Black Coffee by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie's Black Coffee - a Hercule Poirot mysteryBlack Coffee by Agatha Christie, adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne

Miss Marple is my preferred Christie character – she amuses me in a way that Poirot does not. The additional bonus with Miss Marple is the lack of Hastings in the narrative – I’m not a big fan of his bumbling.

So, Black Coffee had some strikes against it already when it came to a Christie title – it’s Poirot, and Hastings is in it. Then when I borrowed the title I discovered that it was originally a play, written by Christie, but adapted into a novel by someone else.

Unfortunately, that adaptation shows. The action is very tightly located, and there felt like an excess of directions – someone enters the room, sits here, moves there, etc. I have no doubt it works better as a play, where the limitations that felt cramped in a novel are appropriate for a theatre setting.

I don’t regret reading it by any means, and for Poirot fans or anyone wanting to be sure to read all of Christie’s works it’s a must-read. For anyone else, it’s skippable.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:

Inventor Sir Claude Amory feels a bitter taste in the mouth, when the new formula for explosive material stolen by someone in the household.

In order to quickly remedy the situation, Sir Claude locks the door and turns off the light, giving the thief a chance to return the formula without being detected. But darkness brings death and Hercule Poirot has to untangle family strife, love and suspicious visitors tangle in order to clarify the murderer and prevent disaster.


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Quick Lit: Recent Series Reads

Harry Potter 1 2 3I’m in the midst of a Harry Potter readathon (so fun!) and have completed the first three books, and am thisclose to finishing book four. I’ve been listening to them all via Audible and while it takes longer (which is why I’m only just now almost finishing book four), I’m really enjoying the slower pace and wonderful accents that Jim Dale brings to it. Years ago I listened to some of them on CD, but it’s different hearing them now, after a break, and after completing the series.

Among the MadAmong the Mad (Maisie Dobbs #6). I think I enjoy this as a series more than any one book in particular – I like Maisie as a character quite a bit, and Billy is great too. I’m anxious to continue reading the series to see what happens with them both. Does Maisie find love again? Does Billy’s wife improve? Do Billy and his family move to Canada?

Flavia de Luce 6 and 7The Dead in their Vaulted Arches and As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce books 6 and 7). I’d been trying to read this series s-l-o-w-l-y because I don’t want to reach the point of no more to read. And now all I have left is a short story, The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse. I shouldn’t have too long to wait though, as book #8, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d is releasing September 20th. I’m planning on pre-ordering the Audible version as soon as it’s available.

The Mystery of the Blue TrainMystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6)
Fairly convoluted plotting, but I still enjoy Christie and will keep reading her.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Quick Lit July 2015
Two years ago: Favorite Books from the first half of 2014
Three years ago: Best Books {from the first half} of 2013

Quick Lit: Recent Fiction Reads

Playing catch-up with reviews:

The Big FourBig Four: A Hercule Poirot MysteryBig Four: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie by Agatha Christie
Probably my least favorite Poirot so far – it was laughably ridiculous with the plot devices (Super villains! A secret lair! Poirot cheating death at every turn!). Read it only if you are insistent on reading all of Christie’s work, but otherwise skip it in favor of some of her other books.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


Speaking from Among the BonesSpeaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce NovelSpeaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley by Alan Bradley

I still love Flavia, and still adore the audio versions of these books. Don’t start with this one though – begin with the first in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. If you are at all a fan of mystery books, give Flavia a try.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


An Incomplete RevengeAn Incomplete RevengeAn Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs Book 5) by Jacqueline Winspear by Jacqueline Winspear

It took me FOREVER to get through this one, and I’m not sure why. I like the Maisie Dobbs series, but this one was not as compelling for me. I’m still looking forward to continuing on with the series however, as I do love Maisie’s character.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell MysteryA Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn by Deanna Raybourn

Fun elements to it, but not to the “you’ve got to read this book!” level. I may look for the second in the series when it’s published next year, because I am curious about where she goes with the characters, but it’s not a super high priority.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


GodmotherGodmother: The Secret Cinderella StoryGodmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon by Carolyn Turgeon

I don’t even know how to write about this one without giving spoilers galore. It’s a sort-of retelling of the Cinderella story, so if you like re-imagined fairy tales you may want to give this a try. This one is definitely darker, tilting away from the Disney side of the fairy tales spectrum towards the original, Brothers Grimm version side. It’s likely to stick with you though – I’m still thinking about it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Books I’m Looking forward to Reading in 2015

Favorite Books of 2015 (So Far)

Favorite Books of 2015 so farQuick looks at my what are so far my favorite books of 2015, since it’s close enough to halfway through the year. 🙂 Links go to my previous posts if I’ve written one, Amazon if I haven’t.

