Evil Under the Sun Book Review

a80346211378c99ecd602113d439a016--hercule-poirot-hardcover-booksAgatha Christie is always a reliable read. Whenever I don’t know what to read or don’t have enough time to browse through books, I always pick up one of hers. Her books and storylines are generally very solid and decently interesting. This book was pretty much the same. Yet even then, I wasn’t particularly fond or happy when I finished the book.

Basically, the book is a Hercule Poirot mystery. For those of you unaware, Hercule Poirot is Agatha Christie’s famous french detective with wits rivalling those of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve actually reviewed another Hercule Poirot book, Peril at End House, on this blog before. In that review, I talked about my dislike of Poirot — how I found him arrogant and annoying. Surprisingly in this book, there was none of that! If anything, I found myself drawn to Hercule Poirot portions of the books and missed him when he wasn’t there. It was a little odd. He actually came across as incredibly gentle and well mannered. I think the difference was the fact that we didn’t have a Hastings around for Poirot to bounce things off or criticize. Either way, I found him quite pleasant in this outing. However, the same cannot be said for this book.

The book revolves around the murder of an actress, Arlena Stuart Marshall. Arlena, her husband Ken Marshall, and her step-daughter Linda arrive at the Jolly Roger Hotel to enjoy some time in the sun. However, a few days after their arrival, Arlena is found dead — strangled to death on a covered beach. As the Jolly Roger Hotel is secluded and not very large, there’s only a number of guests there when the murder happens and so consequently, all of them are suspects. There’s the young Patrick Redfern, who is newly married but besotted with and having an affair with Arlena. There’s Christine, Patrick’s desperate young wife. There’s Rosamund Darnley, a famous dressmaker and childhood friend of Ken Marshall who disapproves of Arlena. Alongside them there’s also an older American couple, Mr and Mrs Gardener, a spinster named Emily Brewster, a retired army officer Barry, a woman hating reverend Stephen Lane, and finally, a suspicious “self-made” man Horace Blatt who boasts too much. Conveniently enough, Poirot is also vacationing there, so he’s available to help solve the mystery of Arlena’s murder. None of the woman are very fond of Arlena, so when she dies, they see it as something sad but inevitable. Despite being a star, Arlena was seen as a seductress, gold-digger who liked breaking up marriages (aka her affair with Patrick). Whereas the men have differing reactions – but mostly agree that it’s a shame that someone as beautiful as Arlena died so young.

The novel revolves around figuring out the mystery of her death. Arlena is found dead at a secluded beach, all alone with strangulation marks. The last person to see her alive was Poirot himself, but she gave him instructions not to tell anyone where she was going (he helped her put her boat in the ocean to get to the secluded beach). She is discovered dead by Patrick and Emily — when they go on an excursion around Jolly Roger Hotel (it’s a large house converted into a hotel on an island). When the police and Poirot investigate, it appears that most of the suspects have solid alibi’s. The reveal of her murderer is definitely an interesting one and Poirot’s logic, is as always, fascinating to read. There’s quite a few lines/ items that help point to some red herrings but also to the actual killer. That said, I didn’t find the book a very enjoyable read.

I just found it very middle of the road. Not very good. Not very bad. Not very interesting. Not very boring. Just there. I felt like this book was very formulaic — there was a murder, there were some red herrings, and the killer turned out to be someone surprising with clues that only the main character picked up. Most mystery/ thrillers follow this formula — as do most of Agatha Christie’s book. Hell, one of my favourites, Murder on the Orient Express, did too. But I find that some new elements or distinguishing characteristics or even a new style of writing can make the formula appear fresh. But for some reason, I didn’t get any of that in this book. It just felt so typical. I’m not sure what it is.

That said, there were positives to this book. Firstly, the writing as always is clear and easy to understand. Second, Hercule Poirot’s character and mystery solving skills were on best display here. Thirdly, I liked how the book sort of subverted its misconceptions about Arlena. Throughout the book, Arlena is seen quite spitefully by the other characters. People call her a gold digger, man seducer, woman with no brains whose only asset is her beauty. Basically, she’s seen as an antagonist. It reminded me a lot of the usual criticisms that are hurled at women. However, the book sort of subverts it, by making her into a victim instead of the antagonist. Poirot criticizes how everyone was so quick to blame Arlena for her relationships, but don’t consider the fact that maybe it wasn’t that she attracted man, but that men attracted her. He mentions how she willingly gave money to the men she liked/loved to help them out — aka she wasn’t always taking advantage of men. Poirot instead evokes pity for her. However, that said, it’s also important to note that this is just a minor thing. Poirot and others still insult Arlena by calling her brainless with nothing to offer. So her subversion doesn’t really go that far and isn’t super substantial. Nonetheless, it was surprising and kind of nice to read.

