Let's just say that after a March with a lot of reading, April was a let down! I guess all that reading time in March was disrupted in April by a lot of painting, which was probably a better thing overall!
"The Word Is Murder" by Anthony Horowitz
I loved Horowitz's "The Magpie Murders" (coming soon to PBS) but I was skeptical as to how he would incorporate himself into another series he writes in which a detective comes to him (Horowitz the author-as-character) for help in solving a case. How do you write yourself into a mystery as a fictional (or semi-real) character? It seemed an odd conceit -- but it worked!
In "The Word Is Murder," Horowitz-the-character is approached by a former police officer who now does consulting with the London police on unusual murders. A woman who is the mother of an up-and-coming stage and film actor plans her funeral, resigns from her board position on the Globe Theatre, and then is found murdered in her home that night. The detective wants the author to consult and help him find out more about the murder.
Horowitz-the-character has met Inspector Hawthorne when he served as a consultant on "Foyle's War," (the real series that the real Horowitz wrote -- and if you haven't seen it, it's very good!). While they are a bit at odds in the personality department, the author is soon sucked into the intrigue of the case. They are an odd couple, Horowitz playing Watson to Hawthorne's Holmes, which is clearly an inspiration of the character.
The result is delightful and great fun with characters in the film industry, all with a back story. Horowitz incorporates his own resume into his character's story (there is a scene when his character is on the set of "Foyle's War," for example) and his references often led me to google, where I often found they were true ones! There are many potential suspects in Diana Cowper's murder and a good deal of clever sleuthing until it is uncovered! Enjoy!
"Untrue Blue" by Emma Jameson
This is the most recent addition in the "Lord and Lady Hetheridge" series. It finds former Scotland Yard chief/now private detective called in to help solve the murder of one of his former police colleagues, a young female detective who was working on three controversial cases at the time of her murder. Tony Hetheridge's police sergeant wife, Kate, is on bed rest, awaiting the birth of their first child, but that doesn't stop her from becoming involved.
If you have read the other books in the series, you'll recognize some of the main characters. The plot is probably the best conceived of the books in the series. Would I recommend it? There are far better mystery series, but it's not bad and a fairly quick read.
"The Tenant" by Katrine Enberg
This Danish mystery was a tightly written book and I found myself unable to stop reading it. A young woman who lives in a three-apartment building is murdered, discovered by another tenant, and mourned by Esther, the building landlord, a 60-something woman who lives on the top floor and who aspires to be a mystery novelist.
Detectives Jeppe and Anette are called on to handle the rather grisly murder case, with a list of suspects that include Esther's singing teacher, members of her online writing group, and even the volatile father of the late Julie. There is a viable case for each of them and the weeding out of suspects is fascinating and good detective work that leads them through Copenhagen. And of course, Esther takes it upon herself to do a little detective work herself -- which is never a good thing!
And yes, I want to read another book by Enberg, and I hope Jeppe and Anette return for a sequel.
"The DIY Home Planner" by Karianne Wood
This very short (143 page) book is beautifully illustrated with colorful, fun illustrations by Michal Sparks. It features the most basic of home-dec info in a colorful, easy to follow way. There were parts I loved, parts I didn't. So, what I loved first.
Wood takes us through each element of home decor -- furniture placement, window and lighting treatments, paint, flooring and more -- in brief overviews of each, featuring the pros and cons of various choices. Do you know how to figure out how much paint to buy for a space? Or which color? Here's the equation. How wide should your chandelier be? There's a formula for that. How do you pick your decorative pillows? She has an easy solution based on the fabric design on the pillows. She's the Elizabeth Warren of home dec. She has a plan for that. And this is all helpful, useful information, especially as indicated by Sparks' illustrations. This is info I can and may well use and it is useful to have it at hand in one spot.
