Some books seem to possess a long-lasting hold over your imagination, and I just keep coming back to this deeply strange, macabre and lyrical novel. This must be the fourth or fifth time I re-visited it over the years, and somehow it managed to leave me with a different impression every time.
I made a mistake in my review of The Murder at the Vicarage: while it was Miss Marple’s full-length novel debut, it wasn’t her first appearance, rather it was in a 1927 short story called The Tuesday Night Club. Later, it became the first chapter in this entertaining collection of thirteen short stories, which together form a sort of episodic novel. Midway through the book, I realised that I have actually read it before, but the details of each story completely evaporated from my memory so it was like reading them anew.
This short science fiction novel takes a simple concept – what if your dreams could affect and alter reality – and spins it into a riveting and imaginative blend of psychological thriller and philosophical musings.
“Good title that, by the way. Lord Edgware Dies. Look well on a bookstall.” This Poirot novel may not be one of my absolute favourites, but you can tell that Christie had a lot of fun with it, including some self-referential winking. Though I’m not sure if Lord Edgware Dies is necessarily superior to the book’s alternative title, Thirteen at Dinner.
I’ll always have a special soft spot for this book since it was the first Agatha Christie novel I’ve ever read back in my early teens. While I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone else as a first taste of Christie, it’s a fun adventure romp that holds up surprisingly well on a re-read and is one of Christie’s better thrillers. Also, the current coronavirus situation and its restrictions have a way of colouring things I watch and read; reading about someone embarking on an adventure in a far-off country (on a cruise ship, no less!) left me with a wistful pang that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
I don’t often buy books I’ve never heard of by the unfamiliar authors purely on a whim, let alone for a full price, but this novel by a Korean-American writer, a spontaneous pick while milling around a bookstore, totally justified the gamble (also, I’ve noticed I’m much more likely to buy anything when it’s in red). It’s a sign of a great book when, after spending time with its characters for over 600 pages, you’re sad to say goodbye as you turn over the last page.
One of Christie’s most beloved and famous novels, Murder on the Orient Express is top-tier Dame Agatha, so effortlessly readable I finished most of it while taking a very long bath. It’s also something of a favourite for big-screen adaptation, as evidenced by the recent star-studded version with Kenneth Branagh as Poirot, though I haven’t seen either that or the 1974 adaptation.
I absolutely loved Kate Atkinson’s brilliant and inventive Life After Life from a few years back, a genre-defying novel that portrayed the many parallel lives of its heroine Ursula Todd in the first half of the 20th century. It also introduced the readers to the rest of the Todd family, among them Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy who becomes a bomber pilot in World War II. In the final “life” of the novel, Teddy gets a miraculous reprieve: presumed dead by everyone, he survives the war and comes back after having spent time as a POW. A God in Ruins takes that ending and runs with it, exploring Teddy’s war as well as his post-war life, a life that he never really expected to have.
This novel marks the debut of Miss Marple, Christie’s other beloved fictional detective, a gentle and harmless-looking old lady with a keen interest in human nature and a remarkably clear view of its dark side. I couldn’t say if it’s the best Miss Marple whodunit, but it ranks as my personal favourite for being so enjoyable to re-visit. I lost count of how many times I picked up my old tattered copy of The Murder at the Vicarage (now replaced with a more respectable one) for a quick and easy in-between comfort re-read.
I’ve now read three Liane Moriarty books and enjoyed them all, including this latest novel which is probably the funniest so far, and a perfect summer read to take to the beach. Most of the times I take a book or magazine with me to the beach I actually don’t end up reading it, but I was glued to this one.