New Read: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

the-mysterious-affair-at-styles

Over the Christmas holiday I read the classic, cosy crime The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, which had been waiting patiently on my Kindle for some time. And, I am really glad I did because I found it the perfect antidote to all of the crazy busyness of the festive period.

This is actually the first mystery to feature Agatha Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters: Hercule Poirot. A small, eccentric Belgian detective who features in thirty-three of Christie’s novels and fifty of her short stories. Previously I have watched and loved many of the TV adaptations starring the wonderful David Suchet, but sadly I had only read one of the original novels Murder on the Orient Express, that was all the way back in 2013 if you can believe it. So I was thrilled to finally get round to reading another and luck would have it that it was the very first.

Poirot’s first mystery opens in England during World War I, when Arthur Hastings – a character we will come to know very well in this series – is invited by his good friend John Cavendish to Styles Court; the family seat out in the Essex countryside. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Hastings, an old friend Hercule Poirot has settled with a small group of other Belgian refugees in the village nearby, with the support of the wealthy widow Emily Cavendish. In fact Emily, the late Mr Cavendish’s second wife, inherited Styles for life as well as the majority of the fortune, trumping her stepsons John and Lawrence.

During his visit Hastings comes to meet all the eclectic inhabitants of Styles, which includes: Emily, her stepsons John and Lawrence, John’s glamorous wife Mary, Emily’s forthright companion Evelyn Howard, and finally Cynthia Murdoch, the poor relation. Things were well with the family but recently tensions and suspicions have risen since Emily chose to marry the much younger Alfred Inglethorp, and it no huge surprise for the reader when Emily dies in suspicious circumstances. With a locked room death and a list of possible suspects longer than his arm, Hastings calls upon Poirot to help solve the matter, before the family are all put through the rumour mill.

I found it really lovely to go back to where it all began for Poirot and Hastings – we are also introduced to Inspector Japp in this book too. It was interesting to see their slightly awkward chemistry as they muddled through their very first investigation together. And, what a good first case together too! I don’t believe I have ever watched a TV adaptation of this as all the clues, twists and turns were all new to me and I didn’t see the final solution coming at all. I think Christie did leave enough clues along the way for the reader to figure it out, however I was enjoying the unravelling tale too much to worry about figuring it out for myself. I daren’t share anymore as I fear spoiling something for you!

So overall, I found The Mysterious Affair at Styles to be a well-written and intriguing mystery, which drew me in and brought me welcome relief from the Christmas craziness around me. I look forward to reading more Christie/Poirot mysteries. Great read.

Have you read this? What is your favourite Poirot mystery?

The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #8

New Read: Blood on the Bayou

blood-on-the-bayou

Sadly, Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson was sat gathering dust on my Kindle for far too long! Until the R.I.P reading event finally gave me the push I needed to pick it up and aren’t I pleased it did.

As Donaldson immediately drew me in and completely immersed me into the colourful and superstitious Deep South of America. For a gritty mystery in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans which, during a hot and humid Summer, has been shook by a string of brutal murders. Where the victims seem to have been viciously clawed and then bitten – these frenzied, bloody attacks eerily resemble a werewolf! However the chief medical examiner, Andy Broussard, is not to be fooled or scared by these supernatural tales and, together with criminal psychologist Kit Franklyn, sets out to discover the culprit…the real, human culprit.

This is a detailed, meticulous and graphic, although I felt it was never gratuitous, depiction of a murder investigation. Due to the fact that half the narration is told from medical examiner, Andy Broussard’s point-of-view. Skillfully, though I was never left feeling cold or isolated by his clinical technique as Broussard is a very likeable and multifaceted character, with his quirky love of lemon sweets and an enviable collections of classic T-birds. Plus he takes on an encouraging and supportive role for Kit, who is a young, educated woman in a male dominated world. The other half of the narration is told from Kit’s point-of-view, which made for an interesting but complimentary juxtaposition to Broussard’s.

