Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Crime, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

I love a good drama no matter how it’s presented. Be it radio, television, book or on the big screen, each method has a thoroughly unique way of bringing the story to you. This is one of the reasons I love storytelling, there are so many possibilities. Each begins with the storyteller themselves and then the reader/viewer/listener comes along and creates their own version. We all see things with different eyes and I believe each reader/viewer/listener will experience the story in their own unique way. Our beliefs and our personalities all have an effect on what we take from a story. We won’t all love or hate the same things and when we enter a story, as individuals, we interpret it in our own way.

I do love to read the books from which the stories originated but I’m not precious about which should come first. For example when I was younger I found The Lord of the Rings difficult to get into, that is until I saw the films. I was swept away by Peter Jackson’s vision and it encouraged me to return to the novels and now I find their complexity absorbing and fascinating. There is generally so much more in the books themselves and I found it easier to dive into them after being spellbound by the films.

One of the most heavily adapted authors over the years is the wonderful Agatha Christie. I have quite literally grown up on the adventures of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. It’s easy to be swept away by a new adaptation on our screens but I’d love to take a moment to remind you of the pure joy of falling into one of her novels and discovering her stories exactly how she intended them.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is possibly not as festive a read as the title suggests, for as you’d expect murder casts a shadow over the festivities. I was given, by my husband, a beautifully produced hardback edition, published by Harper Collins, for my wedding anniversary in October. It’s been a while since I’ve actually read an Agatha Christie novel so I very much looked forward to this festive treat. The inscription alone was enough to assure me I was in for something special.

My Dear James,

You have always been one of the most faithful and kindly of my readers, and I was therefore seriously perturbed when I received from you a word of criticism.

You complained that my murders were getting too refined – anaemia, in fact. You yearned for a “good violent murder with lots of blood.” A murder where there was no doubt about its being murder!

So this is your special story – written for you. I hope it may please.

Your affectionate sister-in-law,

Agatha

I was completely absorbed by Agatha’s superb plotting and characterisation skills. I absolutely adore these classic, old fashioned mysteries. I recently read that she began writing her stories at the end and worked her way backwards. The complexity to them certainly fits this method. What fun she must have had! There are generally several possibilities as to who the murderer could be and she drops clues a plenty along the way. When watching the screen adaptations I often find it hard to discover who the guilty party is, it is difficult to squeeze all the vital information in along the way but as I read I found myself nodding, “Yes, but of course!”

In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas we see the gathering of an estranged family at Christmas time. Old Simeon Lee is a ‘thin, shrivelled figure of an old man’, a man looking forward to a Christmas surrounded by his family. Yet this old man is not feeling sentimental. He is a wicked, cruel man who is intent on stirring up a hornets nest. As the family slowly gather Agatha gives us an insight into their relationships with the old man. Before long old Simeon Lee meets a violent, bloody end and any one of them could have been tempted to yield the knife. Yet the murder took place behind a locked door with only the victim discovered inside. A complicated case but one that Hercule Poirot expertly unpicks.

The book is rather wonderful and I was immediately curious to see how it was transferred on to the small screen. Thankfully ITV player currently has a number of the wonderful adaptations starring David Suchet as Poirot and so I was able to settle down with a selection of festive treats and watch. The adaptation was of course changed to suit the time constraints of television and also some details had been tweaked but I still enjoyed it immensely. For me the book was the winner as generally we can discover so much more about character and plot that may not always come across on the screen. I also preferred Agatha’s original detail. Reading the novel also reminded me of where all these programmes that thrill and entertain us come from. It all begins with words on paper and for me that’s an exciting and inspiring thought.

Synopsis

It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man.

For more information why not visit the Agatha Christie website here.

“Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

Macbeth.

 

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Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Crime

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

So what will I be reading this Christmas Eve? This beautiful edition of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas was a gift from my husband on our anniversary in October. I’ve been saving it especially for Christmas and now I can’t wait to snuggle up with this and a glass of something delicious later today.

I hope you have enjoyed my recommendations over the last few days. Whichever book you give or receive, may it bring some extra sparkle and magic to your Christmas this year. Merry Christmas!

