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text 2018-10-23 14:49
Reading progress update: I've read 246 out of 271 pages.
The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

I'm forced to leave the rest until later today, but that will give me time to try and deduce some things that Emily Trefusis has figured out. she is carrying out the last stages of her investigation, after some epiphany that has yet to be revealed to the reader. the next chapter is intriguingly named 'The Second Seance'; didn't see that coming!

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text 2018-10-23 00:43
Reading progress update: I've read 193 out of 271 pages.
The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

much as I enjoyed most of the Freeman Wills Crofts Mysteries I have read so far, the last two, disappointing and draggy, ones I sampled - The Hog’s Back Mystery, and The Pit-Prop Syndicate - really needed an Emily Trefusis to show up and take over from the Inspector plodding along. on that note, let me say that Pit-Prop worked well in the first half because well-meaning amateurs worked on the case, until the cops stepped in and, uh, kinda dulled things up. but even those well-meaning amateurs, in addition to bowing out early and leaving the reader in the lurch, weren’t as much fun as the Trefusis Typhoon. when is a typhoon not a typhoon?: when she’s more of a giant breath of fresh air.


it’ll be a shame if the alleged “cheat” at the end of the novel sinks the whole thing, ruins it beyond everything that has worked so well up to now. all it means so far is that I’m trying even less than I usually do to solve the thing. why bother. let Trefusis deal with it. as for putting a negative spin on the whole affair by not caring for the victim because he was a woman-hater...well, he has been about as nullified and offset as a grumpy old misogynist can get, because he started the book dying, or dead, “offtstage” which means I never did have to listen to any of his ridiculous claptrap right from the horse’s-ass’s mouth, and so in terms of actual effect on the feel of the novel, it’s no contest compared to Emily’s influence on the mood of things. most people speaking of the deceased jerk are passing him off as simply “shy”, or tarnished in his outlook due to one bad romance. and the spirit-world left the issue alone, at the seance. I suppose, though, I shall assume he was at least somewhat the sexist cretin that’s been hinted at, since people don’t like to speak I’ll of the brutally murdered. unless they do, which makes them top suspects. anyway, the misogynist was dead by the time things were rolling, so he hasn’t spoiled the book for me.


other notes: ummm, how do I put this?...um, no one seems to be hung up overly much over the fact that a seance - or table-turning as it’s called in the novel - involving several participants predicted the murder, and who would be found dead. I’m not saying it doesn’t come up as a point of discussion every now and then...but really, no one seems to be that impressed by it. more like...befuddled. I mean, if you’re the cops, and you don’t necessarily believe in spirits making the rounds of seances - or maybe you do, or you have an open mind - it is not a big, and telling, deal that a seance, if faked, relates directly to a murder?? how you don’t swoop down on anyone who was at the seance and pick the damn thing apart to see what went on while the so-called paranormal activity was linking itself to a guy murdered at about the same time, I don’t know. yeah, sure, no one at the seance was able to be six miles away wielding a lethal sandbag, but - except for the Trefusis F-of-N - everyone seems to feel that the seance is just some weird thing that happened, and is too befuddling to ponder for very long. even Emily doesn’t seem to want to go there much, or with firmness. and she’s very firm about the stuff she’s firm about. I like her, like her a lot. she’s a bit sneaky and manipulative for me to want in my real life, but that’s not going to happen, and her lying, tricks and manipulations are for a good cause here...uh, solving the murder of a pig. alleged pig...maybe he was just shy, with a broken heart. and maybe if he’d been more generous with his money, he’d be shy, misunderstood, and less of a selfish skinflint, and alive.


putting aside rumors of a “cheat”, I still don’t feel like the snow, and weather conditions, actually play a part in the murder - solving it, that is, or being part of the clues, or causing something significant to happen that wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t lots of snow. there’s no tantalizing footprint “that couldn’t possibly be there before such and such a time, because it snowed at precisely blah, implicating Mr. Blah, but that’s too blahhing obvious, so we must instead look to this icicle, where there should be no icicle, brrrrr, blah...”. no, it’s the seance that seems relevant to the murder (though everyone else doesn’t want to wrestle with that notion directly, “too befuddling, don’t wanna deal, thank you.”).


some books I recommend if you liked The Sittaford Mystery:


hey, Red Threads, by Rex Stout, almost counts as a stand-alone, but not quite; no Nero Wolfe working the case, but Inspector Cramer gets lifted from the Nero Wolfe books, and makes a better showing here than when getting out-shone by Stout’s Great Detective. but the truth is, you can consider the Crime at least co-solved by the efforts of a determined young woman poking at the case. Cramer shares the investigation with someone not quite matching the Trefusis Incandescence, but a plucky young lady who maybe should get most of the credit for solving a very bizarre murder. I would even argue...okay, not a “cheat” in Red Threads, but in comparison to that, clues placed rather late in Red Threads; what truly implicates the killer is a sequence of events that come near the end of the book. and honestly, I think the book is fresh for this approach, because it’s as clever as any early set of clues, and it all still makes sense in the end, how the culprit accidentally fingers himself, with the plucky heroine helping it all go in that direction.


there’s also In At The Death, by Francis Duncan, which just reminds me of what I’m reading now in terms of some of the trappings, and the feel.


I think I’ll leave the rest of the book for tomorrow. or maybe not!

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text 2018-10-22 22:45
Reading progress update: I've read 86 out of 271 pages.
The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

‘Is—is that all?’