What I really loved though was the setting, as I have always had a fascination with the deep south especially after watching the first series of HBO’s True Detective. And, I thought Donaldson really made me feel like I was there: feeling it’s hot, humid weather; meeting the colourful, eclectic people with their old traditions and superstitions; and travelling to the small town communities out in the crocodile infested wetlands. The only thing I was left to imagine was that they all spoke like Matthew McConaughey 😉 . While there was less of a supernatural element than I expected, it was these just in a more subtle way – with the eerie resemblance of these brutal attacks with werewolves; the small town people’s folk tales of old and the links to Clinical Lycanthropy.

In conclusion, I found Blood on the Bayou to be a deeply engrossing mystery which I struggled to put down. I would certainly be interested in reading more from this series and author. Great read.

Thank you to the publicist for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other mysteries from the Deep South?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – #5

Re-Read: Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

the-vicious-vet

After two dark fantasy reads, I decided to lighten up my reading for the R.I.P reading event with a cosy re-read of Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M C Beaton; the second book in the Agatha Raisin crime series.

Smart dressing, high-flying PR guru Agatha Raisin has taken early retirement and now lives in the quiet, picture-perfect Cotswold village of Carsely. Returning from a holiday, Agatha finds all the Carsely women in an uproar over the new, handsome vet Paul Bladen. So, Agatha is thrilled when Bladen asks her out for dinner, but behind the charm on their date there seems to be something cold and calculating. The next day, Bladen is found dead in Lord Pendlebury’s stables where it is believed he accidentally injected himself with a horse tranquilizer. However, after her unpleasant date, Agatha believes it very likely someone would have liked to bump him off!

Agatha isn’t an instantly likeable character, although she is very amusing! As  former boss of a highly successfully PR company, Agatha has become sharp, bossy, cajoling and completely work focused. Once in the quiet, picturesque village of Carsely Agatha has no idea what to do with herself! Hence, why she is so keen to launch herself into another amateur investigation – plus it gives her an excuse to spend time with her handsome neighbour James Lacey without scaring him off. I am not a huge fan of the retired general Lacy, but in this new investigation we also get to see the vicar’s lovely wife Mrs Bloxby and the funny Detective Constable Wong.

In this re-read, it was again a pleasure to return to the charming village of Carsely with it’s eclectic mix of inhabitants for another meddlesome, investigation with Agatha. I love a good murder mystery however I don’t always want all that gore and gritty realism, which is when a cosy crime like this (and other novels by M C Beaton) are perfect. As the weather cooled and nights drew in, it was lovely to curl up in a blanket, with a cup of tea and this book.

Overall, Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet was a quick, fun and comforting re-read, which lightened up my reading for the R.I.P reading event perfectly. I look forward to re-reading Agatha Raisin and the Potted Garden next.

Have you read this? Have you read any cosy crime recently?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – 4/4

The Classics Club: The Sign of the Four

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After enjoying all the previous Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle in quite quick succession, I just had to hold out a little for this, The Sign of the Four, my last original Holmes tale to discover for the first time.

At the beginning of this tale, we find Holmes out of his mind on boredom and drugs, and Watson at the end of his tether with him. Both are overjoyed when the young, pretty Miss Mary Morstan arrives, with the case of her missing father and the exquisite pearls that have been mysteriously gifted to her each year since his disappearance. Now, she has received a letter requesting a secret meeting to discuss how she has been ‘wronged’ and she may bring two friends. So Mary asks if Holmes and Watson will be the two to accompany her – Holmes is roused by what he calls this simple, little mystery and jumps at the chance, only to find the plot thickens at every turn.

As with the previous mysteries, I was fascinated by the workings of Holmes’ mind and his eccentric behaviour, however it is his companion Dr Watson I am always most drawn to. With his down-to-earth narration which makes these stories more relatable for me and, I am sure, many other readers too. In this tale, I particularly liked Watson’s shy, tender behaviour towards their new, pretty client Miss Mary Morstan, and the budding romance that follows – while their courtship may seem a tad too fast for us modern readers, I did believe they had genuine feelings for each other.

