Discussion: The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

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The Murder at the Vicarage Agatha ChristieThe Queen of Mystery has come to Harper Collins! Agatha Christie, the acknowledged mistress of suspense—creator of indomitable sleuth Miss Marple, meticulous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and so many other unforgettable characters—brings her entire oeuvre of ingenious whodunits, locked room mysteries, and perplexing puzzles to Harper Paperbacks. The Murder at the Vicarage was Christie’s very first mystery to feature her most popular investigator—as a dead body in a clergyman’s study proves to Miss Marple that no place, holy or otherwise, is a sanctuary from homicide.

Literary Significance and Reception:

The Times Literary Supplement of November 6, 1930 posed the various questions as to who could have killed Protheroe and why and concluded, “As a detective story, the only fault of this one is that it is hard to believe the culprit could kill Prothero [sic] so quickly and quietly. The three plans of the room, garden, and village show that almost within sight and hearing was Miss Marple, who ‘always knew every single thing that happened and drew the worst inferences.’ And three other ‘Parish cats’ (admirably portrayed) were in the next three houses. It is Miss Marple who does detect the murderer in the end, but one suspects she would have done it sooner in reality”.

The review of the novel in The New York Times Book Review of November 30, 1930 began, “The talented Miss Christie is far from being at her best in her latest mystery story. It will add little to her eminence in the field of detective fiction.” The review went on to say that, “the local sisterhood of spinsters is introduced with much gossip and click-clack. A bit of this goes a long way and the average reader is apt to grow weary of it all, particularly of the amiable Miss Marple, who is sleuth-in-chief of the affair.” The reviewer summarised the set-up of the plot and concluded, “The solution is a distinct anti-climax.”

H.C. O’Neill in The Observer of December 12, 1930 said that, “here is a straightforward story which very pleasantly draws a number of red herrings across the docile reader’s path. There is a distinct originality in her new expedient for keeping the secret. She discloses it at the outset, turns it inside out, apparently proves that the solution cannot be true, and so produces an atmosphere of bewilderment.”

In the Daily Express of October 16, 1930 Harold Nicolson said, “I have read better works by Agatha Christie, but that does not mean that this last book is not more cheerful, more amusing, and more seductive than the generality of detective novels.”

In a short review of October 15, 1930, the Daily Mirror said that, “Bafflement is well sustained.”[8] Robert Barnard: “Our first glimpse of St Mary Mead, a hotbed of burglary, impersonation, adultery and ultimately murder. What is it precisely that people find so cosy about such stories? The solution boggles the mind somewhat, but there are too many incidental pleasures to complain, and the strong dose of vinegar in this first sketch of Miss Marple is more to modern taste than the touch of syrup in later presentations.”[9]

From the looks of it the beginning of the Miss Marple series did not get rave reviews. Odd as it sounds now, it seems to be one of her most popular series. If the book had been published now, do you think it would have gotten the same reception, would it have been dropped by the publisher?

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

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Robopocalypse Daniel H. WilsonRobopocalypse
Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Pages: 347
ISBN: 0385533853

They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.

In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.

Oh how I wanted to love this book. The first chapter starts our really strong. Fifteen minutes after the robot is brought “to life” we get a sense of suspense and loom. With threats against the scientist that made him that the human race will now be gone and robots will take over, I was on the edge of my seat. I cancelled lunch and everything after.

And then it happened. The book shifted. The rest of Part 1 (100 pages or so) deals with first person accounts about the first violent interactions between the robots and the humans. While interesting, the way they were told were play by plays. The amount of detail given in this book would be (and apparently is) perfect for a movie. I never thought I would say this, but there is just too much detail here. I wanted the chance to use my mind, my imagination, my brain!

The second half of the book picks up a bit, but if you watwched ID4 and movies like it, you pretty much know most of this book already. This is going to become one of those books, where you either love it or feel indifferent about it. Sadly I fall in the indifferent end of the scale. It was an ok book, made the afternoon go by quickly, but I won’t be picking it up again.

Claire DeWitt And The City Of The Dead By Sara Gran

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Claire DeWitt And The City Of The Dead Sara GranClaire DeWitt And The City Of The Dead
Author: Sara Gran

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Pages: 273
ISBN: 0547428499

Sara Gran has written a novel about an unprecedented private investigator named Claire DeWitt. Destiny, it seems, has chosen Claire to be a detective, planting a copy of the enigmatic bookDétection in her path as a teenager. Claire has grabbed this destiny with both hands but fate has been cruel. Twenty years later detection is her religion and Détection is her Bible.

Now she is summoned to New Orleans, because someone has heard she is “the best,” to search for an upstanding citizen lost in the miasma of Katrina. The battered and beggared New Orleans, second only to Claire, is the star of this story. Thus the title.

