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review 2017-12-07 14:43
"Hercule Poirot's Christmas - Hercule Poirot #20" by Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Agatha Christie

I picked "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" as part of a read-my-way-into-the-Christmas-spirit effort but this book is definitely not a cosy Christmas read. It was though, thoroughly entertaining, at least up until the denouement which was clumsily presented, incredibly contrived and more than a little disappointing.

 

The title of the book, which I understand was changed from "Murder At Christmas" is a little misleading.  Poirot doesn't appear until more than halfway through the book and, for the most part, speaks only to advance the plot or to feed the reader wild and usually false theories about who the murder is.

 

Christmas plays an even smaller part in the book than Poirot does. It provides a reason for gathering a strife-torn family in a country house for a few days so that a suspect-rich locked-room murder can take place but blood flows before the festivities begin, so this could just have easily have been "Hercule Poirot's  Long Weekend Family Murder", although that title probably wouldn't have sold as well.  The only extended reference to Christmas is a fire-side speech in which Poirot explains why the "benign hypocrisy" of pretending, for many days over Christmas, to like people for whom we do not care and who we may even detest, but with whom we are forced to eat and drink and carry out rituals that feign fun, may build up a pressure to act more like ourselves that may seek to find its outlet in violence.

 

Although "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" is the detectives twentieth outing, this is first of the novels I've read. My expectations of Poirot were set by David Suchet in LWT's long-running TV series "Agatha Christie's Poirot". The TV series was very much centred on Poirot and his little grey cells. I was pleasantly surprised to find that "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" didn't follow this pattern until almost the end. Instead, the story starts by showing how each of the brothers invited to the family Christmas at which the murder will occur, interacts with his wife and reacts to the invitation itself. I enjoyed these vignettes, which mostly gave me strong or intriguing woman and weak or boring men. The time invested in the characters moved to book from a rather dry-locked room puzzle to a family struggle filled with suppressed anger and resentment and long-standing feuds.

 

We are also introduced, by way of a chance meeting on a train, to two foreigners who do not know that they will both be guests at the murder-plagued country house Christmas part. I was intrigued and horrified in equal parts by how Agatha Christie described and uses these foreigners. There is a Spanish woman, inevitably described as a dark beauty. Her mother was English and related to the family hosting the weekend and yet it is clear to everyone that this one is in no way English. There is a South African man who described himself as "British, of course" but who knows very well that this will never make him English.

 

The two foreigners are the jokers in the suspect deck, unpredictable, wild and exotic and obviously not to be trusted. The Spanish woman is described as if she comes from some semi-savage place of violent passions and inappropriate manners. The men treat her as if she were an exhibit in a zoo, something wild that might be dangerous but which they'd enjoy trying to tame. The South African man does a better job of passing for civilized but his energy and aggression and used to show how the very old man who heads this unhappy family might have been in his unscrupulous youth when he was making his fortune. Both foreigners are used to show London as dirty and overcrowded and the English as dull and repressed. I suspect Agatha Christie was using them and Poirot to take shots at a society that she found stifling.

 

Once the death occurs and Poirot gets involved, everything becomes more predictable, except that the police were more educated and confident than they ever where in the TV series and the process of trudging through the evidence is far more protracted than any TV audience would have patience with.

 

I was kept amused and engaged until the very end when the great reveal occurred. It took too long and, while technically possible, was so improbable as to be insulting.

Then the book fizzled out with a lot of happily ever after exchanges that seemed unlikely and inauthentic.

 

I listened to the audiobook version, which was enlivened by the narration of Hugh Fraser who played Hastings in the TV series and made a good fist of the whole thing. You can hear a sample of his work on the SoundCloud link below.

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/74255221" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

 

 

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review 2017-11-12 16:27
My First Agatha Christie's Read
Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10) - Agatha Christie

 I have a confession to make - this is actually my first Agatha Christie's book. I have never read any of her books and even though I have heard of her, I never once touched her books. So what compels me to read Murder on the Orient Express? Hype perhaps of the upcoming movie? A few months back my favorite bookstore was promoting her works? I can't be sure of which but in the end, I picked it up last August and finally read it this month. It took me a while but eventually, I finished it.

 

While I never realize this is part of a Hercule Poirot series, it had a setting and a premise that is intriguing. A man dies one night on a train and M. Poirot were entrusted to investigate to find out who is the real murderer. Divided into three parts, the flow of the story for me is well-thought of. There was the introduction of characters, then the depth of the investigation of getting to know each character that were in the train and the deduction through guessing came to the conclusion that is so impossible, it feels real in the end. Every thing else falls into place.

 

Was I impress? Not really. It started off as a simple murder-mystery where everyone can be a suspect and through interrogation and investigation on the train, a detective (as the greatest of all) make a guess deductions through human emotions and body language to be able to discover truth and lies. I don't know that on this day and age it would work but since it was first published in 1934, its acceptable. Still, I love how its written and there are words I never thought of I can learn from. It's a good book but not really that great to a point that makes it the greatest detective book ever written, even though I heard so much about it. I would recommend to anyone to read this first if anyone wants to read Agatha Christie's stories but I am unsure whether I would continue to read any Hercule Poirot's crime-solving series in the near future.

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review 2017-10-21 19:12
Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

I won´t be saying much about the story. It´s brilliant and worth every single star of my five star rating back when I read it for the very first time.

 

I had a problem with the narration of this audiobook. Dan Stevens is an excellent narrator and I enjoyed listening to the audiobook. But he simply isn´t a convincing Poirot (it didn´t help that I listened to David Suchets splendid Poirot performance in Death on the Nile before listening to this audiobook). Whereas Suchet is bringing Poirot to live with his charming ways in one moment and his obnoxious behaviour in another by the mere use of his voice, the narration of Dan Stevens Poirot has stayed the same throughout the whole book and thus he hasn´t been able to bring the little Belgian detective to life for me.

 

I have to check out the David Suchet narration of this audiobook. I´m pretty sure I will like that one better.

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text 2017-10-14 20:29
Reading progress update: I've read 164 out of 287 pages.
Peril at End House - Agatha Christie

Poirot and Hastings are adorable in this book:

 

Poirot looked at me and sighed.

"If only - if only, Hastings, you would part your hair in the middle instead of the side! What a difference it would make to the symmetry of your appearance. And your moustache. If you must have a moustache, let it be a real moustache - a thing of beauty, such as mine."

Repressing a shudder at the thought, I took the note firmly from Poirot´s hand and left the room.

 

And I´m a big fan of Poirot´s moustache:

 

We have been slowly ascending the zig-zag path up the cliff. It was at this juncture that we passed throught the little gate into the grounds of End House.

"Pouf!" said Poirot. "That ascent is a steep one. I am hot. My moustaches are limp. [...]"

 

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review 2017-10-13 00:00
Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10)
Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10) - Agatha Christie This is a really good whodunit. Someone is killed on a train so the killer has to be among them. There is a widely varied cast. The mystery is not easily solved. I don't know why I waited so long to try something from Agatha Christie. I'll definitely be reading more.
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