This may have been the last Holmes’ mystery for me to read, however it is only Doyle’s second novel to feature his famous, private sleuth. While I have read these mysteries out of order, it has not affected my enjoyment of them at all. While I think the gothic and atmospheric, The Hound of the Baskervilles is still my favourite novel, this was a still an excellently mystery and a thoroughly enjoyable read. With it’s ever twisting and multiplying threads, in fact more crimes and deaths occur, as Holmes’ is still investigating the first crime. I also enjoyed the historical links back to India and the bloody Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Overall, I thought The Sign of the Four was another excellently crafted mystery, which was a perfect read for Autumn and the R.I.P XI reading event. Now I have no new, original Holmes tales to look forward to, I better get going on more of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books. Great read.

Have you read this? What is your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

The Classics Club – 47/50
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – 3/4

New Read: Civil Blood

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Earlier this year, I read and loved Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King; the 1st book in the crime noir thread to their epic fantasy series. At the beginning of October, I picked up the next book, Civil Blood, hoping it would help to pick up my reading for the R.I.P reading event.

Now that Daxton Ellis is the Justiciar of Lowside, the poor and dangerous underworld of the city, he finds his position with the streetwise Lowsider and former flame Alys switched. As Alys needs his help to clear her name, after the henchman of a powerful Lowside kingpin have been found brutally murdered and strung up for all to see, and the only eyewitness’ description of the perpetrator eerily matches Alys! So Dax and Ellis team up again to solve these bloody murders by unravelling the twisting clues to find the true culprit, but all the while they have their own agendas and secrets to keep.

In this new mystery, I continued to enjoy the love/hate, tension filled but also playful chemistry between Dax and Alys; I think it helps to lighten these darker fantasy tales. Dax and Alys originally met and dated during their time training in the academy, when they were young, naïve and idealistic. However, their relationship was abruptly ended by a heart-breaking betrayal. Now all grown up, they’ve come to believe that a true blood guy and a Lowside gal can never be. Although secretly I think Dax is still pretty idealistic, but he is also acutely aware of his station and responsibilities. Alys on the other hand has become hardened as she has learnt to survive in this dangerous underworld – a world that is still alien to Dax. I found Alys less likeable in this book.

In this crime noir thread to Gelineau’s & King’s Echo of the Ascended series, it has been interesting to see more of a different, darker and seedier side to the kingdom of Aedaron. With this and the previous book set in the dangerous, poverty-stricken underworld of the capital city rather than, in the previous books, out in the large, isolated march lands. I also love a murder mystery and this was a good one with a bloody trail; a deadly, secretive perpetrator and plenty of secrets, twists and turns. While the perpetrator is identified this almost opened up more questions and threads to follow, which I presume/hope will be picked up in the next book.

Overall, I thought Civil Blood was another quick read with an interesting mystery in a dark fantasy setting. I look forward to read more from Gelineau’s & King’s Echo of the Ascended series. Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other mystery for the R.I.P reading event?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – 2/4

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Villains

Blog - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

All About The Villains

For me, Autumn is a time for mysteries, thrillers and other books on the darker and creepier side, and what would they be without a good villain?! So here is a list of my top ten favourite literary villains (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

Count Dracula

Transylvanian nobleman and centuries old vampire, antagonist of Bram Stoker’s gothic horror, Dracula. An alluring, dangerous and love-sick villain, who I would be in serious danger of falling for; especially when he is played by Gary Oldman!

~ 2 ~

Ebenezer Scrooge

The cold-hearted, miserly protagonist of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. While Scrooge starts out all bad, it is wonderful to watch his miraculous transformation and final redemption.

