>Mysteries, AKA ‘whodunnits’. A genre that has so many various sub-genres… from the historical mystery to the modern day detective story, from books set firmly in our reality to those that add a bit of the sci-fi and the fantasy. Some have romance, others have more of a suspense thriller edge… and then there are the children’s mysteries like Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five, Franklin W Dixon’s The Hardy Boys and Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew.
Books set in Russia, Japan, The Wild West, the deep south, New York, Australia, France, the mysterious Far East and of course, England – whether in the countryside or foggy London. Travelling the world, one mystery at a time. 🙂
This week is realy just the tip of a vast iceberg and after planning it I realized, we’re going to have to set up another mystery week soon! Think of this week as a ‘taster plate’ of what the mystery genre has to offer.
We’ll visit some childhood favorites with Desi and special guest author Helene Young, Day and guest author Emma Butler will take a peak at two of Charlaine Harris’ mystery series, authors Marianne Delacourt and Phillipa Martin discuss the interesting aspects of being crime/mystery authors, enjoy St. Patricks Day in a mysterious fashion and Day’s review of Tana French’s In the Woods and then an interview with Jacqueline Winspear author of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries with a review of her soon to be published A Lesson in Secrets…
If you were to ask me to name one person I was absolutely positive got away with the perfect murder I’d tell you that person was Agatha Christie (1890-1976). The Queen of crime fiction who knew at least 20 ways to kill a person before breakfast? Yup, she had to have experimented first, right?
The woman who brought you Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Harley Quin and a few amateur detectives always kept me guessing. Whether it was poisonous darts, bashed-in heads or just an old fashioned stabbing with a letter opener, she always manages to keep me on the edge of my seat as she sets the stage for murder and then takes us step by step and clue by clue as the mystery is revealed.
As Christie explains so beautifully through one of the characters in her appropriately named book Towards Zero –
“I like a good detective story…but you know, they begin in the wrong place! They begin with the murder. But the murder is the end. The story begins long before that – years before that sometimes – with all the causes and events that bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day. All converging towards a given spot…And then, when the time comes – overt the top! Zero Hour.”
Yes, murder is in a way, the zero point. With all the events and planning bringing you to the point where a murder is committed. What follows is just the aftermath.
And boy, did Ms. Christie know how to write the aftermath! With stories beginning in the early 20’s of the 20th century and through to the 70’s – Christie has covered a wide range of historical eras and her tales take the reader to almost every spot across the globe, it is no surprise that her books sold over four billion copies and have made her one of the best-selling authors of all time. I could write pages and pages about Christie herself, but I’d never get to the books if I did – so visit the official website for more…and then there’s the wiki for the less official version 😉
I spent many a day and night racing through these books, nails bitten to a quick as I attempted to solve the murder before Poirot or Miss Marple. Oh the joy when I got it right! Each one of her mysteries had something special about it.
|My favorite Poirot – David Suchet|
Now, some people have favorites among Christie’s detectives. There are those who prefer Poirot, the Belgian detective with the egg shaped head and beautifully arranged mustache who firmly believes a solution to every crime is in those little grey cells. Some prefer Ms. Marple – the little old lady with her knitting who is often underestimated and who always finds comparisons between someone in her little village in St. Mary Mead and the victim or the suspects. Me? I don’t have favorite detectives, though I do have favorite stories.
The first book that comes to mind when you say Agatha Christie is Murder on the Orient Express. The luxurious setting, the snowed in travelers, and Hercule Poirot’s little grey cells at work on a murder planned to be the perfect crime… but for Poirot.
But I believe that the true masterpiece is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd a mystery that even has the great Hercule Poirot stumped. I never saw it coming and since I don’t want to ruin it for you – I won’t tell you why. But if there ever was an Agatha Christie book to read, this is it.
|Joan Hickson as Ms. Marple|
When it comes to Miss Marple, the book that always comes to mind is the final one Christie wrote – Sleeping Murder. There is something about this book that spooks me every time. Perhaps it’s the fact that you feel the heaviness of something evil in the background… I can never put my finger on it, but whenever I read this book I get the feeling someone else is in the room with me *insert twilight zone music here*
Some of Christie’s books don’t involve her famous detectives at all. Another one of my favorites is The Moving Finger. Where a brother and sister settling in a sleepy English town for his recuperation from an injury find themselves in the center of an anonymous hate-mail mystery. Here Christie leaves behind the grey cells and the knitting needles and instead has a bored injured airman do the sleuthing and maybe even find a bit of romance while he’s at it…
Another on of her most famous stories (entirely detectiveless in this case) is And Then There Were None – here again is a tale that I wouldn’t read when I’m home alone. This is a story of justice – who gets to decide it and what happens when someone feels it hasn’t been served. It takes the ‘the murderer is one of us’ plot and turns it up by a few notches. And I don’t know why, but it also always reminds me a bit of Lord of the Flies…
If detective duos is what your after – Christie created the fun and adorable (yes, I think they are adorable!) Tommy and Tuppence. In The Secret Adversary, we are introduced to T&T as they launch the Young Adventurers detective agency in a bid to make some much needed cash. They then go on to star in a few other Christie books – Partners in Crime (short stories), N or M, By the Pricking of my Thumbs and Postern of Fate.
There are so many books and detectives to choose from among Christie’s extensive list of published works, it’s so difficult to highlight just a few but really whatever style of mystery you prefer, the one stop shop is the Agatha Christie shelf in the mystery section.
Well, which are your favorites?