The style is slick, gripping, and mystical, as strange and as easy as the character of Claire DeWitt. You may be repelled by her earthiness or mesmerized by her off-the-wall devotion to her calling.

Though planned as the beginning of a series, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is itself a complete novel.

Claire DeWitt is not your average private investigator. She has brilliant deductive skills and is an ace at discovering evidence. But Claire also uses her dreams, omens, and mind-expanding herbs to help her solve mysteries, and relies on Détection — the only book published by the late, great, and mysterious French detective Jacques Silette. The tattooed, pot-smoking Claire has just arrived in post-Katrina New Orleans, the city she’s avoided since her mentor, Silette’s student Constance Darling, was murdered there. Claire is investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing, a prosecutor known for winning convictions in a homicide- plagued city. Has an angry criminal enacted revenge on Vic? Or did he use the storm as a means to disappear? Claire follows the clues, finding old friends and making new enemies — foremost among them Andray Fairview, a young gang member who just might hold the key to the mystery.

Littered with memories of Claire’s years as a girl detective in 1980s Brooklyn, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.

I had a pretty strong reaction towards this book. I didn’t like how New Orleans was portrayed (I know there is crime there but this book make it sound like it was the bowels of hell). I didn’t like Claire (really, smoking with kids and buying guns off them?). And I didn’t like Claire’s opinions (Caucasians would never choose to live in New Orleans because of how bad it is).

I didn’t like the book, I didn’t like the characters and I didn’t like the plot. I wanted to. But I couldn’t.

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

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Before I Go To Sleep S.J. WatsonBefore I Go To Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Pages: 359
ISBN: 0062060554

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me…

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life. – GoodRead

I really wanted to like this book. Here we read about a woman who has lost the last 25 years of her life. As if that weren’t bad enough, each time she wakes up she forgets what she did the previous day.

Each day, she needs to be reminded who she is, who the man is that she keeps waking up next to is and other important parts of her life. As she begins working with a therapist she begins remembering things and keeping them written down in a journal she reads every day to remember what she has learned about herself.

So far the story is great. Yet after several chapters of the same thing, it gets a bit monotonous. She does learn new things about herself and does start doubting her husband and those around her as to why they are keeping things about her a secret, but not enough happens to keep the reader at the edge of their seat. I felt bad for her, but after a while it was annoying.

The writing is great. Where the book falls short for me is that it is being touted as the next big thriller. The story was interesting, but a thriller it was not. I wasn’t scared and I didn’t feel any huge sense of danger. A change in genre will do this book good as people won’t be disappointed it didn’t live up to a preconceived notion.

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice by Andrea Kane

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The Girl Who Disappeared Twice Andrea KaneThe Girl Who Disappeared Twice
Author: Andrea Kane
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Pages: 400
ISBN: 0778329844

If she’d only turned her head, she would have seen the car containing her daughter, struggling to get out. Struggling to escape her kidnapper.

Despite all her years determining the fates of families, veteran family court judge Hope Willis couldn’t save her own. Now she’s frantically grasping at any hope for Krissy’s rescue. Her husband dead–set against it, she calls Casey Woods and her team of renegade investigators,Forensic Instincts.

A behaviorist.A techno–wizard.An intuitive.A former Navy SEAL. Unconventional operatives.All with unique talents and personal reasons for being part of Casey’s group, they’ll do whatever it takes.

Able to accurately read people after the briefest of encounters, Casey leads her crew to Krissy’s home. There, she picks up the signs of a nervous spouse, a guilty conscience, a nanny that hides on her cell. She watches as secrets beg to creep into the open.

Forensic Instincts will dig through each tiny clue and eliminate the clutter. But time is running out, and even working around the clock, the authorities are bound by the legal system. Not so Casey’s team. For they know that the difference between Krissy coming back alive and disappearing forever could be as small as a suspect’s rapid breathing, or as deep as Hope’s dark family history. – GoodRead

Let me start off by saying if you like the new show “Criminal Mind: Suspect Behaviour”, you will like this book. Very early on, we find out who the suspect is – which was a bit of a let down for me. Fortunately, the rest of book deals with the why. Why would someone kidnap a young girl.

The story flows nicely, the writing is well done. I must say, personally I was a bit disillusioned that I was able to figure it out so quickly. While the rest of the story was still exciting and fast paced, it didn’t have 100% of my attention. The team of rogue current and ex law enforcement that is hired to find her moves too smoothly. It works a bit too well with local law enforcement – whom everyone knows don’t like their toes stepped on. It would have read better had it been a bit more realistic.

It was a good book, just not a keeper for me.