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Crime, Series

Poppy Denby Investigates by Fiona Veitch Smith

Another fabulous discovery for me this year is the Poppy Denby Investigates series. I do love a whodunnit and have been a big Agatha Christie fan for many, many years, so these tick all sorts of boxes for me. I read book four in the series, The Cairo Brief, just recently and have since received the previous three titles which I very much look forward to curling up with. This series is perfect for lovers of a good, classic crime novel. Poppy Denby is a feisty, intelligent protagonist and I very much look forward to following her adventures.

Find out more about the series by visiting author Fiona Veitch Smith’s website here.

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Essie Fox – Elijah’s Mermaid and The Last Days of Leda Grey

I have always loved gothic fiction so it seemed only right that I include some in my recommended reads. Essie is a historical author and as well as her captivating novels writes a fascinating blog called The Virtual Victorian. I first discovered her some years back when reviewing for Lovereading. I am an admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites and so I immediately fell in love Elijah’s Mermaid.

I have chosen two of her books today. Elijah’s Mermaid, and her latest novel, The Last Days of Leda Grey. Both are excellent as are all of her published works. Do check her out. She is an incredibly interesting writer both in her novels and on her blog. I am planning to devote a piece about her in more depth next year but for now here is a little more about her books.

Saved from the Thames one foggy London night, Pearl grows up at the House of Mermaids – a brothel that becomes the closest thing to home. But despite being cosseted and spoiled by the Madame, come her 14th year, Pearl is to be sold to the highest bidder.

Orphaned twins Lily and Elijah are on a rare trip to London when they meet the ethereal Pearl. And the repercussions of this chance encounter will bind all their fates together, in a dark and dangerous way. 

Bewitching, gothic and sensual, this is a tale of love and betrayal in a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey. Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film.

As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois. ‘

Books that adults should read, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018, Historical Fiction

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll

Emma is one of the best authors in historical fiction for children. Her first novel, Frost Hollow Hall, was published in 2013 and she has been inspiring children (and adults) to read ever since. I absolutely adore her books and it makes me incredibly happy that she is such a prolific writer as I am never particularly patient when waiting for the next. Her most recent novel, Secrets of a Sun King, is detailed below but do check out her backlist as they are ALL marvellous.

London, 1922. 

A discovery from ancient Egypt . . .
A cursed package . . .
The untold story of a young pharaoh . . .

When Lilian Kaye finds a parcel on her grandad’s doorstep, she is shocked to see who sent it: a famous Egyptologist, found dead that very morning, according to every newspaper in England!

The mysterious package holds the key to a story . . . about a king whose tomb archaeologists are desperately hunting for.

Lil and her friends must embark on an incredible journey – to return the package to its resting place, to protect those they love, and to break the deadly pharaoh’s curse . . .

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018

Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech

This next title is for adults. Louise is a wonderful, wonderful writer. Her stories are incredible and she has the most beautiful way with words. Her first novel was only published in 2015 and already she has an impressive collection of titles under her belt. I urge you to try any one of them but today I’d like to recommend the one that introduced me to this fantastic author and in which I fell in love, Maria In The Moon.

Like a cold spider, the memory stirred in my head and spun an icy web about my brain. Someone else crawled in. I remembered

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

This year has been a wonderful year for books and there are so many I could recommend. This next title is definitely one of my books of the year. Abi is a master storyteller. Her writing is beautiful and filled with adventure, courage and magic. Sky Song was published back In January but this wintery tale will make the perfect Christmas read.

Once an adventure digs its claws in, there is not an awful lot you can do about it. Especially when magic is involved . . .’
 
In the snowy kingdom of Erkenwald, whales glide between icebergs, wolves hunt on the tundra and polar bears roam the glaciers. But the people of this land aren’t so easy to find – because Erkenwald is ruled by an evil Ice Queen and the tribes must stay hidden or risk becoming her prisoners at Winterfang Palace.

Join Eska, a girl who breaks free from a cursed music box, and Flint, a boy whose inventions could change the fate of Erkenwald forever, as they journey to the Never Cliffs and beyond in search of an ancient, almost forgotten, song with the power to force the Ice Queen back.
 
This is a story about an eagle huntress, an inventor and an organ made of icicles. But it is also a story about belonging, even at the very edges of our world . . .