Yet even all those nice things don’t make the book great for me or uplift it. It stays very middle of the road.

My ratingread it if you want, but honestly, you can skip it — it’s nothing super new or great.


The Hound of Death Book Review


It was never really my intention to grab this book. In fact, I picked it up by mistake, assuming it to be something else, rather than what it is. As some of you may know, my friend (she has her own blog too if you’re interested!) is really into Agatha Christie and so I’ve also been reading some of Ms. Christie’s work. While she doesn’t quite rank as one of my favourite authors, I can always depend on her for a solid read. So when I was at the library looking for some new reading material, I chanced upon the Agatha Christie collection. A lot of her more popular books were already taken and from the remaining books, I found myself drawn to this. The book cover stated it was about supernatural stories. I’ve already raved about one of her supernatural stories, Endless Night, so I figured I’d like this too. However, what I failed to realize, was that this book was actually a collection of short supernatural stories, rather than being one huge story. Now, I’m not really a picky reader, in terms of genres. But I am pretty big on having a cohesive, thoroughly fleshed-out, well written plot. And unfortunately, the short story format doesn’t really allow for that, or at least I think not if I go by this book.

The Hound of Death, contains a selection of stories, ranging from supernatural to simple detective work. Each story is unrelated and about different topics. I actually quite enjoyed some of the stories, but found others to be lacking. As a result, this book took me two weeks to get through, simply because I didn’t really like reading it.

Firstly, the book opens up with a small supernatural mystery called the Hound of Death. It talks about the idea of an alternative reality/ past wherein people had powers, a new religion of sorts, and some dangers of it. In other words, it was actually a really, really interesting beginning to what could have been a fantastic fantasy novel. Unfortunately, as this is a short story, this does not happen. Instead, the mystery is remarked upon and then the story ends. And this was actually my main problem with the book. A lot of the stories just ended like that. Without any further development or any real resolution. I suppose that’s the nature of short stories (and mystery short stories). In any case, I didn’t like it. I just continually felt so incredibly annoyed and peeved whenever the story would just end. This was especially the case in the first story because you could just see the potential it had. And yet, nothing happens. The same thing happened with quite a few other ones.

And this isn’t limited to her more fantastical or supernatural stories because it happens in some of her more detective based stories as well. For example in SOS, a man comes in and unwittingly begins investigating what seems to be a supernatural event but turns out to be a more tangible murder mystery. And as the short story format designates, all of the action happens within a day. I just, I really didn’t like it. I would’ve much preferred longer, more in depth stories than the small short stories. I could just imagine reading this story as its own book, like a general Agatha Christie novel.

That said, I will say that some of the mysteries are interesting to read. They range from comical, to sad, to creepy, to confusing. In some stories, you go from having supernatural occurrences to end up with something not supernatural. While it others, it goes in the opposite direction. And still in others, it remains supernatural from beginning to end. It really is quite interesting. But personally, I still felt quite let down. I think I’m just not really one for short stories. Or at least not one for mystery supernatural short stories.

My rating: Read it if you’re curious about Agatha Christie’s writing talent or like mysterious supernatural short stories, but you can skip it otherwise.

Murder on the Orient Express Book Review

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for being so awol these past couple of days/ weeks. Turns out, I no longer have as much free time on my hands and as a result, my reading and writing hobbies have really taken a back seat. Hence, this entry itself will probably read quite choppily and awkwardly as it’s definitely been some time since I wrote something. As such, I’d like to offer my apologies in the beginning of this post and just say that I will not begrudge any of you if you comment on how horrible this review it. With that out of the way, let’s begin is super spoiler-y review (hint – I actually give away everything LOL).

As some of you may know, I have a friend who adores Agatha Christie, so I’ve been slowly going through some of Agatha Christie’s books on the insistence of my friend. While I have found some books of hers to be absolutely wonderfully charming (recommend Endless Night to EVERYONE), there are some that I do not like quite as much. This book falls in the middle of that spectrum, but I suppose that actually also might be my fault. As one of her more well known and celebrated books, I had expected Murder on the Orient Express to blow my mind and leave me amazed. And when I didn’t get that reaction, I was left a little confused and humdrum.

Briefly put, the book revolves around a murder committed on the Orient Express (surprise, surprise LOL). Midway through the journey, the train gets stuck in snow, and amid the stalling, the dead body of a passenger is found. Luckily, famous detective Hercule Poirot in also on the train, and he spends the book trying to and successfully finding out who murdered the victim. Spoiler alert – it was a joint effort by all 12-13 people on the train coach. It turns out that the dead passenger, Cassetti/ Ratchet, was a horrible man who had kidnapped a young heiress, Daisy Armstrong, in exchange for money. After receiving the money, it was discovered that he had actually killed Daisy and never meant to exchange her back in the first place. However, he managed to evade justice and left the country (USA) with the money and changed his name. As he was a horrible man, most people who came into contact with him weren’t big fans of him and some could even sense the evil coming from him, like Poirot. On his second (?) day on the train, Cassetti approaches Poirot and offeres him a job. Apparently, Cassetti had been receiving threats and felt his life was in danger, so he asked Poirot to figure out who was after him. However, due to the evil vibe Poirot could sense from Cassetti, Poirot declines to take on the case. The next day, Cassetti is found dead and the director of the train, M. Bouc, also a friend of Poirot, enlists in Poirot’s help to find the murderer aboard the train (remember the train had gotten stuck in snow). The rest of the book is about how Poirot comes to the the conclusion of who the murderer was.

In terms of the mystery, the book is actually pretty solid. Agatha Christie leaves quite a few red herrings around and makes it incredibly difficult to guess who the murderer could be. I myself felt like I went around in more than a few circles trying to figure out who murdered Cassetti. So I’d definitely rate the book highly when it came to the suspense. Similarly, the characters are actually quite enjoyable to read as well. I know I’ve ragged on Poirot in the past, severely disliking his pompous personality, but I gotta say, I actually didn’t mind him in this book so much. Maybe it’s because he was with friends so he was on good behaviour or because there was no Hastings around to focus Poirot’s rudeness, but I actually found Poirot to be very well behaved and likeable. Now don’t get me wrong, he was still pompous, but that pomposity was toned down here. Instead of getting a prideful vibe from him, I got more of an fascinated vibe. In other words, in the previous books, I always got the feeling that Poirot was incredibly proud of his ability to solve cases and that pride was what kept him going. In this book however, I got the feeling that Poirot was instead being fuelled by his curiosity rather than his pride; he genuinely liked the puzzle of trying to find a murderer on a stalled train. Either way, I really quite enjoyed reading the book. Similarly, when it came to the technical details, the book performed very well. The writing was easy to read as always and the plot was laid out in a manner that felt organic and yet still produced more mystery as the book went on.

Some of you might be wondering why after all these praises, I did not find the book to be an absolutely wonderful reading experience. And that, my friends, is due to the focus in the book. I know the book revolved around Poirot as he is Agatha Christie’s main character and hence resolved around the murder that was committed, but somehow, after the conclusion was revealed, I found myself increasingly drawn to the murderers themselves. How did they all manage to meet and plan the murder? Who came up with each idea? How did they all come into contact with each other after so many years? Why wait so many years to commit the murder in the first place? What were their discussions like after Poirot took on the case? I just found myself really into the planning and strategizing of the murderers rather than the case. I mean, the entire case is so damn interesting. The way Poirot solved it was amazing in itself, but the way it all came together, albeit behind the scenes, also seems incredible to me. I really wish Agatha Christie had focused on explaining the murderers planning and processes. I think I would’ve been more engrossed in the book then.

My ratingread it for the Agatha Christie style and to experience an interesting mystery that you have no hopes of solving before Poirot (LOL).

Peril at End House Book Review

After finishing Endless Night and really liking it, I was pretty excited to begin reading Peril at End House. Buuut unfortunately, it didn’t really catch my interest right away so I literally put off reading it for 2-3 weeks. On the bright side, I did get around to eventually reading and finishing it and so I’m here to review it.

Peril at End House is a Hercule Poirot mystery. For those unfamiliar with that name or Agatha Christie, he’s basically a fictitious famous mystery detective she created. Kinda like Sherlock Holmes, Poirot has the uncanny ability to make astute observations about the most seemingly normal phenomena. For example, within this book [SPOILER ALERT], a character complains about a bee near her head, in her bonnet, and only Poirot figures out that the bee wasn’t really a bee but a bullet. Eh, I’m not explaining it as eloquently as he did in the book, but that’s an example of his powers of observation and deduction. Because Poirot is so smart and famous, he’s also kind off an asshole to his friend/ fellow detective Hastings. Hastings is an English police officer (or so I assumed) who goes around with Poirot (who is a Belgian detective) to solve mysteries. While Poirot can appear nice to others, in my opinion, he treated Hastings pretty badly. Think like snide comments on Hasting’s capabilities. Or maybe I’m just a really sensitive person, but I wasn’t a big fan of his treatment. And Poirot is also really boastful and kinda arrogant (although in this book, I do find him to be a bit humanized as he suffers a sort-of existential crisis/ failure). If you can’t tell, I’m not the biggest fan of Poirot, despite his amazing ability as a detective.  But just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that Poirot is a horrible person or character to read about. On the contrary, he can be very nice and charming to others. I think it all really depends on personal taste and perceptions. My friend, who initially recommended Agatha Christie’s novel’s to me, is actually quite fond of Poirot and finds him to be a humorous and entertaining fellow. This is just strictly my opinion on Poirot and how I perceived him (i.e. kinda annoyed by him). Hence I’m pretty sure that some of my dislike of this book stems from my dislike of Poirot.

That said, the plot is reasonably interesting. In the story, Hercule Poirot has come to have a relaxing vacation with Hastings by his side, but both end getting caught up with a beautiful heiress and the idea that someone is trying to murder her. Sort of a typical murder mystery style I think, as you have a number of people involved (we’re introduced to various friends, servants, helpers of the heiress) and thus a number of people that can be the murderer. And like all Agatha Christie stories, the ending is a complete surprise that you don’t see coming. Like seriously, you think the book has ended and then BAM turns out that you were wrong and that the ending is something completely different.  I think the ending is actually the best part about the entire story.  I mean, the writing is nice as always and the characters are fine as well, but nothing holds a candle to the ending. All in all, a pretty average book. Not one that I was particularly happy to read.

My rating: read it if you want to experience the Agatha Christie style (surprise ending) but you can miss it otherwise.


Endless Night Book Review

So a while ago, my friend really got into Agatha Christie. Okay, maybe it was more than a while ago, but it was only a while ago that I actually decided to listen to her recommendations and check out a few of Agatha Christie’s books. Unfortunately, my library was out of a few of her more popular books like Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None so I decided to get Endless Night instead. The cover itself was actually pretty nice, all black with a pale moon showing, and I had recognized the William Blake poem from which the book derived its title. Intrigued, I picked it up and began my Agatha Christie journey.

Firstly, I think it’s worth mentioning that I’m not the biggest fan of mystery books or thrillers. I often have a really hard time reading mystery/ thriller books chronologically because my curiosity usually overtakes my rational side and causes me to either skip to the end of the book to figure out the mystery or google the book and find out the end. Hence I was actually pretty hesitant to even start the book. But DAMN am I glad I did. In fact, I’d actually rank Endless Night pretty highly, up with a few of my other favourites. That said, let’s get into the semi-spoilery review (I’ll try to refrain from spoiling the book too much because most of the fun from Agatha Christie’s books come from their surprise endings).

So the book begins with us being introduced to the narrator Michael Rogers who lives a pretty chill lifestyle. He’s does odd jobs and can never really seem to hold down one job for a long time. It’s pretty much explicitly implied that the only reason Michael even does the jobs is because he needs the money (he’s a pretty poor fellow) and that his real dream is to own a wonderful house, built by his famous architect friend, Santonix, in a place called Gipsy’s Acre, and just live there forever not doing anything. Gipsy’s Acre is also coincidentally a supposedly cursed and haunted place, albeit overlooking a wonderful view. Luckily for him, he ends up meeting and falling in love with a wealthy, young American heiress (forgot to mention that Michael was English) Ellie and after a whirlwind courtship, they marry, buy Gipsy’s Acre, have Santonix build them a wonderful house, and live there happily. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Agatha Christie novel if everything went as planned and so a lot of shit happens afterwards. But seeing as I don’t want to spoil readers or ruin their fun of reading, I shall refrain from commenting more on the explicit plot.

In terms of writing, I actually found this novel to be written in a very easy-to-read manner. Things were quite clear and understandable and I really enjoyed reading it. While I do enjoy reading descriptive, flowerly language, it can sometimes get a bit grating to read after a while so I was really pleased with how simple Ms. Christie’s writing and language was. And her narrator, Michael was also a pretty likeable person, for the most part. He’s easy to understand and it’s amusing to read his thoughts. Unlike narrators who dgaf about you (LOOKING AT YOU LUCY SNOWE) or narrators who just dgaf in general (hello boring Rose), Michael seemed quite pleasant and welcoming. But to be honest, my favourite part of the entire book was the mystery/ ending. It was just such a WTF moment for me. I was completely shocked after having read the ending and had not anticipated it AT ALL. Although my reaction to finishing this book was not quite on the level I had when I finished Villette, I was still pretty emotional and went around recommending this book to my friends and family members.

Having said that, I think it’s also worth mentioning that there’s definitely some criticism around this book as well, especially in regards to the plot-line. Apparently Agatha Christie reused some characters and plot-lines in this story? So readers who’ve read her previous stories (Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Death on the Nile) perhaps wouldn’t be as surprised with the story/ surprise ending in this book as I was (I haven’t read her previous works at all). And honestly, it was the story/ surprise ending that really elevated the book for me and caused it to become one of my favourites. So I guess read with caution?

My rating: read it and buy it and be prepared to be taken off guard with the ending (aka get used to the Agatha Christie style).