If you are looking for Story Titles or Author names, use Quick Search in the Stories Archive by clicking Stories or Authors on the main menu and clicking in the box at the top left. Here is link to for additional help on how to use quick search:
The Search bar on this page is unlikely to find the stories. You MUST use the quick search linked above.
Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'agatha christie'.
A Catholic priest is murdered on his way home, after hearing the confession of a dying woman. Mark Easterbrook witnesses a cat-fight between two young women in a Chelsea coffee bar, one woman pulling the other woman’s hair out by the roots. Later, he finds out that woman has died. Later still, he learns that his godmother’s name is on a list of dead people found on the murdered priest’s body, but she died from natural causes. Mark Easterbrook gets drawn into a world of spells, curses and murder for hire, where three witches live in a house that was once a pub called The Pale Horse. This novel is much more of an adventure mystery, rather than her usual murder mystery novels, the style of novel Christie developed at the beginning of her career and returned to periodically throughout it. Here the adventure centres around black magic and the supernatural, which was popular at the time in other novels, and a murder-for-hire scheme for people to “dispose” of unwanted relatives. This should be a great Christie novel, the murder-for-hire scheme is truly ingenious and her use of poison shows her old knowledge and skill for getting her details right where poison is concerned. Christie also captures the changing world of the early 1960s, it was published in 1961. She effectively captures the atmosphere of the beginnings of swinging London, especially in the description of a late-night coffee shop in Chelsea. She captures the changing nature of country life too. Unfortunately, the sum of this novel’s parts does not make up for its structural faults. The biggest problem is at the heart of this novel. Mark Easterbrook, the narrator for most of it, is too dull a character. He reacts to events around him, rather than initiating the action. He is supposed to be investigating a series of murders and yet so many of his leads come to him by accident or coincidence. The plot itself relies too much on coincidence, things coming together by accident. Easterbrook discovers The Pale Horse house, and the three witches who inhabit it, completely by accident. There are also detours away from the novel’s plot that seem to add nothing to it. A prime example of this is where Easterbrook and Mrs Dane Calthrop (a vicar’s wife who first appeared in the Christie novel The Moving Finger) discuss the nature of evil. This may have been fascinating for Christie to write but added so little to the actual story. Christie is to be applauded for trying something different this late in her career. She could have just churned out more Poirot and Marple novels, but she chose to write a different style of mystery story. The premise is certainly ingenious, it is just a shame that the plot isn’t tighter and the narrator more engaging. Find it here on Amazon
I was an awkward thirteen-year-old (a little under ten years before I was diagnosed as dyslexic) when my mother gave me a copy of A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie. At the time I loved the concept of books but I found them so difficult, my reading was so slow and finishing a book seemed like an impossibly difficult task, a mountain too high to climb. This book intrigued me. The cover was macabre, a black bird’s skeleton surrounded by its black feathers, lying on an illustrated sheet music to a child’s nursery rhythm. I began to read it and on the second page was the description of a man dying from poisoning. I was hooked and carried on reading. What kept me reading it, at my painstakingly slow pace back then, was the plot. At the end of the book, the twist hit me hard; it wasn’t the murderer I thought it was, I’d been certain it was. Then I looked back on the story and saw the clues she had sprinkled throughout the plot, subtly hinting at who the murderer was, and I didn’t feel cheated, I didn’t feel that she had held back important information from me. She had just got the better of me. I raced out, got another one of her books and started reading it. As a teenager Christie’s books were the first “adult” novels I read and I loved them. It was their tight plots that kept me guessing who the murderer was and their archetypical but very recognisable characters that kept me reading them. Those Christie novels were a gateway into the world of literature for me. From her I read some other Golden Age crime writers, some I enjoyed and some I didn’t, and from them I started to read modern day crime writers (modern day when I was a teenager). This was a very mixed experience, many of them were poor or just plain bad, but I also discovered PD James and Ruth Rendell, and later still Joseph Hansen. These authors opened my eyes to the fact that crime fiction can be about much more than just a murder (or two). They all used detective fiction to write about other subjects too and their prose was of such a high standard. They took time setting scenes and developing characters; they gave their detectives a whole life outside of work. Their writing led me to other, non-crime fiction, literary fiction and other genes, though I still enjoy a good detective novel. As an adult, I still enjoy a Christie novel, occasionally, but I cannot say she is the greatest of writers. Her descriptive prose is poor, just using a few commonly used colloquialisms to sum up a recognisable image; most of her description is