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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-02-17 17:24
First draft of Murder on the Orient Express?
The Mystery Of The Blue Train - Agatha Christie

Spoiler warning: I've been careful not to spoil the solution, but some of the plot points do end up being revealed during this post.


This was apparently not one of Agatha's own favorites, and I can sort of understand why. It doesn't quite come alive in the same way that her very best books come alive. In addition, I feel like her characterization was just a tiny bit off in this one - some of characters were just a bit too much, so they felt more like caricatures than characters in several cases, especially Viscountess Tamplin, Mirelle and the Mr. Papapolous (no idea how to spell his name). In addition, as likeable as Katherine Grey was, men falling over like bowling pins for her was  annoying.


I agree with BrokenTune that this feels like a less successful first attempt at Murder on the Orient Express, which was a much better book in every way. Having said that, though, from my perspective, it's still well worth reading. 


The relationship between Poirot and Katherine is really darling, and marks the first time that he collaborates with a young woman. This type of collaboration is reprised several times over the series with different characters, and those relationships are some of my favorites. Thank you, Agatha, for not making Hercule Poirot an old lech. And, can I just say how delightful it is to have an older (although how old Poirot is in this book is not extremely clear) male character who enjoys the company of young women in a really fresh, charming, and completely non-creepy way. Even when he admires their looks, it doesn't feel threatening at all. He also makes use of her observations in a way that demonstrates his respect for her perception.


There are a lot of other authors who could take some suggestions from this method. 


The mystery isn't as good as some, and poor Ruth really did not deserve her fate. In addition, her murderer is one of Christie's least redeemable characters (which is the opposite side of the same coin from Murder on the Orient Express, where it was the victim who was irredeemable and the murderers who were redeemed). In fact, if Ruth Kettering had been a child, and if the murderer had escaped justice, Mystery on the Blue Train might have been used as the motive for Murder on the Orient Express.


Poirot says about the killer:


"This is not the first murder that lies to [omitted] charge. [omitted] is a killer by instinct;  [omitted] believes, too, in leaving no evidence behind... Dead men and women tell no tales."


The murderer in The Mystery of the Blue Train doesn't just murder for gain. He murders because he is a murderer. There was no real reason to kill Ruth Kettering - the rubies could have been stolen without killing her.


And poor Lenox, whom we leave at the end of the book suffering from unrequited love:


"...Life is like a train, Mademoiselle. It goes on. And it is a good thing that that is so."


"Because the train gets to its journey's end at last, and there is a proverb about that in your language, Mademoiselle."

"Journeys end in Lovers meeting." Lenox laughed. "That is not going to be true for me."

"Yes - yes, it is true. You are young, younger than you yourself know. Trust the train, Mademoiselle, for it is le bon Dieu who drives it."

The whistle of the engine came again.

"Trust the train, Mademoiselle," murmured Poirot again. "And trust Hercule Poirot - He knows."


And let's not even talk about Mirelle, who not only ends up prospering after her abominable behavior with respect to Derek Kettering, but who ends up, in a round-about way, as the possessor of the Heart of Fire. Ugh.


I'd really put this in the lower middle tier of Christie's mysteries - she's still finding her footing a bit here. Overall, though, it isn't one of her just for completists books, nor would it be one that I recommend as a starting point.


Thanks for the buddy read, BrokenTune & Lillelara! It was fun seeing all of your updates!

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text 2019-02-17 16:40
I read until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore


Here's a picture of my actual cover - totally hideous in my opinion. It will probably make more sense once I finish the book, though. I get the round window, but the significance clock hands and the weird double face on the girl hasn't yet been revealed to me.


I just love Tey's writing, though. I can wrap myself in her books like a quilt.

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text 2019-02-17 02:52
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 288 pages.
The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey

Finally starting this one!

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review 2019-02-16 23:14
The Histories (Herodotus)
The Histories - G.C. Macaulay,G.C. Macauley,Donald Lateiner,David Lateiner,Herodotus

A generation had no living memory of the greatest danger that the Greeks had ever lived through, but one man decided to change all that and gift posterity with a new genre.  The Histories written by Herodotus details 80 crucial years from the rise of the Persian Empire to the defeat the remnants of Xerxes expedition and the events that led to the latter.


Using knowledge gleamed from extensive travel across the ancient world Herodotus begins his historical narrative by giving the ‘legendary’ encounters between the peoples of Europe and Asia before delving into the more ‘historical’ events that lead to Xerxes’ grand expedition.  Herodotus details the history of the kingdom of Lydia that was the first to conquer populations of Greeks, those in western Anatolia, and how its great king Croesus lost his war to Cyrus the Great thus placing those same Greeks under the rule of Persia.  The history of the Medes and their conquest by the Persians is related then the subsequent history of the Persian Empire until the Ionian revolt which led to the intervention of Athens and setting the stage for Darius expedition to Marathon.  Intertwined with the rise of Persia was Herodotus relating the events within various Greek city-states, in particular Athens and Sparta, that contributed to the reasons for first Darius’ expedition and then to Xerxes’.  Eventually his narrative would go back and forth between the two contending sides throughout the latter conflict as events unfolded throughout 480-479 BC.


The sheer volume of material that Herodotus provides is impressive and daunting for a reader to consider.  Not only does he cover the political and military events, but numerous past historical and general culture aspects as well as lot of biographies and antidotal digressions that add color to the overall piece.  Given that this was the first history ever written it’s hard to really criticize Herodotus—though Thucydides apparently had no problem later—but some digressions I wish Herodotus had left out or not heard at all.


The Histories by Herodotus is one of classic historical works that needs to be read by anyone who enjoys reading history.  Whether or not you love the style of writing or even the topic, this book is important because it literally is the first history book.

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review 2019-02-16 02:21
THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve
The Beauty and the Beast - Minalima Ltd.,Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve,James Robinson Planché

Beautiful illustrations, pop-ups. and 3D art telling the story of Beauty and the Beast by the first published author the tale.  I enjoyed it.  There are not as many villains in this version but Beauty agrees to take her father's place at the Beast's palace for the rose.  Beauty must fall for the Beast to break the curse on him. His story is told and so is hers.  I was a bit confused at times as no one has a name.  Each person has a description of who she or he is but no names.  This is my favorite fairy tale.

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