‘I think it possible, Mr Pearson, that it may be necessary to detain you until after the inquest.’


‘Oh! my God,’ said Jim Pearson. ‘Can nobody help me?’


At that moment the door opened and a young woman walked into the room. She was, as the observant Inspector Narracott noted at once, a very exceptional kind of young woman. She was not strikingly beautiful, but she had a face which was arresting and unusual, a face that having once seen you could not forget. There was about her an atmosphere of common sense, savoir faire, invincible determination and a most tantalizing fascination.


Emily to the rescue!

What an entrance!


One of the weird aspects of this book is that the police investigation that follows the murder is both boring and ... dragging. The book really only starts when Emily comes on the scene.

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text 2018-10-22 17:40
Reading progress update: I've read 60 out of 271 pages.
The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

so, I decided to get going on this after knocking off only one Stephen King short story, as it became just too tempting.


I think I’d rather be reading a snowy, freezing scenario in a novel when real-life conditions don’t mirror those in the book. if it’s January, for example, and there’s two feet of snow outside, and pools of wet and slush at the corner of each intersection, and the wind has dropped the temperature an extra ten degrees, and I get home feeling like I have a cold coming on while simultaneously realizing that I forgot to buy a lottery ticket and the draw is tonight and so have to go out again...I think, when I finally get back and get settled in, I want a murder taking place in Tahiti, or somewhere near one of the Egyptian pyramids, in my fiction, as opposed to snow, snowiness, snowed-in people with snow snowing snowingly down. and no ice, please. some of you lot are the opposite: “deep winter means give me a winter Mystery...died skiing in an avalanche, avalanche likely caused by one of the shady characters snowed in at the lodge, maybe even the Santa Claus lookalike who lost two fingers due to frostbite as a child, and the power just went out and a snowy owl just crashed through the window while freezing to death...PERFECT for Boxing Day Reading!!!”. no, not for me, give me A Caribbean Mystery, and an antihistamine please.


but a murder predicted by a seance...that’s obvious Halloween reading for me! I get to read about these poor buggers trapped in some awful mansion out in the middle of nowhere, buried in snow, and I have a bit of a laugh because I don’t have to deal with that freezing-snowing crud for weeks, maybe months. it’s a little chilly out, but...


so yeah, since I rarely pick books to sync up with actual, maybe extreme, weather conditions, but am either reading too randomly for that to happen or, if anything, looking for weather opposites (“get me the hell away from here, book!”), I don’t care about saving this Mystery for winter. the seance premise overrides the weather and enivironmental conditions presented.


as for how things are going after 60 pages: well, there’s a lot of dialogue without much internal thoughts and feelings being revealed - characters’ idiosyncrasies and personalty traits - even their pasts, backstories - are coming through, but coming through via conversation...including conversations where two people are discussing someone else. and there’s no “Great Detective” to take up a lot of paragraphs being fleshed out as odd, brilliant, and thoughtful. so, it moves fast, and the pieces are filled in through what people say, and the thing they do next. it reads kind of like a Freeman Wills Crofts novel, except that I don’t know if Crofts would get things going with a seance.


my comments hopefully are not suggesting I’m disliking it - just that it feels different than a Poirot book. the seance, people contacting the spirits of the dead for a lark and being told someone (a long way) down the road is freshly dead - moidered, even - gives me my Halloween read, especially when...okay, yes, it’s deep winter out there for these characters, and Christie does well making sure you know and get extra shivers from the fictional frostiness, but she’s not preoccupied with endless descriptions of the whitened environment. we’re not trapped in a freezing wilderness or anything - but when people have to trudge around outside...well, hello winter. the book is not particularly descriptive in its approach, is what I mean; IMO, she’s not ramping up the mood with long, wordy paragraphs that make the conditions dominate the book (“a little Mystery with my Winter, please, if it’s not too much trouble...?”), but rather, she has effortlessly and succinctly put the weather and daunting environment in place, and it remains to be seen how much weather, or snowfall, or travel times lengthened by trudging everywhere, or trains delayed or cancelled by severe conditions, or whatever, has anything actually to do with the murder  or its solution. as I say, for me this is a creepy, effective Halloween choice, because we don’t have incriminating footprints out in some snowdrift somewhere (yet)..but we do have a seance where the supposed spirits of dead people mentioned, via thumps, that a murder was taking place right then and not far away. I rest my case for fitting this one in “early”, with the ghosts and goblins.


added thought: very creepy that the Stephen King story I just read had characters named Duke and Pearson in it...and so does this Murder Mystery. may be the most unsettling thing about this book so far.

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text 2018-10-21 23:11
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 271 pages.
The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

How's this for scene setting?

Major Burnaby drew on his gum boots, buttoned his overcoat collar round his neck, took from a shelf near the door a hurricane lantern, and cautiously opened the front door of his little bungalow and peered out.

The scene that met his eyes was typical of the English countryside as depicted on Xmas cards and in old-fashioned melodramas. Everywhere was snow, deep drifts of it— no mere powdering an inch or two thick. Snow had fallen all over England for the last four days, and up here on the fringe of Dartmoor it had attained a depth of several feet. All over England householders were groaning over burst pipes, and to have a plumber friend (or even a plumber’s mate) was the most coveted of all distinctions.

It's not particularly cold where I am reading this - I don't even have the heating on - but this opening scene does make me want to make some hot chocolate.

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