Murder on the Orient Express

853510Murder on the Orient Express

By:  Agatha Christie
Published: 
1934
# of pages: 
274
Series:  The Hercule Poirot Mysteries (#10)
Challenge: 
Monthly Motif (November)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again…

My opinion:  This is the second Christie novel I read in a week.  Just before this I read Hallowe’en Party and didn’t enjoy it very much.  I’m pleased to say I really liked The Murder on the Orient Express!  It was mainly on my list because of the movie that was just released that I’d like to see.

Hercule Poirot is returning from solving a mystery in Syria and is able to secure a berth on the unusually crowded Orient Express on his way to Paris (and eventually to London.)  As the train begins its journey, Poirot studies the other passengers.  Little does he know, his observations will come in handy after the train becomes stuck in a snowdrift the night before a man’s body is discovered.  The man, Ratchett, was a wealthy and mysterious traveler with what the other passengers describe as a frightening countenance.  In spite of the bad vibes Poirot received from the murder victim, he decides to help his friend who works for the railway and investigate the murder.

The investigation includes interviewing all of the passengers and analyzing the evidence.  Poirot calmly listens to everyone and even though he seems confused at times, he’s also very determined to find explanations for the inconsistencies that cropped up in the search of the crime scene and the interviews.

I appreciated Poirot much more in this book than I did in Hallowe’en Party.  He’s super clever and competent and I liked how he handled the case at the end when he presents his theory.  The reader can tell how logical and driven he is to discover the truth, but at the same time, he allows his emotions to briefly show at the end.  He’s just the man I’d want to help me solve a mystery!

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Unique plot, still a relevant story over 80 years after publication.

Hallowe’en Party

16307Hallowe’en Party
By:  Agatha Christie
Published:
  1969
# of pages:  259
Series:  The Hercule Poirot Mysteries (#36)

3Stars

Goodreads description:

A teenage murder witness is drowned in a tub of apples… At a Hallowe’en party, Joyce—a hostile thirteen-year-old—boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the ‘evil presence’. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer…


My opinion: 
This is the second book by Agatha Christie that I’ve read so far.  Several years ago I read The Moving Finger and enjoyed it very much.  Whenever I think of Agatha Christie I always want to read more of her mysteries, but the problem is I never think about it when I’m at the library.  However, with the R.I.P. challenge going on, I saw this book and decided to try it out.  At the same time I checked out Murder on the Orient Express since the new movie is coming out soon.

Hallowe’en Party describes private detective Hercule Poirot’s quest to find out who murdered a 13 year old girl in the middle of a party.  Nobody believes that the girl really witnessed a murder like she claimed earlier in the day, but Poirot is a confident man and won’t give up on his hunch.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t impressed with this book.  It didn’t make much sense at times and there were even a few things thrown in that were completely unnecessary.  I think Christie included them simply to make the book a little longer.  Or perhaps to try to cover up the fact that it wasn’t a well written novel.  I was pretty disappointed and wondered if I was the only one who felt this way, so I looked up reviews on Goodreads (something I don’t do very often.)  It seems that a lot of other readers of Christie’s novels felt the same.  They all said that the sloppy plot wasn’t normal for Christie and that it’s rumored that Agatha Christie was growing tired of the Hercule Poirot novels towards the end of the series.  Hallowe’en Party is the 36th of 38 books in the series.

All of that to say, I don’t recommend this book unless you’ve read several of Christie’s books and won’t mind a “dud.”  I’m currently halfway through Murder on the Orient Express and I’m pleased to say it’s much better.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  It’s always fun to try to figure out a mystery and this is no exception.  However, the repetitive dialogue and sloppily thrown in plot twists keep this from earning more stars.

Top Ten Tuesday – Creepy Books

toptentuesdayA weekly meme by The Broke & The Bookish

It’s my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesday and it’s a Halloween freebie day.  So here’s my top 10 creepy books in no particular order:

  1. Rebecca  by: Daphne du Maurier
    594139This is a classic tale about a young woman who moves to a remote estate after marriage.  She soon becomes suspicious of the house’s occupants and starts to investigate.  This wasn’t super creepy, but I do remember feeling concern and suspense as the main character goes about her investigation.

  2. The Shining  by: Stephen King
    11588This is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read!  It wasn’t just the obvious scary parts (although those scared me), but I was also very creeped out by Jack’s mental state as he remembers the past and processes his present circumstances.  Remember the “Friends” episode where Joey tells Rachel to read The Shining? 🙂 

  3. Black-Eyed Susans  by: Julia Heaberlin
    23746004I read this mystery last year for the R.I.P. challenge, and it definitely grabbed my attention.  I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next and sympathize with the character who knew something wasn’t right, but couldn’t always explain or prove what was wrong.
     

