Unfinished Portrait by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)

Unfinished Portrait“Do you know the feeling you have when you know something quite well and yet for the life of you can’t recollect it?”

Oh, wow!  After my first Westmacott novel, Giant’s Bread, I was really dreading Unfinished Portrait, but what a masterpiece of human psychology, human frailty and the unexpected journey that life has in store for all of us!

The novel begins on an island where a successful portrait painter meets a young woman who is ready to take her own life.  Through speaking with her, he learns of her childhood and marriage and both the humorous and tragic circumstances that slowly led her to where she is that day.

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient ExpressMurder on the Orient Express: “It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria.”

Also Published as:  Murder in the Calais Coach

Detective: Hercule Poirot

Published: January 1934

Length: 265 pages

Setting:  Aleppo, Syria; Stamboul (Istanbul), Turkey; somewhere in Yugoslavia

 

In Murder on the Orient Express, after travelling from Aleppo to Istanbul, Hercule Poirot receives a telegram to return home and he books passage on The Orient Express, a well-known passenger train. Also onboard are:

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The Hound of Death and Other Stories by Agatha Christie

The Hound of Death: “It was from William P. Ryan, American newspaper correspondent, that I first heard of the affair.”

Detective: None, as these are tales of the supernatural

Published: October 1933

Length: 218 pages

Setting: various:

A compilation of 12 short stories, The Hound of Death and Other Stories are not mysteries, but instead are tales of the macabre, tales of the supernatural, tales that are linked to the scary unknown.  The tales were as follows:

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The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

The Thirteen Problems

The Thirteen Problems:  “Unsolved mysteries.”

Detective: Miss Marple

Published: June 1932

Compilation:  Short Stories

Length: 256 pages

Setting: St. Mary Mead, Downshire (fictional)

 

During two different dinner parties in St. Mary Mead, Miss Marple is host and guest.  There is a suggestion of the sharing of puzzling mysteries, where one person in the group tells a story and the others surmise its outcome or solution. Surprisingly, the small town spinster, Miss Marple, demonstrates her superior brain power and deductive skills.  As each dinner guest shares a puzzling mystery and the others surmise the solution, Miss Marple is able to navigate all the clues, both obvious and unexpected, to solve each mystery in her quiet yet practical manner.

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The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

The Sittaford Mystery“Major Burnaby drew on his gum boots, buttoned his overcoat collar around his neck, took from the shelf near the door a hurricane lantern, and cautiously opened the front door of his little bungalow and peered out.”

Originally Published as: The Murder at Hazelmoor

Detective: Emily Trefusis with Inspector Narracott

Published: 1931

Length: 228 pages

Setting: Sittaford & Exhampton, Dartmoor

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Giant’s Bread by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)

Giant's BreadGiant’s Bread: “It was New Year’s Eve.”

 

Main Character: Vernon Deyre

Published: April 1930 (14th published book)

Length: 437 pages

Setting: various: Abbots Puisannts, London, Germany, Holland, Moscow, New York, etc.

 

My chronological Agatha Christie read continues with Giant’s Bread, her first novel published under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott.  There is no detective work in this story, as Christie/Westmacott treats her readers to a very modern novel. In any case, it must have been a much needed break from the detective novels Christie was expected to write.

Covering a vast number of characters and spanning a few decades of years, this first contemporary novel written under a pseudonym, proves Christie wanted this genre of her writing judged on its own merits instead of being buoyed up by her previous successes.

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The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Mr. QuinThe Mysterious Mr. Quin: “It was New Year’s Eve.”

 

Detective: Mr. Satterthwaite (aided by Mr. Quin)

Published: 1930 (Christie’s 13th published book)

Length: 288 pages

Setting: various: London, Monte Carlo, Corsica, etc.

 

Oh, what an odd little Christie novel.  Yet I suppose I shouldn’t call it a novel.  The Mysterious Mr. Quin is a compilation of a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie, published in various magazines over the course of approximately 5 years. One expects customary mysteries from Christie, complete with complex plots but this book is definitely different.  There are murders to solve but there are also problems of human choices and consequences.  Christie once again attempts something unique.

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