Nonfiction

As You WishAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

I don’t generally read celebrity bios, but made an exception for this one, and am so glad I did. It’s funny and witty and oh so entertaining. Perhaps because it’s more the story of a movie, than the story of just a celebrity. Read it and then read The Princess Bride. And then watch the movie. Actually, skip reading it and go for the audible versionAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes – it’s fantastic!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Not sure if it really will be life-changing, but so far I think it just might be. Love the tone of this one, and how it is so gentle and kind. I also love her change in focus from what you’re discarding, to what you’re keeping.

Better Than BeforeBetter Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

I love her style and approach, and I love the focus of this book: how can I change my habits to change my life? It combines nicely with Kondo’s book too.

Cold TangerinesCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist

She’s one of my favorite authors, and I finally read her first book. Not as good as her more recent titles (you can see how she’s grown as an author), but still an excellent memoir of sorts.

The Road from CoorainThe Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

A re-read for my book club, and it was just as good the second time around. It also made for a fabulous discussion at book club – one of the best ones we’ve had in awhile. Highly recommended if your book club reads memoirs!


Fiction

The Truth According to UsThe Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

Loved this book. Don’t be put off by the length – it’s captivating and reads much quicker than you’d think almost 500 pages could possibly. You’ll feel like you’re there with them in Depression-era West Virginia, and you’ll appreciate air conditioning so very much.

The Thirteen ProblemsThe Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

Short stories featuring Miss Marple. I’m slowly working my way through all of Agatha Christie’s books and I can’t decide if I’m annoyed at myself for waiting so long to read them, or delighted that I have so many still to look forward to reading.

The Murder of Roger AckroydThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

More Christie, but this one features Detective Hercule Poirot. Perhaps her most famous of mysteries, and I loved figuring it out before it was revealed. She is so good at writing compelling stories without lots of extra padding.


Favorite Kids Books:

The War that Saved My LifeThe War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A look at the children evacuated from London during WWII, but it takes a different perspective than you might expect. Hard to read at times because of tough content, it’s well worth the emotional effort, and I appreciated that the author skipped any easy resolutions that would have felt unrealistic.

National Geographic Kids Animal StoriesNational Geographic Kids Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal KingdomNational Geographic Kids Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal Kingdom by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple; illustrated by Jui Ishida by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple; illustrated by Jui Ishida

Gorgeously illustrated and engagingly written, this would make a great readaloud for any animal-loving children. Or it makes for a great book for any older kids or adults too, as I read it through the first time on my own, as I was deciding whether or not to read it to my kids. Fascinating looks at some animals in history.

Book of a Thousand DaysBook of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

A retelling of a not-very-familiar fairy tale. Well-written and engrossing, with a very satisfying ending. I loved the characters in this one, and how Hale manages to make the story her own, while still basing it so much on the original tale.

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Written in verse, this is another one that has tough content, although the format softens it a bit. Absolutely compelling.

Listen SlowlyListen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

Another gorgeously-written book by Lai, although this one is in prose, not verse. I kept wanting this to be more obviously connected with the previous book but it’s not. No matter – it’s still a wonderful story.

Winnie the PoohWinnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

A classic for a reason. Loved reading it aloud to my children, and they loved hearing the stories.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Thirteen Problems

The Thirteen ProblemsThe Thirteen ProblemsThe Thirteen Problems (Miss Marple Mysteries) by Agatha Christie by Agatha Christie

I loved this collection of Miss Marple short stories – each one was very satisfying, and I enjoyed putting my brain to the test to figure out if I could solve the mystery before Miss Marple revealed the answers.

While I generally try and avoid reading fiction too close to bedtime (invariably I find myself reading “just one more chapter” several times, and regretting it the next day), this is an easy choice for reading when you don’t have much time. Each chapter is a self-contained story, and while there is an overarching narrative connecting the stories, it doesn’t matter which order you read them in, and you could easily read once chapter, set the book aside for weeks or months, and then pick up again with no worries over forgetting plot points.

Eminently satisfying to read, and makes me appreciate just how good Christie was.

[Read more…]

Cover Love – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I was stunned to discover just how many different covers there are for Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Stunned! There are so many that I’m limiting this post just to English-language versions. Let’s just see some of the multitude:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Covers 1

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Covers 2

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Covers 3

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Covers 4

As far as picking a favorite? It’s so hard! I did narrow it down. To five choices:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Cover Favorites
Let’s see. #1 there is classic – the original cover from the first edition – and it’s got the lady snooping in the drawer and looking very suspicious. #2 I just like how it looks, but it doesn’t seem to relate to the story as well, so it shouldn’t be my favorite. #3 has the knife, and the letter, and the phone (or perhaps it’s not the phone, but either way it relates to the story). #4 is deceptively simple, with just the phone. I’m partial to it because that’s the cover on the Kindle version I read. #5 might be a bit gruesome, but I like the style so much.

I can’t decide which of these I like the most – as soon as I think it’s got to be this one or that, I end up second-guessing myself. Do you have a strong preference for one of them?