left to the reader’s imagination to fill in. She set her novels in a very narrow world, that of the middle- and upper-class English, but her books still had strong and well-crafted plots. It was from reading them that I learnt how to plot and how important plots are in fiction. Her plots carefully set the scene of the story, introducing the place and characters but not giving away all the details at the beginning. Her plots dripped out the information and clues as the story progressed, they didn’t give away all the information in one go. Her plots give the reader a journey to go on throughout the book. At first, I thought this plotting style was only useful for crime fiction, where withholding information until later in the story was an important element. Then I read Job's Year by Joseph Hansen. Here he used the same style of plotting but in a non-crime novel. Each chapter gave more information about the central character. Reading it, I felt like a detective finding out more about a character, it was like how I felt in a friendship; over time I found out more and more about that friend, I wasn’t given all the information about them in one go as soon as we met. It felt much more of a natural way to tell a story. You don’t have to be writing crime fiction to learn from this style. I learnt not to give everything away at the beginning of a story, treat it like a detective story, drip out your information as the story progresses. So instead of telling the reader everything about a character as soon as you introduce them, let the information fall out as the story progresses, as a natural progression. Hold the reader’s interest by giving away clues to a character as the story flows; tell them about the character’s background and history through the length of the story, not as one, rushed chunk of information at the beginning. I have learnt to give the reader a beginning, middle and end to a story. I introduce the story and draw the reader into the world I’ve created. Like Christie, I don’t let interest fall during the middle of a story, the middle isn’t just there to get from the beginning to the end as quickly as possible. I use that part to build on my story and characters, I let the reader get to know my characters, I let the characters speak for themselves, to set their own motivations. There’s no need for the end of a story to tie up all the loose ends, but I give the story a definite moment where it ends. An example of this is my story The Men Who Took Their Vows Together in East Ham Registry Office. Though this story has an ending I have used a lot, it ends at a certain point of the story, not tying up all the loose ends and giving the characters a neat resolution; instead it ends with the character moving forward. I try to always give a reader an ending, just not always a neat one. Plot holds so much writing together; even if it is a story/piece that is looking back on a character’s life or following a character’s emotional journey a plot gives me a structure to hang all this upon and, hopefully, to hold a reader’s attention. At present, I am writing a short story about a man, in his late twenties, who cannot seem to attain an adult, romantic relationship. All he can find is short-lived relationships that crash and burn and casual sex. The story explores how he has got into this situation, what has contributed to him being so poor at relationships, though I want to portray him as a character with little insight into his own situation (I do like a challenge). I could just write it as the character looking back on his life, but this would be a very dry story with me just telling the reader about this character’s situation. I have decided to intersperse this retrospective narrative across one evening of this man’s life when he goes on another first date. With the date, I can show the reader some of this man’s problems, how he sabotages his attempts to forge a relationship. Here I am using a plot as a device to explore a subject. Agatha Christie was called the Queen of Crime, she is one of the most widely read of English language authors, she is also the most successful English woman playwright, but for me Agatha Christie was a great teacher. Her books taught me how to plot a story and I’m so grateful to her for this. I also have a strange link to her, not through her books. During the Second World War, Agatha Christie worked as a hospital dispenser at University College Hospital in London. This was one of the hospitals where I did my nurse training, so she and I walked the same hospital corridors, just separated by five decades. Happy reading, Drew
Agatha Christie was the queen of the literary three-card trick. She would create a mystery, lead you down a path thinking a certain character was the murderer and then at the end pull the rug from under your feet with the murderer as a totally different character—the last character you would suspect or the first one you’d discounted. Reading one of her books is like playing a game against her, can you spot the murderer before she reveals them? It can be said, and not unfairly, that many of her books are comfy and reassuring. There is a murder, often more than one, but by the end order has been restored and the good can live happily ever after. But this is not the case with all her books, especially her finest ones. And Then There Were None is one of her finest novels, if not her finest. The plot is simple, but in its simplicity lies the genius of this novel. Ten people are invited to a mansion on an island off the Devon coast, ten people all with a personal secret. Once on this island, they find their host, the strange Mr Owen, fails to appear. After dinner, on the instruction left