  4. The Woman in Black  by: Susan Hill
    37034This is a great classic Gothic novel!  I haven’t seen the movie, but this book is a great story that grabs the reader’s imagination, but doesn’t go overboard and cause nightmares.
  5. The Historian  by: Elizabeth Kostova
    10692Once again, this isn’t incredibly creepy, but it’s very atmospheric and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.  The main character is on a search for Dracula so you can imagine that there’s some suspense to be found within the novel’s 700 pages.
  6. Frankenstein  by: Mary Shelley
    18490This novel is probably expected to be on a creepy book list, but I wouldn’t say it’s as scary as people who think about the typical Frankenstein’s monster think.  Not only is the idea of a “monster” on a quest for revenge a scary thought, but the concepts of creating life and the responsibility of that creation is disturbing.
  7. The Quick  by: Lauren Owen
    18050175I would like to read this book again.  It has some chilling and suspenseful moments as well as being an interesting story.  A woman searches for her missing brother in Victorian England and discovers mysterious and dangerous people in the process.
  8. Bird Box  by: Josh Malerman
    18498558Wow, this post apocalyptic story had some very suspenseful moments!  There were times where I couldn’t put the book down.  It was easy to feel scared and horrified along with the blindfolded character.
     

  9. House of Leaves  by: Mark Z. Danielewski
    337907I didn’t enjoy all of this story, but it sure was creepy!  Also, creepy things kept happening to me while reading this book and I was beginning to think the curse at the beginning of the book was real.
  10. Dracula  by: Bram Stoker
    17245Like the previous book on the list, I didn’t enjoy the whole book overall, but it also had some memorable creepy moments that have stuck with me over the years.  It’s a classic and, like Frankenstein, worth reading just because of how influential it has been on modern culture.

 

 

What’s a creepy book you’ve read?  I’m always looking for ideas for the annual R.I.P. challenge and I actually enjoy suspense any time of the year!

Burntown

30201151

Burntown
By:  Jennifer McMahon
Published: 
2017
# of pages: 
287
Challenge: 
Full House (2017 published)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention of all was the one that Miles claimed came from the mind of Thomas Edison himself–a machine that allowed one to speak with loved ones long passed. Smuggled out of Edison’s laboratory, the blueprints were passed down to Miles, and he’s been using them to protect Eva, her mother, Lily, and her brother, Errol, ever since.

Then, one night when a storm is raging and the river is threatening to flood, the machine whirrs to life on its own. Danger, it says. You’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows is waking up on the side of the river and seeing her mother’s grim face. Eva’s father and brother are dead, their house has been washed away and an evil man is searching for them both. They need to hide.

Eva changes her name to Necco–a candy she always loved–and tries to put everything in her past behind her as she adapts to her new life off the grid. But when her boyfriend is murdered and her mother disappears, she knows that the past is starting to catch up to her.

What really happened the night of the flood? As Necco searches for the truth, her journey unites her with two women who are on desperate quests of their own. And as the trio follows the clues to solving the mystery of Necco’s past, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

My opinion:  This was on my list of potential R.I.P. Challenge books, but I decided to save it for another year.  That is, until I saw it displayed front and center in the new books section at the library, which is conveniently located next to the check out line.  I’ve read both The Winter People and The Night Sisters by McMahon and enjoyed both.  I’m glad I decided to pick it up because it was a fast, mysterious read that kept me hooked.

In Burntown, Necco is a young woman living on the streets in a city called Ashford, Vermont.  She’s suffered memory loss, but her life is separated into two parts, before the flood and after the flood.  She doesn’t remember much about the actual flood, but her mother has told her that they are hiding from a murderer she calls Snake Eyes.  Necco doesn’t believe Snake Eyes exists until her boyfriend is clearly murdered.

I liked how Necco’s quest for the truth intertwines with Theo’s predicament and Pru’s dream.  All three women face character growth throughout the novel that is believable and inspiring.  Like the other books I read by McMahon, this one has a convenient ending, but fortunately it plays out a little slower instead of feeling rushed like the others I read.  There were a few things I found hard to understand that I can’t discuss without spoiling the plot, but if I don’t think too hard about some of the plot twists it makes this book more enjoyable!