This new “Cover Love” series is inspired by the “Judging Books by Their Covers” series previously run at Quirky Bookworm.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger AckroydThe Murder of Roger AckroydThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) by Agatha Christie by Agatha Christie

I’ve become a real fan of Christie’s books, and of Hercule Poirot in particular. This book just reinforced those opinions – I loved it!

It’s easy to understand why this book made the impact it did upon publication, both in the mystery genre and for her reputation. It’s also easy for me to see why she claimed it as one of her favorites of all of her many books.

There are clues galore, but which ones are significant and which mere distractions? There are plenty of suspects, including the mysterious stranger. There’s a suspect who has disappeared – is that evidence of his guilt? There’s even the precursor to Miss Marple!

Hastings isn’t in this book, but he’s mentioned from time to time, and I enjoyed the contrasting narration style between him and Dr. Sheppard.

Generally with mysteries I don’t try to figure out whodunnit, and instead just try and enjoy how the story unfolds. With Christie, I do find myself trying to figure it out, and I get a lot of pleasure when I manage it. No spoilers here, don’t fear, but it’s definitely possible to deduce the murderer before it’s revealed. I won’t say when exactly I managed it as that would skirt a little too close to some spoilers, and this is not a book to have the ending revealed to you before you even begin.

Lots of fun, and definitely worth reading if you haven’t already!

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Considered to be one of Agatha Christie’s most controversial mysteries, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd breaks all the rules of traditional mystery writing.

The peaceful English village of King’s Abbot is stunned. First, the attractive widows Ferrars dies from an overdose of veronal. Not twenty-four house later, Roger Ackroyd—the man she had planned to marry—is murdered. It is a baffling, complex case involving blackmail, suicide, and violent death, a cast that taxes Hercule Poirot’s “little grey cells” before he reaches one of the most startling conclusions of his fabled career.

Book Details

Title: The Murder of Roger AckroydThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) by Agatha Christie
Author: Agatha Christie
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie

Poirot InvestigatesPoirot Investigates: A Hercule Poirot CollectionPoirot Investigates: Hercule Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie by Agatha Christie

My first experience with Christie’s short stories, and I LOVED them. I’ve said that I think I prefer Miss Marple, but after this book I might have to change my allegiance to Poirot. Or maybe it’s just that I liked him so much in this format; we’ll see as I continue reading through all of the books.

Hastings has annoyed me in the past, and this time he made me chuckle at his self-delusions. I loved the opportunity to see if I could solve the puzzle before the answer was revealed, and the short format worked perfectly for that – it’s hard to hide a lot of red herrings when each entry is so brief!

Super fun read, and it has me wishing for lots more short stories from Christie. [Read more…]

Read This, Not That: Fair Play Mystery

Mysterious Affair at StylesRules of Murder

Never heard of a “fair play mystery?” All that means is the subgenre of mysteries where the reader can solve it too – all the clues are presented in the novel, with no hidden information.

Agatha Christie was a master at this type of mystery, and if you’re looking for a Christie-type reading experience, it’s hard to beat the original.

Which brings me to Rules of MurderRules of Murder (A Drew Farthering Mystery Book #1) by Julianna Deering by Julianna Deering. First, the positives: isn’t that a fantastic cover? And doesn’t the premise of it sound wonderful?

Except, there’s a big letdown. While description sounded strong, the plotting itself was weak. There are red herrings galore, but the solution still was disappointingly easy to figure out. The main character annoyed me, as did the main secondary characters.

I get what Deering was trying to do with this book, and presumably the series, but overall it just didn’t work for me. I found myself longing for one of Christie’s original books, instead of this attempt at a nod to Christie.

Perhaps the later books in the series improve; plotting often does, but I’m more concerned with the personality issues that annoyed me, as I’d expect that to continue in later books.

Instead of falling for that fabulous cover (and the later books in her series also have wonderful covers), go with the original – Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles was lots of fun.

Publisher’s Description:
Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game

Book Details

Title: Rules of MurderRules of Murder (A Drew Farthering Mystery Book #1) by Julianna Deering
Author: Julianna Deering
Category: Fiction / Historical Mystery
My Rating: 2 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Murder on the Links

Murder on the LinksThe Murder on the LinksThe Murder on the Links: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) by Agatha Christie by Agatha Christie

Not my favorite Poirot book (I preferred The Mysterious Affair at Styles), but I’m still enjoying Christie’s books overall and am looking forward to continuing them.

What made this one more disappointing to me? The red herrings seemed more glaring, as did some of the coincidences. Mostly though, it was the narrator Hastings who annoyed me with his ridiculous actions. More Poirot and less Hastings = a winning formula for me. 🙂

I still enjoyed matching wits with Poirot (or, Christie I suppose) and seeing if I could figure it all out before it was revealed. There was no concern that I wouldn’t figure it out before Hastings.

[Read more…]