by the mysterious Mr Owen, a record is played that accuses everyone there of causing another person’s death through neglect, incompetence, cruelty, greed or prejudice—though none of them are actual “murderers”. Then, one by one, the ten people begin to die, murdered following the lines of the children’s poem Ten Little Indians. To begin with, this does have the feeling of other Agatha Christie novels, light in mood with the expectation that the murderer will be unmasked and all will be returned to normal, but this doesn’t happen. More characters die and the tone gets darker and darker as fear grips the surviving characters. At first, the characters believe the murderer is an outsider, not one of them, hiding somewhere on the island. Then the realisation comes that one of them is the killer; with that comes the real fear. This novel has been filmed many times, so original is its premise, but all of them follow the stage play version, not the novel, and have a far brighter and upbeat ending. The novel has all ten characters die on the island before the murderer is unmasked. Only at the very end of the novel, when the murderer’s confession is finally found, is the mystery revealed. This is by far Agatha Christie’s darkest novel with a very original premise. A tense psychological thriller with a real feeling of cat and mouse about it. It has all her stock-in-trade favourite characters (the old maid, the doctor, the major, the servants who see too much, the attractive young couple), yet here she puts them in a very dangerous situation that pushes them out of the realm of architypes and into real characters living a dangerous game. If you have only ever seen one of the film versions of this novel, try the original novel because you will find it very different and gripping. If you have only known Agatha Christie through her Miss Marple and Poirot stories, then try this novel for a far darker read. If you are an Agatha Christie fan, sit back and enjoy her at her best. Find it here on Amazon
“A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.” So reads the announcement in the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette that morning. That evening, the local neighbours all dutifully turn up at Little Paddocks, all with their different excuses for being there. At 6.30 p.m., without warning, all the lights go out and… This is the beginning of one of Agatha Christie’s most intriguing novels that is firmly rooted in post-war Britain. She chose to set it in the classic, golden age of crime setting of an English country village. But this is a place very changed by the Second World War. No longer is it a place where everyone knows everyone else. This is a place of strangers. The war caused such upheaval; many people left the village, many never to return, and newcomers have moved in, people whom everyone else has to accept are who they claim to be without “knowing their people”. Christie uses this as a strong thread to her plot, are these people even who they say they are? Her intriguing plot is served well by the tone Christie creates in this novel. At first it is light-hearted and almost comic, the surprise and speculation in the characters’ reactions to the announcement of a murder, none of them believing it is anything sinister. Even after the first murder, she maintains this light tone; the victim is a stranger and certainly not a “good type” of person. But slowly the novel darkens; the second murder is too close to home and casts a dark shadow over the story. Christie handles this well; the grief of some of the characters is uncomfortable to read. This novel uses several plots trails that will be familiar to Christie readers, but here she certainly plays around with them. The village setting but with a cast of characters very different from her pre-war novels, her use of sexism to aid her plot and having the detective gather all the suspects together in one place to announce who the murderer is. Christie created this convention with her first novel, though she used it sparingly in her subsequent works nowhere near as much as the film adaptions of her works would lead us to believe. Here, though, it is the police inspector who gathers together the suspects, not Miss Marple, and it is not to unmask the killer but to lay a trap for them. This novel also benefits from having Miss Marple as its detective, rather than Poirot. Poirot was always the star of the novels featuring him, while Miss Marple was so often one of the supporting characters, watching the events from the sidelines. Here Christie uses her to her best, aiding the plot but also giving the other characters chance to breathe by not being in every scene. In the centre of all this is a portrait of a lesbian couple, whom all the other characters except without question. Only at the end, after tragedy has struck, do we see the depth of their love. Agatha Christie might not have been the greatest of literary writers, but what she did do she did so well. She knew how to plot her novels; she created twists that never left the reader feeling cheated. She laid just enough clues so that once the twist occurs you can feel, “Oh that makes sense now.” She also knew the characters she wrote about, the upper middle-class English, though her novels also chronicle the changes in English society. She might not have been the finest descriptive writer but she knew how to create characters with dialog and used that effectively. This certainly is a classic Christie, plot, characters and setting all come together to make a fascinating read. I challenge you to work out who the murderer is, until they are revealed and then it all makes horrible sense. Happy reading Find it here on Amazon