The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

The Secret of Chimneys Agatha Christie

Detective: Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard

Published: 1925 (6th published book)

Length: 314 pages

Setting:  Bulawayo Zimbabwe, London, Chimneys

Written at: during a trip to South Africa, etc.

Well, what an extraordinary silly book!!  I must say I’ve been somewhat taken aback by the early works of Agatha Christie.  Being so used to Poirot and Miss Marple, I thought those types of mysteries comprised the majority of her works, but obviously during her earlier career she set sail on a different course and the focus on her two famous sleuths came later.  Who knew?

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The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

The Man in the Brown Suit Agatha Christie

Heroine: Ann Beddingfeld

Published: 1924 (5th published book)

Length: 381 pages

Setting: Marlow, London, Southampton, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Bulawayo, island in the Zambezi

Written at: during a trip to South Africa, etc.

The Man in the Brown Suit was Agatha Christie’s fifth novel published by Bodley Head, her contract of six books almost satisfied.  With it, she deviated from a pure detective novel, bleeding into the genre of a thriller which pleased some critics and dismayed others.  Some bawled for the return of Hercule Poirot while others admired her entertaining execution.  Personally, I thought the story was delightful, a page turner from beginning to end.

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Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie

Poirot Investigates Agatha ChristieFresh from my first three Christie reads of A Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Secret Adversary and Murder on the Links, I then delved into a compilation of Poirot short stories called, Poirot investigates.  These stories comprise Christie’s fourth published book, published in March 1924.

I must say, after my disappointment with Murder on the Links, Christie has returned to her fine form.  Most of the short mysteries have a tight plot (probably necessary for a short story) and a well-crafted riddle. While Poirot’s little grey cells are in fine form, Hastings is his annoying self but at a level that is acceptable and even amusing in certain circumstances.  The stories run as follows:

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Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Links Agatha ChristieMurder on the Links: “It was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7th, 1915.”

Detective: Hercule Poirot

Published: 1923 (Christie’s 3rd published book)

Length: 272 pages

Setting: Merlinville-sur-Mer, France (fictional)

This is Agatha Christie’s third published novel after The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Secret Adversary, and her second one featuring the astute Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.  Quite honestly, this novel falls far short of her initial two attempts, her adept plotting of a mystery surprisingly lacking as the murder and motive is revealed in a rather bumbling fashion. But for now, let’s look at the plot.

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The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

The Secret Adversary Agatha ChristieThe Secret Adversary: “It was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7th, 1915.”

Detectives: Tommy Beresford & Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley

Published: 1922 (Christie’s 2nd published book)

Length: 308 pages

Setting: London; Bournemouth; Holyhead, Wales; Kent

 

Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley are childhood chums who meet up after the war.  Tuppence, the daughter of a clergyman, wishes to spread her independent wings and Tommy, demobilized after the war, is looking for a new direction in life.  As neither is flush with money, they put their entrepreneurial brains together and decide to launch The Young Adventurers, Ltd.  Overhearing them, a man named Whittington follows Tuppence and claims he’s interested in her services.  Immediately wary, Tuppence gives her name as Jane Finn, the assumed name which she’d heard earlier from Tommy.  The appellation causes Whittington to react nearly apoplectically and the following investigation sends them on a whirlwind of adventure from which they are unsure if they’ll return alive!

The Ritz London

The Ritz London ~ source Wikimedia Commons

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles Agatha ChristieThe Mysterious Affair at Styles: “The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as ‘The Styles Case’ has now somewhat subsided.”

Detective: Hercule Poirot

Published: 1920 (1st published book)

Length: 224 pages

Setting: Essex

Written at: Dartmoor

Published in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not only Agatha Christie’s first published novel but the first to introduce the reader to Hercule Poirot, her fastidious yet likeable Belgian detective whose mind nimbly gathers clues, deftly processes information and cunningly solves murders with style and aplomb.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles Melbury House

~ source Wikimedia Commons

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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

“I address these lines — written in India — to my relatives in England.”

