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review 2018-06-05 20:03
Murder in Mesopotamia / Agatha Christie
Murder in Mesopotamia - Agatha Christie

When nurse Amy Leatheran agrees to look after American archaeologist Dr Leidner’s wife Louise at a dig near Hassanieh she finds herself taking on more than just nursing duties – she also has to help solve murders. Fortunately for Amy, Hercule Poirot is visiting the excavation site but will the great detective be in time to prevent a multiple murderer from striking again?


***2018 Summer of Spies***

It must have been the exotic location of Afghanistan, but this Hercule Poirot mystery really made me think about M.M. Kaye’s series of mysteries, set in similarly foreign settings. Last summer, I read both Death in Zanzibar and Death in Cyprus, and I have a feeling that Murder in Mesopotamia may have been one of the influences on Kaye. Perhaps it was the English nurse as narrator—an Englishwoman in an alien environment, applying her standards of judgement to the events (and to Hercule Poirot as investigator).

The solution to the crime was suitably obscure. Christie fools me more often than any other mystery writer that I’ve encountered so far. She is expert at the art of misdirection!
Christie portrays the archaeological setting so accurately—the reader can tell that she went to many dig sites with her second husband. She gets the surroundings, the finds, the group dynamics, etc. just right. You can taste the dust and feel the heat as you read.

I could also appreciate her confidence as a writer. This is a Poirot mystery, but the man himself doesn’t appear until well into the book and we see him only through the eyes of Nurse Leatheran. Altogether a very skillfully assembled mystery story, perfect for summer reading.

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text 2018-06-02 20:52
Reading progress update: I've read 91 out of 351 pages.
Murder in Mesopotamia - Agatha Christie

***2018 The Summer of Spies****


I should be reading Jo Nesbo.  But somehow, I couldn't resist the lure of Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie!


Very fun so far.

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review 2018-05-31 16:29
The Thirteen Problems / Agatha Christie
The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie

A series of short stories, strung together by the concept of the Tuesday Club, a group of people who get together on (you guessed it) Tuesday nights to discuss mysterious crimes that they have encountered. Miss Marple just happens to be one of those people and gets to demonstrate her uncanny knowledge of human nature repeatedly.

I have to think that Charlaine Harris must have read this collection before she wrote her first Aurora Teagarden mystery story Real Murders which features the Real Murders Club. Members of this club get together once a month to analyze famous murder cases. (Harris takes things one step further when a member of the club is murdered.)

This is a compact little volume—I read it in one sitting. That, perhaps, is not the best way to approach it, as Miss Marple’s superiority in deducing what actually went on gets a trifle repetitive (although we readers would expect nothing less). Still, I enjoyed my evening’s reading.

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review 2018-05-30 17:01
Lord Peter Views the Body / Dorothy L. Sayers
Lord Peter Views the Body - Dorothy L. Sayers

In this delightful collection of Wimsey exploits, Dorothy L. Sayers reveals a gruesome, grotesque but absolutely bewitching side rarely shown in Lord Peter's full-length adventures.


Lord Peter views the body in 12 tantalizing and bizarre ways in this outstanding collection. He deals with such marvels as the man with copper fingers, Uncle Meleager's missing will, the cat in the bag, the footsteps that ran, the stolen stomach, the man without a face...and with such clues as cyanide, jewels, a roast chicken and a classic crossword puzzle.



I hadn’t realized that this was a book of short stories, but I enjoyed being able to read a little bit, put it down to do something else, and return when I was done, not having to worry that I’d forget some crucial detail in the meanwhile. I also enjoyed the vast range of subjects that Peter Wimsey displayed his knowledge in—as disparate as poker, wine appreciation, jewels, and crossword puzzles. Obviously Sayers had wide ranging interests and was able to indulge them through Lord Peter.

I’m also enjoying Peter Wimsey’s evolution over the course of these books—he started out a bit dim, rather like Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, but he has gradually become much more like an Agatha Christie protagonist or Conan Doyle’s Holmes, being able to put the puzzle pieces together faster than the average person, when the picture is still a bit hazy. Obvious when he points it out, but he’s the first to see the whole picture.

There’s a reason why Sayers, Christie, and Conan Doyle retain their popularity in the 21st century. They give us memorable characters and create mysterious crimes for them to solve. We still enjoy a good puzzle, no matter what time period is chosen for the story.

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review 2018-05-14 18:43
The State of the Art / Iain M. Banks
The State of the Art - Iain M. Banks

The first ever collection of Iain Banks' short fiction, this volume includes the acclaimed novella, The State of the Art. This is a striking addition to the growing body of Culture lore, and adds definition and scale to the previous works by using the Earth of 1977 as contrast. The other stories in the collection range from science fiction to horror, dark-coated fantasy to morality tale. All bear the indefinable stamp of Iain Banks' staggering talent.


A selection of short fiction set in the Culture universe, where your tools and equipment have opinions too and can talk back to you. My own tendency to talk to my surroundings would definitely have to change.

I really wanted to like the story where the Culture visits Earth. Is it still a first contact story if the Earth doesn’t know it’s been contacted? A bit on the preachy side, obviously written when Banks was annoyed with our treatment of our environment and each other, but acknowledging that we’ve got something special here. I liked it without have my socks blown off.

Banks is such a good writer, but not all of these stories demonstrate his best efforts. It does rather feel like a catch-all, displaying varying degrees of polish. Still, well worth reading for fans of the Culture!

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