She also includes a page of a scale grid so you can arrange your furniture before you hump your heavy sofa to every corner of the room before settling on what you chose first. In the back of the book there is even a page of little beds and chairs and sofas you can cut out to make that planning task a little easier. There are plenty of good hints and even if you picked up tips on just one or two of them, it might be well worth it. Or, at 16.99, you might be able to find all that info for free at your home store or that decorating guru of all time, Mr. Google, who will direct you to Wood's blog (or others). (Which, by the way, is a lovely home dec blog if you are into that kind of thing.)
So, what didn't I like? Well, I really disliked almost all the crafty things she included in the accessory styling section. Maybe I'd like them better in photos but in the drawings most were cutesy not cute, and looked amateurish. And maybe they should be. For a beginner who doesn't have a sense of the rule of three (or odd numbers) or who doesn't read a boatload of blogs that have volumes of vignettes, some of the info is useful. But those projects just turned me off -- after all that very solid info.
There are some tear-out quotes that she suggests be framed (not in my house!). Really? You don't have a photo of Grandma or that gorgeous sunset from your Caribbean vacation or that lovely street in some glorious European city that might not look better in your frame. I think you do. But hey, someone might like it. There's a guide for an origami bookmark that I will have to try because I think the instructions look way more complicated than my brain can handle and I'm always up for a challenge and if I can do it, it will be spectacular. But those two pages and those in the back of the book with three leaf templates for a wreath could be cut.
So, my recommendation is that if you need the info about ordering paint, picking flooring or deciding between drapes, shutters or blinds -- then it is well worth the price. If you're looking for cute ideas for craftiness or your home, hit the internet. Or her blog.
"Death on the Nile" by Agatha Christie
I think I've read almost every book Agatha Christie has written (including some written under the name of Mary Westmacott), along with her two autobiographies, biographies of her by others, and fiction based on her life. I've enjoyed her BBC Poirot and Miss Marple series and features from her books. But, it has been years since I've picked one up for a good read.
I decided I needed what I call a "24-Hour Aggie" -- a book I could read in no more than 24 hours, probably much less. So, I chose "Death on the Nile" because I had recently seen Kenneth Brannagh's new interpretation and the earlier Peter Ustinov version. The two films differed somewhat in characters/names from each other and I wonder how closely either of them hung to the book.
Christie is a wonderful writer. She's an honest one, too. If you read her books very carefully, you may well determine the murderer -- she lays it all out there. But it can be so subtle, you just glide over it. Poirot does not, however, and that's what makes him a marvelous detective and character.
For the uninitiated, the plot revolves around a young married couple -- Linnet (one of the richest women in the world) and her new husband, Simon, her former best friend, Jacqueline's finace -- until he met Linnet. As they honeymoon in the Middle East, they are being stalked by Jacqueline. As the group cruises down the Nile, with an assortment of other passengers, it is clear that Linnet and Simon are targets -- but from whom?
Christie spent a good deal of time in the Middle East, where she met her husband, Max Mallowan, and her descriptions are vivid. The characters are well drawn and she captures both atmosphere and personality deftly but completely.
For those who might wonder how well either movie holds to the book, the answer is that they both take some liberties, primarily with the names of characters and their occupations. (For example, in Branagh's version, Salome Otterbourne is a jazz singer, not a romance novelist.) Other characters are dropped, some have either name changes or are invented. For example, the character of Bouc only appears in Christie's novel of "Murder on the Orient Express." In Branagh's version, he returns (with his mother) as a passenger, taking over the literary character of Tim Allerton and again serves as Poirot's sidekick.
In the Ustinov version, Poirot's sidekick is Colonel Race, who is in the novel. This version also deletes several of the secondary characters.
The Branagh version also gives Poirot a backstory that explains his elaborate moustache and his lack of a romantic partner. This isn't in Christie's version (at least not in "Death on the Nile"). But I'm glad he did it, putting the detective in more human context.
But this is a book overview, not a film overview. And I'd say if you like mysteries and haven't read Christie (or re-read her in a long while), pick up a 24-Hour Aggie and enjoy!
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