Friday, 17 April 2009

Mixed Mysteries

I'm really quite conscientious about posting for the Classics Challenge, but not about the other books I read. This is catch up time.

Spider's Web by Agatha Christie: This was a play written in 1954 and posthumously re-written into book by Charles Osborne. This is not a classic Christie, but it is brilliant. When I say not a classic, I mean that it is a good mystery, but you get two for one with it. It's a brilliant comedy as well. It's almost a spoof of Christie's other works. A man is murdered in a country house and his body is found by the wife of the man who rents that house. She tries, for various reasons, to get rid of the body in the hopes of keeping the police away from them. She enlists her friends to help her, but almost from the very beginning, everything goes wrong. One thing leads to another and another and another until the whole story is so confused that it's virtually impossible to figure out what's truth and what's fiction. It's almost a comedy of errors and I enjoyed that combination with the classic mystery very much. Two thumbs up for this one.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie - This is one of her classic Poirot mysteries and is, as usual, excellent. I like the hominess of Christie's mysteries. They're enjoyable without being graphic or violent and they're always a comfort read for me. Again, two thumbs up.

White Corridor by Christopher Fowler - Again another mystery (I like mysteries, have you guessed?). This is another of the PCU series which I quite enjoy. Again, they are homey type mysteries without the graphic details of modern crime novels. The PCU novels also have that little twist of the "supernatural" which I like. It's always interesting to see how Fowler works it out. Having said that, this wasn't my most favourite of the series. I found the parallel stories a bit disconcerting because it took him so long to connect them. Once they had been connected, I was happy with it again. I think that's just a matter of personal taste though and not a reflection of the writing.

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin - I read this one because of the link to The Victoria Vanishes (another Christopher Fowler PCU book). It's a mystery set in Oxford in the 1940s. Like Spider's Web, it doesn't take itself too seriously and has a Wodehousian element to it. The bungling fool is led by the more serious professor and together they solve the mystery. Again, I liked this one. It's funny without being ridiculous and the twists and turns it takes are genius. Another two thumbs up.

Death's Jest-Book - Another one in Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe series. Hill uses another device I'm not overly fond of in this book. One of his characters is an apparently reformed arch-enemy, Fanny Root, of Pascoe who is constantly writing Pascoe letters. Pascoe sees the letters as sinister simply because of Root's history and is having trouble convincing others that Root is writing him solely to brag about crimes he has committed, but cannot be touched for. Root's letters irritate me with their bragging tone and the criminal's continual insistence that he's a reformed character, but I imagine that was the point. That would be the natural reaction to them, so the author achieved his intent. Parallel to this is the story of Rye Pamona who escaped a serial killer in the last book, or did she? As with White Corridor, this wasn't my favourite in the series, but worth a read anyway. One thumb up, but keep in mind that that's personal taste.

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