The Moonstone …….. a yellow diamond, sacred to the Indian people, guarded over by an ancient curse and three Brahmins devoted to its preservation. Yet the revered diamond is stolen.  Time passes, and the Moonstone ends up in the hands of Colonel Hearncastle who returns to England with the ill-fated gem. Angry at the relatives who shun his advances, he leaves the Moonstone in his will to his niece, Rachel Verinder.  Did the Colonel leave the stone as a profitable legacy, or was it intended to wreak destruction on those who had earlier rejected his gruff overtures?

Rachel’s cousin, Franklin Blake, arrives with the diamond, which is to be bestowed on her during her eighteenth birthday party at her mother’s Yorkshire estate. However, there are already disturbing echoes of disruption within the family home.  A housemaid, Rosanna Spearman, a reformed thief, appears both agitated and love-stricken, exhibiting suspicious behaviour, and three Indian jugglers are spotted in town.  The culmination of these oddities result in the diamond disappearing the night it is given to Rachel.  Who perpetrated the theft?  Why is Rachel behaving with a reckless and stubborn agitation? Rosanna’s death further complicates the situation and finally Sergeant Cuff, a respected policemen from London is called in to solve the mystery.

source Wikipedia

Considered one of the first detective novels, The Moonstone was bathed in a shower of critical acclaim.  T.S. Eliot claimed that it was “the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels in a genre invented by Wilkie Collins and not by Poe.”  Dorothy Sayers, writer of the Peter Wimsey mysteries, hailed it as “probably the very finest detective novel ever written,” and G.K. Chesterton, creator of the detective Father Brown, declared it “the best detective tale in the world.”  Collins himself was attempting an inversion of his earlier novel of suspense, The Woman In White, where he designed the circumstances to affect the characters of the novel.  With The Moonstone, Collins chose to turn that premise on its head and investigate how different characters influence their circumstances.  The characters are sometimes wrong and at other times right in their perceptions, but nevertheless each works to shape the outcome of a situation.  This psychological experiment was a brilliant invention of Collins, adding more mystery and suspense to a story already ripe with uncertainty.

Luckily, I chose to read this one on vacation over the Christmas holidays and was able to fly through it in 2 days with it glued to my hands.  I could hardly put it down, a tribute to Collins’ powerful and cryptic narrative.  The story is a wee bit sensational but being a detective novel, I don’t think it affected the story in a negative way.  The characters are all well delineated (except one is rather overdone; I’ll leave you to guess which one) and the method of presenting the novel in an epistolary style is again, an unusual but effective technique. Collins’ The Moonstone was a great way to start off a year of reading!

Father Brown: The Worst Crime in the World by G.K. Chesterton

Father Brown has plans to meet his niece in a picture gallery, but before he finds her, he encounters lawyer Granby who wants his opinion.  Should he trust a certain Captain Musgrove enough to advance him money on his father’s estate?  The estate is not entitled and it is not conclusive that Musgrove Jr. will be the heir.  Upon the arrival of his niece, Father Brown learns that she is planning to marry the same Musgrove and meets the young man himself.  Musgrove invites both Father Brown and Granby to his father’s castle, but then bows out of the trip at the last moment due to an arrival of a couple of shady characters in the background, but encourages the men to make the trip without him.

After they arrive at the castle (having to leap the moat due to a rusty, disabled drawbridge), they meet Old Musgrove, who assures them that his son will inherit, yet he will never speak to him again, due to the fact that he perpetrated the worst crime in the world.  Granby returns to town, secure in his knowledge, but Father Brown remains in the village, determined to discover the details of this dastardly crime.  Will he be able to discover the truth in time to save his niece from the clutches of a villain, or is the old man merely playing with him and there is nothing sinister about his son?  You will only find out, if you read the full story which can be found here:  The Worst Crime in the World – G.K. Chesterton

source Wikimedia Commons

I love Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries and this one does not disappoint.

Deal Me In Challenge #12 – Seven of Clubs