Rye and Mirrors

>> Monday, October 08, 2018

A couple of books by Agatha Christie today. I read all of hers as a young teen, and I'm really enjoying revisiting them in audio. They work perfectly as short palate-cleansers in between more intense, heavy audiobooks.

Both of these feature Miss Marple, whom I'm a big fan of. Just as big a fan as of Hercule Poirot. I really can't decide on a favourite between the two.

TITLE: A Pocket Full of Rye
AUTHOR: Agatha Christie

The first victim was a rich businessman, dead after drinking poisoned tea. The second was his wife, also by killed by poison. She had previously been considered the main suspect in her husband's death. And then the third victim, the maid, strangled in the garden. It is the last murder that brings in Miss Marple, as the maid had worked for her several years back.

On finding out that one of the most baffling aspects of the crime is that the first victim was found with some sort of grain or cereal in his pocket, Miss Marple realises it's rye, and that there are all sorts of other clues that also point towards a particular nursery rhyme. You know the one... "Sing a Song of Sixpence, a pocket full of rye..." Not least, the maid being killed as she was hanging clothes to dry and being found with a clothespin on her nose ('pecked off'), and the family's ownership of a mine in Africa called the Blackbird Mine. Is the family being targeted by a nursery-rhyme obsessive serial killer?

The truth is much more interesting than that. There are plenty of red herrings along the way, and the resolution is both clever and one of those satisfying ones that make complete sense when you look back. The characters are very well done here, as well. A really good one.

MY GRADE: A B+.

TITLE: They Do It With Mirrors
AUTHOR: Agatha Christie

Miss Marple visits an old friend, Carrie Louise Martin, at the request of her friend's sister, who thinks something is wrong and Miss Marple is the only one who can figure out what. Carrie Louise's current husband, Lewis (she's had several, and accumulated a variety of relatives, many of whom are living with her as well), has turned their house, a large Victorian mansion, into a institution to rehabilitate "young delinquents".

It all seems like a recipe for trouble, everyone seems to think, and trouble does occur. One of the boys shoots at Lewis, but when the metaphorical smoke clears, it's someone else who's dead.

This was fun, but not a favourite. This is one of the Christies where the point really, really isn't the characters (who are a bit flat -with the exception of Miss Marple, who is in great form), but the plot. The plot makes for a very clever puzzle, super ingenious, but ultimately one that doesn't quite stand up when you think about it too much. I found it a bit unbelievable that the culprit would choose to go for such an unnecessarily complex method, so reliant on other people behaving in particular ways and therefore so risky.

Still, a very entertaining book while I was reading it.

MY GRADE: A B-.

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