I do wish there had been more emphasis on the paranormal aspect.  The story had some very creepy moments, but I understand that this would have been a completely different story if McMahon had decided to focus on the supernatural occurrences.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy mysteries with a bit of a paranormal aspect.  Just go along with the story line and don’t overthink and it will be a fun read.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Original story with a cool blend of paranormal and contemporary mystery, neat characters, some odd decisions made by the author that didn’t make sense.

Dark Places

Dark Places
By: Gillian Flynn

Challenge:  RIP VIII

Published: 2009

# of pages:  345

Official description:
“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.”

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.
The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.
As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.


My opinion:  I couldn’t put this book down!  I was afraid it would be too sad or gruesome for me since it is about a family that is murdered, but while it was a little graphic, it wasn’t too much.  I also didn’t think I’d like the character Libby after reading the first chapter, but I ended up really liking and respecting her.  Not only was this a good mystery, it was also very thought provoking on the subjects of peer pressure (especially in high school) and on raising children.  Patty, the mother, was doing the hardest job there is, on top of being a single working mother, and it was sad reading about her depression while raising 4 kids.

I recommend this to lovers of mystery and also to anyone looking for a well written novel that is a good pace.  It does have some language, but not as much as one of Flynn’s other novels, Gone Girl.


Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Well written, likable main character, good pace, good mystery / a little graphic with bad language

Other reviews:
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The Cutting Season

The Cutting Season
By: Attica Locke
Challenge: What’s in a Name? 6, 50 States Challenge
Published: 2012
# of pages: 384

Official description: The American South in the twenty-first century. A plantation owned for generations by a rich family. So much history. And a dead body.
Just after dawn, Caren walks the grounds of Belle Vie, the historic plantation house in Louisiana that she has managed for four years. Today she sees nothing unusual, apart from some ground that has been dug up by the fence bordering the sugar can fields. Assuming an animal has been out after dark, she asks the gardener to tidy it up. Not long afterwards, he calls her to say it’s something else. Something terrible. A dead body. At a distance, she missed her. The girl, the dirt and the blood. Now she has police on site, an investigation in progress, and a member of staff no one can track down. And Caren keeps uncovering things she will wish she didn’t know. As she’s drawn into the dead girl’s story, she makes shattering discoveries about the future of Belle Vie, the secrets of its past, and sees, more clearly than ever, that Belle Vie, its beauty, is not to be trusted. 
A magnificent, sweeping story of the south, The Cutting Season brings history face-to-face with modern America, where Obama is president, but some things will never change. Attica Locke once again provides an unblinking commentary on politics, race, the law, family and love, all within a thriller every bit as gripping and tragic as her first novel, Black Water Rising.

My opinion:  Overall this was a good, entertaining read, but I wish it was better written.  I would have liked to have seen the 2 stories, past and present, more entwined or at least more connected.  There were also some typos and some weird time lapses.  It seemed like one day it was Wednesday, 4 days after an event, and then in the next chapter the characters referred to the event as happening “yesterday.”  Maybe it was just me, but it seemed off.  Also, the major climactic event at the end seemed to have one of those mixed up time sequences.  I was thinking, “Huh?  How is it possible that….” just because of the timing.  

I did enjoy the mystery and was in suspense in several scenes.  The old plantation made a great mystery setting, especially at night.  I recommend this book to those who enjoy a mystery that also contains a lot of character development.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Interesting mystery, somewhat disjointed

Other reviews:
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The Moving Finger

The Moving Finger

By: Agatha Christie

Series: Miss Marple Mysteries, Book 4

Published: 1942

# of pages: 240

Challenge: RIP VI

Official description:

The placid village of Lymstock seems the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. But soon a series of vicious poison-pen letters destroys the village’s quiet charm, eventually causing one recipient to commit suicide. The vicar, the doctor, the servants—all are on the verge of accusing one another when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar’s houseguest happens to be none other than Jane Marple.

My opinion: This was my first Agatha Christie book! I don’t know if it was the best to start with, but I do know that I really enjoyed it. I couldn’t put it down! I can see why Christie is such an acclaimed author. It was short, but very well written and well structured. Apparently this is part of a series, but it didn’t make a difference to me. The Murder at the Vicarage is the first in the Miss Marple Mysteries.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: Interesting characters, I liked the plot, well written, short but didn’t feel like anything was left out. It didn’t leave enough of an impression on me and the characters didn’t REALLY pull me in enough for it to be a 5 star read.

Other reviews:

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