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text 2019-02-05 00:52
Reading progress update: I've read 127 out of 272 pages.
Parker Pyne Investigates - Agatha Christie

Very amusing so far, and much more tongue-in-cheek/light-hearted than most of Christie's other work. 




The Case of the Middle-Aged Wife: Poor Mrs. Packington has been a suitable, faithful wife to Mr. Packington for years upon years. Mr. Packington has fallen into the clutches of a young hussy, and Mrs. Packington needs the assistance of Parker Pyne. A trip to the beauty parlor and arrival of species lounge lizard later, and Mrs. Packington cares much less about Mr. Packington's behavior. But Mr. Packington doesn't much like this whole turn-about-is-fair-play thing. (three stars)


The Case of the Discontented Soldier: Mr. Wilbraham, single and retired from the military, is bored, bored, bored. With the help of Ariadne Oliver, Parker Pyne cures his boredom, and solves a problem for a young woman named Freda Clegg as well. This story was adorable. (4 stars).


Aside: Miss Lemon is in this book, too! 


The Case of the Distressed Lady: A young woman comes to Mr. Pyne with a problem - she has stolen a ring from her friend and needs to replace it. This one doesn't quite have the charm of the first two, but Parker Pyne shows his cleverness. (two stars)


The Case of the Discontented Husband: Husband shows up in Parker Pyne's waiting room because his wife has taken up with a new, long-haired arty fellow and wants a divorce. This story was hilarious.


"At the present moment you are, from a feminine point of view, merely a waste product. Nobody wants you. What use has a woman for something that no one wants? None whatever. But take another angle. Suppose your wife discovers that you are looking forward to regaining your freedom as much as she is?” “Then she ought to be pleased.” “She ought to be, perhaps, but she will not be!"


The outcome of the story is downright funny. Parker Pyne chalks it up as "FAILURE—owing to natural causes. N.B.—They should have been foreseen." (4 stars)


The Case of the City Clerk: Another amusing little tale of a city clerk who is bored with his life and wants some excitement. He is enlisted in a bit of international intrigue, which comes off reasonably well. (3 stars)


The Case of the Rich Woman: This is a strange story about a rich widow who is bored now that her husband has died. They were both born quite poor and he made a lot of money by developing some sort of process in the mill where he was foreman. It's probably the most implausible of all of the stories, which is saying something, and the point didn't really convince me. It felt like it fed into a lot of Victorian stereotypes about the working class and their ability to handle wealth. Weakest story in the collection so far. (2 stars). 


Have You Got Everything You Want? This one takes place on the Orient Express - Parker Pyne meets a young woman with a problem. I loved the story, but Agatha's marital advice is terrible!


“What is truth?” said Mr. Parker Pyne. “In my experience it is usually the thing that upsets the apple cart! It is a fundamental axiom of married life that you must lie to a woman." 


One wonders about Christie's marriages (4 stars).

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review 2019-02-04 15:49
2 1/2 Stars for the Mystery; 5 stars for Ariadne Oliver
Mrs. McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie

This was only my second time reading this book - the first time I read it, I remember being extremely underwhelmed. Like other Christie's, this one improved the second time I read it. This makes me wonder if rereading Passenger to Frankfurt will somehow turn it into The ABC Murders (kidding, kidding). I attribute this to the fact that I'm less concerned with Christie's high-wire mystery act, and rather I allow myself to be absorbed into her world.


Mrs. McGinty's dead has several wonderful side characters - the delightful Superintendent Spence, who is just bothered by the murder conviction of James Bentley, scheduled for execution.


And Bentley was eventually arrested and tried?"

"Yes. The case came on at the Assizes. Yesterday. Open and shut case. The jury were only out twenty minutes this morning. Verdict: Guilty. Condemned to death."

Poirot nodded.

"And then, after the verdict, you got in a train and came to London and came here to see me. Why?"

Superintendent Spence was looking into his beer glass. He ran his finger slowly round and round the rim.

