A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie

A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club, June 1950 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in the same month. I read Open Road ebook (Kindle) edition

Plot Summary:
A notice appears in the paper of Chipping Cleghorn: “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, 29 October, at Little Paddocks, at 6.30 pm. Friends accept this, the only intimation.”

This surprises Letitia Blacklock, owner of Little Paddocks; however, she takes it in stride and prepares for guests that evening. There is, apparently a parlor game called “Murder” and everyone assumes that’s what this will be. Several friends and neighbors attend. As the clock strikes 6.30, the lights go out, and a door swings open, revealing a man with a blinding torch who demands the guests “Stick ’em up!” Most do so, believing it to be part of the game, but the game ends when shots are fired into the room. When the lights turn on, Miss Blacklock’s ear is bleeding from a bullet grazing her earlobe, and the gunman is dead on the ground. Mrs. Blacklock’s companion, Dora “Bunny” Bunner, recognizes the gunman as Rudi Scherz, a Swiss man who worked for a local hotel and had recently asked Letitia for money.

One by one, suspects are added and subtracted, and Miss Marple, who happened to be staying with a friend at the local vicarage, is called upon, along with Inspector Craddock, to get to the bottom of the case.

The novel is considered a crime novel classic. The book was heavily promoted upon publication in 1950 as being Christie’s fiftieth book, although in truth this figure could only be arrived at by counting in both UK and US short story collections. A slightly similar storyline had previously been explored in Christie’s Miss Marple short story “The Companion”, where the characters also lived in Little Paddocks.

My Take:
Yes, I’ve been reading/rereading Christie.

In what is sometimes an overabundance of words, the typical methods of Miss Marple are on full display in this novel, where human nature and motives from the past prove to be the key to solving the mystery. I like many of the Marple novels, but I found this one to be so-so.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 8 Comments

short stories read – Poirot Investigates

Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie, Delhi Open Books. Kindle ebook edition

This is a short story collection written by Christie and first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in March 1924. In the eleven stories, famed eccentric detective Hercule Poirot solves a variety of mysteries involving greed, jealousy, and revenge. The American version of this book, published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1925, featured a further three stories. Those stories are included in this ebook.



My Take:
In the mood for something simple, light, a little old-fashioned, I picked this ebook of fourteen Poirot stories. As expected, Poirot’s friend and companion Captain Hastings appears in each of the stories, relating the story to the reader in all but one of them, the other told by Poirot himself in flashback.

In a group of stories like this, especially as I read them one after the other, the bumbling ineptitude and various foibles of Hastings are on full, brightly lit display, and time after time his theories and guessed-at solutions are proved wrong, oft to his chagrin. Poirot, of course, is his usual intelligent and insightful self, his little grey cells leading him to the correct solution to each puzzle.

I read this on a pair of rainy afternoons, and thoroughly enjoyed it. One caution, however: the editing and especially the paragraph formatting are full of errors, so that it often appears as if one character has said something when it is actually another.

For a complete summary of the stories, see Wikipedia here.

Posted in Books & Reading, Short Stories | 10 Comments

Daylight Savings Time

Bah. I dislike it, intensely. It’s unnecessary, expensive, annoying, senseless and “saves” nothing. I say do away with it!


Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, Short Stories | 11 Comments

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, original (c)2017, this edition Harper Perennial (c)2019 trade paperback, mystery novel, 390 pages

The Blurb:
The Word is Murder is a 2017 mystery novel by British author Anthony Horowitz and the first novel in the Hawthorne and Horowitz series. The story focuses on solving the murder of a woman who was involved in a hit-and-run accident ten years previously.

As in the books written by American crime fiction writers Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, as by and featuring Ellery Queen, a mystery writer in New York City who helps his police inspector father solve baffling murders, this book features the author as a lead character. This is the first in the series.

Anthony, the narrator (who is for all intents and purposes the author), is approached by ex-Detective Inspector Hawthorne, with whom he worked on a television series. Hawthorne, who is in need of money, proposes that Anthony write a book about him and one of the cases he is working on in exchange for a 50/50 split of the advance and royalties. The case involves a woman who, six hours after planning her own funeral, is found murdered. Initially reluctant, Anthony agrees and proceeds to document Hawthorne’s solution of the case

My Take:
I’ve liked pretty much everything I’ve read by Anthony Horowitz, and so bought this when it became available in paperback, and have since bought the 2nd book in the series, which I’ll read soon.

I was hesitant about the author as a character at first, but grew comfortable with the concept as I read. The interrelationship between the two main characters is the focus of the book as much as solving the case of the woman murdered on the same day she plans her funeral. As is often the case, the solution to the case is in the past, and it had me fooled most of the way through. This novel felt like a one-off to me, but apparently was successful enough to have become a series with three books so far. I enjoyed this one.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction, Mystery | 11 Comments

In a Word: Murder – Stories in Memory of Maxine Clarke

In A Word: Murder – Stories In Memory of Maxine Clarke edited by Margot Kinberg, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 2014) – ebook, 128 pages

from the Introduction:
“Maxine Clarke, to whose memory these stories are dedicated, was a true friend to the crime fiction community. She encouraged those of us who write crime stories, and always welcomed new authors and new readers of crime fiction. She was an expert in the genre, and her blog and reviews were a source of new ideas and inspiration for many. She also moderated an online crime fiction group that brought together crime fiction readers and authors from all over the world. She is sorely missed. This collection of stories pays tribute to Maxine’s interest in crime fiction and her professional skill as an editor and blogger. All of the stories focus on crime in the writing, reviewing, editing, publishing and blogging world. That leaves open a fairly broad range of possibilities for stories, so you’ll find a variety of takes on the theme here.”