~ 3 ~

Frankenstein’s Monster

Often mistakenly called Frankenstein after his creator and/or book title, the monster or creature of Mary Shelley’s gothic horror, Frankenstein, actually has no name. A nameless, confused and shunned figure who I can’t help having some sympathy for.

~ 4 ~

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

A villain so feared and reviled that most characters in J K Rowling’s fantasy, Harry Potter series won’t even use his name out loud. Lord Voldermort or Tom Riddle is a dark wizard who will stop at nothing for power and influence over others.

~ 5 ~

Professor James Moriarty

Criminal mastermind who keeps the famous detective Sherlock Holmes on his toes in several of Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime stories – anyone who can get Holmes second guessing is a great villain in my book.

~ 6 ~

Mrs. Danvers

Manderley’s head housekeeper and chief antagonist of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic Rebecca. A bitter, cruel and manipulative woman who seeks to undermine the new Mrs. de Winter at every opportunity.

~ 7 ~

Cersei Lannister

A central point-of-view character in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. The scheming and ruthless Queen of the Seven Kingdoms – a character you love to hate; portrayed brilliantly in the TV series by Lena Headey.

~ 8 ~

Sauron

Dark lord, necromancer and main antagonist of J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. In which Sauron is an evil spirit who takes the form of a giant, unsleeping eye which wishes to cover the land in a second darkness.

~ 9 ~

Smaug

A terrible dragon who has stolen the home and treasure of the dwarves in J. R. R. Tolkien’s children’s fantasy novel, The Hobbit. A greedy, highly intelligent and cunning villain who you shouldn’t strike up a conversation with!

~ 10 ~

Jadis, the White Witch

A powerful witch and main antagonist of C. S. Lewis’ children’s fantasy novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The cruel, self-styled Queen of Narnia who has brought perpetual winter and fear to the inhabitants of the land.

Who are your favourite villains? Also, link in the comments if you have also taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Autumn TBR

Blog - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Books On My Autumn TBR List

For me, Autumn means we can look forward to cooler days, golden leaves, darker nights and taking part in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI reading event. So my reading is bound to dominated by mysteries, thrillers and other books on the darker and creepier side. Here are the 10 books I would like to get to this Autumn (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

Acqua Morta by Adam Bane

A crime, thriller that has been hidden away in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder for too long! It sounds like it could be great for this time of year.

~ 2 ~

Blood on the Bayou D J Donaldson

A supernatural, crime novel which has also sat hidden away in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder for too long! Again, it sounds like it could be great for this time of year.

~ 3 ~

Civil Blood by Mark Gelineau & Joe King

I loved Best Left in the Shadows and I am looking forward to continuing this crime noir thread to the Echo of the Ascended series.

~ 4 ~

The Curse Keepers by Denise Grover Swank

The first book in a supernatural series which sadly has also sat hidden away in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder for too long! Again, it sounds like it could be great for this time of year and if I enjoy it, I have the whole series ready to read.

~ 5 ~

Drood by Dan Simmons

This historical mystery has been on my RIP and Autumn to-be-read lists more than once, but I haven’t got round to it – I think the size of it puts me off! Hopefully, this is the year!

~ 6 ~

Innocence by Dean Koontz

A mysterious horror/thriller that my father loved and passed on to me. If I end up reading this it will be my first novel by Koontz; who I have heard so much about.

~ 7 ~

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

I have a couple of du Maurier’s novels on my to-be-read pile but after hearing so much positivity about it this one – it feels like it is the one I should read next.

~ 8 ~

The Quarry by Iain Banks

A contemporary mystery that is another book my father loved and passed on to me. If I end up reading this it will be my first novel by Banks; who I have also heard so much about.

~ 9 ~

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

The first book in Aaronovitch’s supernatural, crimes series set in London which I am really looking forward to reading.

~ 10 ~

The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sadly, the last classic Sherlock Holmes mystery I have left to read!

Have you read any of these? What are you hoping to read this Autumn? Also, link in the comments if you have also taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic.