Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Mystery fans, rejoice! Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, first published in 1937, is getting a new film version this October. The film acts as a companion film to the 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh (also based on a book of the same name). Like its predecessor, this Death on the Nile film will feature a star-studded cast and promises a thrilling interpretation of Christie’s original book.

In the original story, the famous detective Hercule Poirot is on vacation in Egypt when he is approached by heiress Linnet Doyle, who’s being plagued by a stalker. Troubled by the depth of the stalker’s hatred, Poirot finds himself onboard a cruise ship with the stalker, her victim, and the other troubled passengers, none of whom are telling the whole truth. As they journey up the Nile River, the danger mounts and Poirot races against time to discover which of the passengers’ secrets leads to murder.

I’m very excited about this movie, being a lover of mystery books as a genre and Agatha Christie in particular. I saw Murder on the Orient Express when it came out a few years ago, and it was enjoyable. However, Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of Poirot doesn’t always work for me. While I always read him as mostly dainty and intellectual, Branagh plays Poirot as a dynamic and dramatic character with a troubled past. In the case of Death on the Nile, though, tangled morality and stormy emotions take center stage, so this version of Poirot might actually be more effective.

Whether you’re brand-new to Agatha Christie and her most famous character, or a devoted fan, this is a great opportunity to experience a great mystery story AND think about how storytelling changes when books are turned into movies. You can even compare the new film to an older film version, released in 2004, for the full experience. That’s what I’ll be doing – so stay tuned for my review!

The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart – American Mystery Classics

The Haunted Lady  by Mary Roberts Rinehart is enjoying a new rebirth thanks to Otto Penzler and his American Mystery Classics series.  Originally published in 1942, The Haunted Lady is one of a handful of reprinted mysteries hand selected by Penzler for a new generation of mystery readers.  Even though the American Mystery Classic series includes a multitude of vintage authors, the reissued titles have a common theme in their beautifully modern covers that give the books a uniform look and feel.  The cover of The Haunted Lady is exactly what drew me to the book in the first place.  Known as “the American Agatha Christie”, Rinehart apparently lost popularity after her death in the 1950s.  Penzler provides a short history of the author’s work at the beginning of the book.  Featuring nurse Hilda Adams, The Haunted Lady is one of three books featuring Adams.  Even though this book is the second in the series, picking up the book without reading the first in the series was seamless.

When we meet Hilda Adams, she has been recruited by Inspector Fuller to insert herself into the wealthy Fairbanks household to look after the elderly matriarch Eliza Fairbanks. Mrs. Fairbanks is convinced someone in her household is trying to kill her by initially feeding her arsenic and then by driving her mad with loose bats in her bedroom.  Nurse Adams charge is to keep an eye on Mrs. Fairbanks and report back to Inspector Fuller.  She meets a cast of characters in the Fairbanks family, and almost immediately more odd occurrences happen.   After a murder is committed in a seemingly locked room under Nurse Adams watch, she and Inspector Fuller team up to uncover the baffling truth.

For fans of early 20th century mysteries and cozy mysteries, I recommend The Haunted Lady as well as other novels in the American Mystery Classics series.  At the time, Mary Roberts Rinehart was  a very popular mystery writer and although not well know today, her mysteries still hold the reader’s attention and keep them guessing as to the culprit.  This series reintroduces vintage authors to an entirely new set of readers in today’s world.

 

 

 

 

Great American Read – Part 2

We’re about halfway to finding out which book will be named America’s favorite by PBS in the Great American Read. I don’t know about you, but I have been inspired to check more books off this list in the past couple of months. Rather than just reading them on my own, I asked my mother if she would like to have our own little book club for two. I thought it would be a great bonding experience and give us something fun to talk about on our weekly phone calls. We decided to take turns picking books neither of us had read yet and allow two weeks to read it, discussing it both at the halfway point and again when we finished. Mom likes listening to them on audio, and I tend to read the print version.

We started with Mom’s choice: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. She had seen the 2010 movie starring Jack Black, but hadn’t read the book. I had neither seen the movie or read the book, although I did recall possibly seeing bits and pieces of the 1996 TV miniseries starring Ted Danson. I love how this book helped me see what a sense of humor my mother has.  This book gave us plenty of laughs (admittedly, we’re a little warped). At one point the main character is on an island inhabited by tiny people. A fire breaks out in the wing of the tiny royal castle where the princess resides. Giant-size Gulliver “helps” by urinating on the fire. He was disappointed that his “help” wasn’t as appreciated as much as he thought it should be. On the whole, I think Swift meant for it to be more of a political satire than a comedy. However, it is clear he had a sense of humor. Although written almost 300 years ago, much of the subtext is still relatable today. I think that is a mark of a truly great novel.

When we finished with that, I chose for us to read Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It was an apt one for me to discuss with my mother, because it is centered around mother-daughter relationships: specifically, four Asian mothers living in San Francisco and their their American-born daughters.  I was also planning a family vacation to San Francisco, so I wanted to read as many books set there as I could before going. The book’s themes center around family, culture, and class and how these things shaped the experiences of these eight particular Asian women. I would recommend reading this if you have not already. I also checked out Joy Luck Club on DVD and watched the movie on my own, which I enjoyed.

The third book we read was an Agatha Christie novel. The Christie novel on the Great American Read list is And Then There Were None, but somehow Mom and I got it in our heads that it was Murder on the Orient Express. Maybe it was because I have a tendency to get excited when I can read a book and then watch the movie made based on that book, and I knew that the Murder on the Orient Express movie had just been made in 2017. (I have since learned that there are also movies based on And Then There Were None.) So we read Murder on the Orient Express, then watched the movie together. We both found it to be a quick read. We also loved the unexpected ending. The movie was a little different than the book (as most movies based on books tend to be) but overall true to the story in an enjoyable way. The movie boasts an all-star cast including Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad and Daisy Ridley. But enough about that one. It’s not even on the list.

I think we are going to read the Vonnegut novel next. I better double-check the list to make sure we get the right one!

In my last blog post, I asked readers to comment with their favorite book from the list. I also set up a display at each of our three locations with a voting box. When the Great American Read announces America’s favorite book in late October, I will tally our local votes and announce Davenport’s favorite. If you haven’t voted yet please do so by either commenting on this blog post or writing your favorite title from the Great American Read list on a slip of paper and leaving it for us in the turquoise box at one of our locations.

Come, Read How a Famous Mystery Writer Married to an Archeologist Lives

In 1930, Agatha Christie married her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist, and spent many happy seasons accompanying him on his archeological digs in the Middle East. Her experiences with the people and the environment then became inspirations for many of her most famous novels including Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie wrote Come, Tell Me How You Live as response to the many people who asked her what it was like to travel around the cradle of civilization on her husband’s expeditions in Syria, Iraq and many other places.

I ADORE this book. From lamenting over her husband shoving books into her carefully packed crate at the last minute to becoming tongue-tied with feeling inferior while chatting with their architect to running out of her bedroom screaming due to being covered in mice and cockroaches (her husband recommended that she just go to sleep and then she wouldn’t notice them crawling over her…yeah right), I just found Agatha to be so lovely and Britishy and wonderful! She manages to be both neurotic yet brave, awkward yet charming, silly yet shrewd, much like a heroine in a Sophie Kinsella or Katie Fforde novel. Come, Tell Me How You Live is the perfect mixture of personal memoir and travel adventure and a fascinating snapshot of the relationship between European archeologists and the Middle Eastern peoples during the years between the wars. This little known book is a fun read for all armchair travelers and Agatha Christie fans.