"Because," he said, "I don't think he did it...."


With this set up, Poirot heads off to Broadhinny, Kilchester to do some digging around and to see if he can figure out why Mrs. McGinty, a hard-working charwoman with few financial resources, but a mild tendency towards being a busy body, is dead. Upon arrival, he insinuates himself into the community. 


The best thing about this book - and I mean the best thing about this book - is Ariadne Oliver. She has arrived in Broadhinny because Robin Upward, a local playwright, has persuaded her to allow him to adapt one of her Sven Hjerson. The interactions between Robin and Ariadne are hysterical.


"But people who read my books know what he's like! You can't invent an entirely new young man in the Norwegian Resistance Movement and just call him Sven Hjerson."

"Ariadne darling, I did explain all that. It's not a book, darling, it's a play. And we've just got to have glamour! And if we get this tension, this antagonism between Sven Jherson and this - whats-her-name?--Karen--you know, all against each other and yet frightfully attracted--"

"Sven Hjerson never cared for women," said Mrs. Oliver coldly."


Mrs. Oliver decides that she will assist Poirot in solving the mystery, and takes care to introduce him to the Upwards and the other members of the local, minor gentry, while she fights with Robin and continues to despise her main character.


"How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man?" I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he's got? These things just happen. You try something--and people seem to like it--and then you go on -- and before you know where you are, you've got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony, gangling, vegetable-eating Finn in real life, I'd do a better murder than any I've ever invented."



I'm dying here.


The mystery is really just OK, although the murderer is a nasty piece of work. This book is worth reading because of Ariadne Oliver, though, and I have a feeling that it will become a favorite reread precisely because of her.


I've decided to reread several of the mysteries that I've only read because I don't remember them well. So, you'll be seeing lots of Christie on my feed for the next few months as I finish her novels, and then work through my personal ranking. What a way to spend the spring!

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text 2019-02-04 03:02
Reading progress update: I've read 93 out of 328 pages.
Mrs. McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie

Poirot paused a moment at the gate to pass a hand over his moustaches. As he did so a car came twisting slowly down the hill and an apple core directed with force hit him in the cheek.


Ariadne Oliver has arrived.


Image result for ariadne oliver

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text 2019-02-04 01:39
Reading progress update: I've read 48 out of 328 pages.
Mrs. McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie

I was unimpressed with this one on the first read, but am rereading to refresh my memory so that I can properly place it in my Agatha super-ranking.


I do remember liking Maude Williams - another Emily Trefusis, I think?

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review 2019-02-03 17:17
One should not read all of Tommy and Tuppence in a row
By the Pricking of My Thumbs - Agatha Christie

I only have one more Tommy and Tuppence to read - Postern of Fate - and I have heard that it is on the shortlist of worst Christie books published. So, there's that.


Also, though, I've decided that it is best not to "binge read" T&T because, overall, they among her weakest books. The mysteries are just . . . not good. They're not horrible, they're just not good. 


I don't know what was going on with this book, but reading it felt like barely more than a novella. It isn't very long, it's true, but I read it in under an hour, which is rare for me. Even a reread of something like Peril at End House (which I read as a palate cleanser after reading T&T) takes me longer to read than this book. Which is odd, because while there is a lot happening (murder! mayhem! dead baby! robberies! crime ring! diamond thieves!) it's like trying to watch the landscape through a car window travelling at about 80 mph. I couldn't get a very good view of it as things flash by.


Bottom line for me is that I now understand better why these books didn't appeal to me. I still like Tuppence a whole lot, although her lack of an instinct for self-preservation stopped being charming when she hit her fifth decade. Now it's just dumb. Tommy is as dull a chap as has ever lived, his intellect having faded like his mop of red hair. T&T, at this point, would make a lovely couple to spend the weekend with, but their attempts at youthful rakishness are embarrassing to read.


I had initially rated this one 3 1/2 stars, but I'm downgrading the rating to 2 1/2 stars after further reflection. I don't think I will ever read it again.



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