tiny little piece of evidence: over and over again we need to hear about the candle grease, fifteen different versions of a will, a cup of cocoa and the right or wrong number of coffee cups!

It also has one of the most ridiculous ways in which Poirot discovers the murderer: the chain of actions that lead to the final clue being found are so fantastical and Poirot can justify his theory to Hastings as much as he likes but it’s still stupid behaviour by the murderer! I am glad I did not read this one first, as I’m not sure I would have read any more.

Now, I have always found Dead Man’s Folly to be an enjoyable story, both from reading it previously and fond memories of the fun 1986 film adaptation with Peter Ustinov. However, having recently reacquainted myself with the newer, flashier David Suchet TV adaptation (not one of the best) and now re-read (listened) to the book, I am not so sure. To be fair to the book, it still has some clever ideas but there is a fair bit of plodding that the adaptations had removed.

The main problem with this version though is the narration. I’ve mentioned before that David Suchet’s narration can be a bit farcical, but he is Poirot: how bad could it get? The answer is very bad indeed. He has re-used some of his ‘voices’ from the other adaptations and they really are all stereotypes with no subtlety whatsoever. He only has two settings for female characters: simpering simpleton or braying matron. There is not much more variety in the men. I would go so far as to say his narration spoiled this book for me and I would prioritise other narrators where possible in the future.

Novel-wise:

  • Murder at the Grand Raj Palace by Vaseem Khan – although a little slow to start for me, I ultimately enjoyed this not-quite-cosy mystery and I also now want a baby elephant;
  • The claustrophobically excellent horror thriller Pressure by Betsy Reavley;
  • Another gripping Kim Stone mystery from Angela Marsons: Dying Truth;
  • The magnificent Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough;
  • The quirky and brilliant SNAP by Belinda Bauer;
  • The twisty psychological thriller Tell Me A Secret by Samantha Hayes;
  • Three Blog Tour stops: If He Wakes by Zoe Lea, The TV Detective by Simon Hall and The Old You by Louise Voss;
  • The latest Charles Paris comic mystery from the prolific Simon Brett, A Deadly Habit. Review to follow tomorrow.

Other highlights for me were:

  • Trying to tackle #MountTBR here and here;
  • Putting more faces to names here;
  • The bunsters are back outside in the fresh air. They decimated the grass that had grown in their absence in about three minutes flat. It’s nice to have some space back but I miss being able to stroke their furry faces whenever I like!

Here’s to more #booklove in June, when I have a week off work AND it’s my birthday!

One thought on “Monthly wrap-up – May 2018

  1. Interesting thoughts on Mysterious Affair. I must agree with you that the focus on physical clues is tedious and a little jarring given we will soon hear Poirot critiquing Hastings for his obsession with the clue!

    I do like the social context in that one though which you so rarely find in the other Poirots. That is the only Poirot novel that feels really grounded in its period to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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