I'm catching up a few reading projects, so I thought I would go through and identify which of the very few full-length Christie mysteries I have left:
Why Didn't They Ask Evans
N or M
Death Comes As The End
The Pale Horse
By The Pricking of My Thumbs
Postern of Fate
That's actually more than I thought, although I am aware that some of them are true clunkers - I've heard nothing good about Postern of Fate.
I also have several of the short story collections left, including Harley Quin & Parker Pyne.
I also haven't read the books she published under the Mary Westamacott name, which are a bit difficult to find, but are by no means unobtainable.
Absent in Spring
The Rose and the Yew Tree
A Daughter's A Daughter
And I definitely want to track down the three Detection Club stories:
The Floating Admiral
Ask a Policeman
Six Against the Yard
I went into The Pale Horse without much hope that I would enjoy it - I'm down to the last 8 (now 7) Christie novels, and I'm reserving the ones that I thought would be the best bets for enjoyment to the end.
The Pale Horse was published in 1961, between A Cat Among the Pigeons and The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side. It's not a book that shows up on the best - or worst - lists of Christie mysteries, so I knew almost nothing about it.
My first pleasant surprise occurred on page 8, when Ariadne Oliver makes an appearance. Fangirrrrrrl moment ensues:
I also had it in my head that this was one of Agatha's rare (and mostly unsuccessful) international thrillers. I was therefore pleasantly surprised that this is just a straight up mystery, and one with a really solid twist, actually.
The mystery itself is both implausible and fairly silly, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it a whole heckuva lot. I liked it better than Destination Unknown, although I still think that They Came from Baghdad was a tiny bit more fun.
This is, I believe, Ms. Ellis' first published book, though its original title was Mask Wars.
This book introduces us to DI Nikki Galena and DS Joseph Easter. DI Galena is a detective who not only had a young woman die in her arms, but whose daughter is in a persistent vegetative state due to a drug over dose. She's now hell bent on clearing the streets of drugs and punishing the dealers though whatever means necessary. She's tough, and has a reputation as a hardass, and pretty much no one wants to work with her. She's been told by her superiors that she is to work with DS Easter, who is transferring in, and to make it work...or else.
DS Easter, on the other hand is pretty much so clean he squeaks. He's also rumored to be highly religious and as such has the nickname of "Holy Joe."
As the two begin to work together, they both begin to realize their preconceived notions about the other were wrong, and there's much more to each of them than meets the eye.
I really liked both of these characters (especially DI Galena) as well as the other members if Galena's team. I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow over the course of the books.
( I do have a feeling that there's going to eventually be a romance between Galena and Easter. I don't know why, but I just do.)
The plot, I won't even try to describe it, but it starts with a missing girl, and a rash of crimes being committed by people wearing hideous face masks. Are these two events, and well as several other crimes all linked? And if so, how? And why?
I am so glad that Richard Armitage started narrating Ms. Ellis' other series (Jackman & Evans), because otherwise, I may never have discovered her work, and that would be such a shame.
Ugh. If I believed the publisher's hype that this is among the best that Japanese crime fiction has to offer, I'd be done with Japanese crime fiction here and now.
Natsuki knows how to write "atmosphere", but how she could ever have become (according to her American publisher) "one of Japan's most popular mystery writers" is utterly beyond me. And while I do believe that Natsuki really was trying to copycat Agatha Christie, all she produces is an overly convoluted plot and a novel brimming with inconsistencies. From egregious scene continuity issues to essential information being gathered "off stage" by teams of policemen elsewhere, to characters behaving purely as the author's plot sequencing and writerly convenience dictates (with little to no regard for, and repeatedly even contrary to what should have been both their inner and their outer response to events), to a clichéd "woman facing off against villain during dark and stormy night" final scene, the novel abounds with things that either should have been weeded out in the editing process or should have prevented it from being published altogether.
Worst IMHO, however, are the police, who
* let a family -- all of whom are suspects -- merrily go on living in the very house that constitutes the crime scene without having cleared the scene first (thus affording the suspects plenty of opportunity to tamper with the scene ... which promptly happens),
* give press conferences in the very building that constitutes the crime scene (again before the scene has been cleared -- allowing for the reporters to further muddy the scene),
* allow the suspects to be present at those press conferences (oddly, without a single reporter showing any interest in approaching the suspects -- instead, the reporters wait until most of them have finally departed to Tokyo, to then fruitlessly stalk the premises from outside at night),
* reveal every last scrap of information -- including and in particular things only known to the police and the culprit(s) -- to the press,
* and involve a civilian who only a day earlier had still been one of the suspects (and should actually be charged with conspiring to conceal a crime / as an accomplice after the fact) in an ill-conceived, risk-prone, and promptly almost fatally derailed scheme to entrap the killer.
Oh, and did I mention that -- though I can't comment on the substantive details of the Japanese legal provision central to the plot (which gets cite-checked to numbing point in the final part of the novel) -- Natsuki's research, if any, on the legal issues that I can comment on is seriously off as well? (Which, in turn, may actually explain the otherwise inexplicably stupid behaviour of one particular character.)
Well, I guess at least I finally get to check this one off my TBR ... and check off Japan on my "Around the World in 80 Books" challenge.