Monday, July 15, 2013

Murder Mystery Monday!!!

So I decided to take a break from my regularly scheduled program of Pride and Prejudice to introduce a new blog segment that I made up only a couple of hours ago. Oh the wonders of the mind!

I do admit that I needed a little bit of a break from P&P because shockingly I didn't realize how much work was involved in the reviews. Not only do I have to rewatch everything, but also make sure to write intelligent notes...which can be a problem. Sometimes I get caught up in the movie and basically forget to write notes, which was the case with Lost in Austen near the end because Amanda and Darcy and ALL THE FEELS!! Or I wrote so many notes that I have to sort through them all and pick out the insightful ones. My 2005 P&P notes were about 4 pages and a bit of a mess. Most of them involved me taking out my frustration on the paper. Take for example this delightful note: "This Lizzie is such an annoying and terrible t*#%. GAAAAHHH!!!!!" I censored that last word because it isn't exactly polite. Back to this new segment.

Now based on my past blog posts, it can be easy to assume that I only read popular classics and books the public seems fascinated with at the moment, but this is definitely not the case. While I enjoy YA and adult fiction, I am also quite a lover of the mystery genre. One of the authors most near and dear to my heart is a mystery writer and that is of course the ingenious Agatha Christie. After all the used book shopping that I do I have basically stockpiled cheap paperback copies of her books and now I am in the midst of reading a few of them during the summer vacation. I figured my observations and even my reviews would make for a great blog series.

Now this segment probably wont happen every Monday and could include other mystery writers. It's a genre I like and I don't limit myself to just one author. I'll also be introducing you to some of Christie's less popular novels because I've already read the popular ones like Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None. I have so many books in my to be read pile that I really don't have time to reread, but if someone desperately wants a specific book to be addressed I will definitely take that into consideration.

The book that I will start out with on this inaugural blog post is The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie. This is actually the third book that Christie published and the second book to involve her famous detective Hercule Poirot and his sidekick Captain Arthur Hastings.

Here is a quick summary of the action in the book where I will endeavor not the spoil the book for those who haven't read it:

On his way to meet Poirot, Hastings encounters a woman getting off the train and they immediately hit it off. Hastings in his usual way falls in love with her and the woman doesn't tell him her name, but jokingly refers to herself as Cinderella. When he gets to Poirot's, Poirot informs Hastings that he has received a letter from Paul Renauld who urges Poirot to come to his Villa immediately because he suspects he will be murdered. Upon his arrival Poirot discovers that Renauld has been murdered. He was stabbed in the back with a knife and then put in an open, shallow grave on a golf course a.k.a. the links. Renauld's wife had been found tied up in her bedroom and insists that two Chilean strangers with beards were the culprits. Amidst the investigation and Poirot proving his detective prowess over the pompous French detective Giraud, another dead body is found. The suspects range from Renauld's wife, to his son, to the mother and daughter next door with a sordid past, and even the mysterious woman that Hastings is so taken with.

Rather than give a review of this book, I will instead discuss some aspects of the book that are interesting or typify the genre. I do of course have a complete review of this book over at Goodreads which you can find here:

  •  The very first lesson that I learned when reading Christie novels is basically every smashed clock has been tampered with or is a red herring. By smashing a clock it basically provides a convenient way to peg down the time an assault or crime has been committed. Every time it crops up the killer usually alters the clock to a time when they have an alibi. In this book Poirot finds a broken clock in Madame Renauld's room. The intention was to make the clock two hours fast and then break it during the time that she said the Chileans broke in, tied her up, and took her husband. That plan fails and the clock continues to work, which tips off Poirot that the invasion was not quite what it seems.

  •   One of the easiest ways to trick the reader and keep them from finding out the solution too quickly is to use an unreliable narrator. Agatha Christie famously wrote a book where the narrator turns out to be the killer the entire time (I won't say which book because that would ruin the surprise). In this book Captain Hastings is the narrator of the story. Hastings is known for being pretty daft when it comes to murders, but Poirot keeps him around to bounce his theories off of and get his observations. Hastings is quick to jump to conclusions about people and the only true way to figure out the killer is to pick up on everything Poirot says. In this book he mentions that a woman has anxious eyes and that little phrase brushed off by Hastings is pretty important. Sometimes the narrator can be the most significant part of a mystery novel.

  • The most obvious suspect is never the killer. I recently read The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie and the entire time I was convinced that I had finally pegged down the killer and just when I was ready to claim a victory, Agatha Christie pulled one of her switches and the suspect that I wasn't even considering was the murderer. I've basically resigned myself to never predicting the killer before the end. I remember reading And Then There Were None in 6th grade, which was my first Christie novel. I kept a list of my suspects in the front on a sticky note and every time I crossed a name out, I inevitable ended up rewriting the name I crossed out.   

  • What I love about Hercule Poirot novels is his process of finding out the solution to murders. Nowadays when the public thinks about detectives they are usually in the vein of those cop shows like NCIS or any of the others with initialisms as titles. The typical detective represented in pop culture is like Giraud. They are on their hands and knees looking for the smallest bit of evidence to corroborate their theories. Poirot is wonderful because he advocates using your "little grey cells" or your intelligence to piece together the facts to find the correct solution. I had a laughing fit when Poirot completely disproves Giraud's theory about who the killer really is in this book and makes him look like a fool. I just love when intelligence wins out.  
This book has an entertaining TV adaption which stars David Suchet, who IS Poirot in my opinion. His performances are so spot on that I can't imagine anyone else playing the role. The book has been altered a little when it was adapted, but it in no way interferes with the central plotline. I urge you to take a break from those modern crime shows if you watch them and look up some of the Poirot adaptions. Most of them are even on Youtube for free.

My next P&P review should be up by the end of this week at the latest, so look forward to that :)