My Take:
I enjoyed this anthology quite a lot. Lots of good writing here!


Introduction by Margot Kinberg
The Agency by Pamela Griffiths
The Story by Paula K. Randall
The Million Seller by Margot Kinberg
Hollywood Coverup by Jane Risdon
A Beach Report From Myrtle Clover by Elizabeth S. Craig
La Lotte by Sarah Ward
The In-Box by Margot Kinberg
The Killing of Captain Hastings by Martin Edwards
Dreamer by Jane Risdon

Posted in Books & Reading, Mystery, Short Stories | 6 Comments

short stories read – February 23

The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant by Q. Patrick, Crippen & Landru 2019 Lost Classics Series, softcover story collection, mystery fiction, introduction by mystery historian Curtis Evans.

I bought this when it was published, and have just now taken it from the To Be Read shelf to read. This is the second collection of stories from Crippen & Landru to feature the works of Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler, who were better known under their three pseudonyms, Q. Patrick, Patrick Quentin, and Jonathan Stagge.

These stories, most of which were written between 1946 and 1955 primarily for This Week and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, feature Lt. Timothy Trant, the New York homicide detective. Trant appeared in three novels early in the careers of the two men as works by Q Patrick, and would later return at the end of the Peter Duluth series under the Patrick Quentin name in Black Widow, where Duluth is the main suspect.

As Webb’s health declined, most of these short works (and the later novels) would be written by Wheeler alone. This is the first time that many of these stories have seen print, since their original publication over 50 years ago.

My Take:
These are light, enjoyable stories featuring a likable character. Two of the stories are longer, as noted, novella or novelette length, the rest of usual length. None are particularly challenging to the experienced mystery fiction reader, but reading this collection makes for a nice break from the more dark, sometimes grim mystery fiction that’s currently common.

She Wrote Finis – (novella)
White Carnations
The Plaster Cat
The Corpse in the Closet
The Farewell Performance
The Wrong Envelope – (novelette)
Murder in One Scene
Town Blonde, Country Blonde
Who Killed The Mermaid?
Woman of Ice
Death and Canasta
Death on Saturday Night
Death on the Riviera
Girl Overboard
This Looks like Murder
Death Before Breakfast
Death at the Fair
The Glamorous Opening
Murder in the Alps
On the Day of the Rose Show
Going Going Gone!–2
Lioness vs. Panther–

Posted in Books & Reading, Short Stories | 10 Comments

The Cat Who Saved Books

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, 2017 Harper Collins, Harpervia Edition 2021 hardcover, translation by Louise Heal Kawai

The Blurb:
I read the review below on Lesa Hostline’s Lesa’s Book Critiques blog, and use her text with permission.

“Rintaro Natsuki’s grandfather has died. He was the closest family member for the high school student. All he has left is a concerned aunt he doesn’t know, and Natsuki Books, his grandfather’s secondhand bookstore. But, the teenager who never fit it was in the habit of going to Natsuki Books, immersing himself in books, and voraciously reading anything he could find. His grandfather always reminded him that “Books have tremendous power”, but he also warned him it was important to be in the world, not shut away from it. At the moment, Rintaro only wants to shut himself away. He doesn’t want to pack up the bookstore and move away with his aunt.

Two of Rintaro’s classmates do stop to check on him. His class rep, Sayo, brings his homework, and Ryota Akiba, the brainiest boy in the senior class stops in because he loves books. But, it’s a talking cat that changes Rintaro’s life. Tiger the Tabby demands Rintaro’s help in rescuing books. One man reads 100 books a month, but doesn’t treasure them. He locks them away. One man chops books into little pieces to distill the important message. And, the third has a message that Rintaro finds difficult to fight.

The Cat Who Saved Books takes Rintaro on life-changing adventures. He grows, but Tiger worries that he only cares for books, and hasn’t learned the message of empathy. That will come.”

Lesa says: “I read several reviews of this book that highlighted the magic and a little romance between two teenagers. I think the reviewers missed the entire message of the book. As book banning escalates in this country, it’s even more important to value the contents and messages of books. At the same time, Natsukawa writes about Rintaro’s grandfather, a man who tried to teach the important messages of life. Don’t bully those weaker than you are. Don’t tell lies. Help out those in need. He said nowadays, the obvious is no longer obvious.”

My Take:
I enjoyed this one more than I expected to. Wanting some light reading, I got that with and interesting young character, an insightful look at the way people value – or don’t value – books, and a nice ending.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction | 3 Comments

A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker, 2022 Forge Book, hardcover mystery novel

Plot Summary: (edited slightly from the publisher’s blurb)
A Thousand Steps is a beguiling thriller, an incisive coming-of-age story, and a vivid portrait of a turbulent time and place by three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker.

Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment. Matt Anthony is just trying get by.

Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom’s a stoner, his deadbeat dad left home six years ago and is in Oklahoma, or Texas, or somewhere, his brother’s fighting in Nam . . . and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she’s just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn’t believe it, especially since another missing girl has just turned up dead, on the beach.

All Matt really wants to do is get his driver’s license and ask out the girl he’s been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it’s up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don’t trust the hippies and the hippies don’t trust the cops, uncovering what’s really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast, if it’s not already too late.”

My Take:
I was living in Laguna Beach, CA in 1968 so I knew the small beach town intimately, the streets, shops, bars, restaurants. Parker knows the town too, and he got the feel of Laguna in 1968 just about right. I do think he over played the level of drugs being openly consumed, as I saw very little of that, but he has most of it spot on, right down to the names of the owners of The Sandpiper, where I used to play darts.

The book kept me turning pages, but I was “in town, a local” and that was part of it. Pretty good plot, Matt is a good character, good book. If you’ve enjoyed any of Parker’s other books, you’ll like this one.

Posted in Books & Reading, Mystery | 7 Comments

short stories read – February 9

February already! I’ve finished a couple of novels, but right now I’m back to short stories.

Knowing the third book shown below was on it’s way, I picked up the collection and anthology also shown to continue in them. First is a collection of science fiction by E. C. Tubb, who some think is one of the better SF writers in short form. The second is an anthology that I’ve been dipping into, briefly, for a while. The third is Peter Lovesey’s brand new collection of stories.

So, stories read:

“Fallen Angel” by E. C. Tubb from The Best of E. C. Tubb – a robot story.

“Death-wish” by E. C. Tubb from The Best of E. C. Tubb – massive interstellar fleets fight a seemingly unwinable war in space.

“The Ming Vase” by E. C. Tubb from The Best of E. C. Tubb – why would an international spy walk into a dilapidated antiques shop and steal a small vase from the Ming Dynasty?

“The Beatific Smile” by E. C. Tubb from The Best of E. C. Tubb – in a two-man space lifeboat, one man can take a knock-out drug to sleep the wait for rescue, the other must be awake and alert to respond to a rescue signal.

“The Steam Dancer” by Catlin R. Kiernan from The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – backbreaking work as a steamdancer is nothing compared to raising a son on the Moon.

“Icebreaker” by E. Catherine Tobler from The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – an expedition to the Arctic is interrupted by ice lizards attacking the ship, and a lost mechanical heart.

“Tom Edison and His Amazing Telegraphic Harpoon” by Jay Lake from The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – Tom has to hastily rig a special weapon when his exploring team is attacked.

“The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentleman’s Ball” by Genevieve Valentine from The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – Hydrogen has strange effects on the human body under prolonged exposure.

“Clockwork Fairies” by Cat Rambo from The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – impossible to make, impossible to steal…

“And the Band Played On” from Reader, I Buried Them and Other Stories by Peter Lovesey – Grandpa was a murderer, with a song stuck in his head.

“Sweet and Low” from Reader, I Buried Them and Other Stories by Peter Lovesey – stolen beehives lead to murder.

“Lady Luck” from Reader, I Buried Them and Other Stories by Peter Lovesey – a petty thief has a streak of luck, of a sort.

“Reader, I Buried Them” from Reader, I Buried Them and Other Stories by Peter Lovesey – the monastery is larger than needed as older monks die off, but moving to another location is out of the question.

“Angela’s Alterations” from Reader, I Buried Them and Other Stories by Peter Lovesey – a problem teen needs straightening out, but how, and by whom?

“The Bitter Truth” from Reader, I Buried Them and Other Stories by Peter Lovesey – a blockbuster story backfires on a newspaper writer.

notes: These are all very good, if quite different, short story collections / anthologies. I’ve been reading from the Tubb and Steampunk for a while, a story or two between novels, but I may be reading the Lovesey collection straight through.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 11 Comments

The Music Box Murders

The Music Box Murders by Larry Karp, 1999 Worldwide paperback, mystery, first in Dr. Thomas Purdue series

Having read an review of this book by Walter Albert in February, I tracked down a used copy and gave it a try. Walter and I both enjoy art mysteries, and as he said in his review this mystery will probably interest anyone who collects just about anything. In this case it’s music boxes, but it will in fact strike a chord (ouch) will all of us who find joy in hunting and finding items to add to the collections that hold our interest.

Dr. Thomas Purdue is a music box collector; as such he takes personal interest when desirable items become available or change hands between one collector and another. He is a member of the New York Music Box Collectors Society. So he is surprised and concerned when he hears that one of the premier collectors in the city has been murdered, and a rare box stolen. He’s more concerned when a box he buys shortly afterward from a dealer he has considered reputable appears to be the stolen box.

In the best tradition of the amateur sleuth, he decides to investigate, which leads to trouble, involvement with some unsavory types and personal jeopardy.

I liked this one and ripped right through it, then found the next in the series as well. Very enjoyable.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 10 Comments