Adult Fiction, Crime, ReadAgatha2019, Thriller

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

I have been following the official Agatha Christie website on Instagram and Twitter and their #readchristie2019 challenge in which they suggest a different Christie novel to read each month. In January they kicked the challenge off with The ABC Murders and I as I had been lucky enough to receive this beautiful hardback edition for Christmas so I happily jumped on board. I am a big Christie fan, watching countless TV adaptations, but as a reader I have read shockingly few of her actual novels and short stories. Time to rectify that me thinks.

If you’d like to join in with Read Christie 2019 then why not visit their website here and sign up for the newsletter.

The February book is The Giant’s Bread which Agatha wrote under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott. I’m currently listening to that on audio book (my first!).

The March title is The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, the 8th Miss Marple novel and one that I very much look forward to reading soon. I have read none of the Miss Marple stories as of yet.

There has been much discussion and awareness about The ABC Murders after the recent BBC adaptation was screened over Christmas. This adaptation was my first experience of the story.

But before we get into the TV adaptation let’s talk about the novel itself…

It is not often that I read the book after watching the film or TV adaptation but I did on this occasion. I enjoyed all three versions but I have to say that it was wonderful to return to the original story, exactly how Agatha Christie wanted to tell it. Her writing is superb and I can see why her stories continue to inspire and engage. If you’ve never read a Christie novel then I urge you to pick one up. They are such a delight and she has a rather brilliant way of bringing humour and a lightness of touch to even the darkest of subject matter. They are, after all, jolly good crime novels, written to reveal the dark side of human nature but first and foremost to entertain…and that they certainly do.

The edition that I received is a stunning hardback edition published by HarperCollins. It is beautiful and certainly adds to the joy whenever picked up. I am hoping they may reproduce the entire Poirot collection in this format. I want to read each and every one. What a wonderful addition to the bookshelves that would make!

Now on to TV…

Now, I came to the conclusion long ago that when watching a film or small screen adaptation of a book it is best to view it, where possible, as a completely separate entity. Very rarely can they be the same. It is after all not (usually) written, directed or produced by the author. It is therefore a collaboration of opinions pulled together from an original story. Not one person will read a story in exactly the same way and when it comes to reproducing they will, of course, want to add their own touch to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Phelps’ interpretation on the BBC. It was dark, brooding and kept me thoroughly gripped over the three nights. It has moved towards the slightly more gruesome side that TV seems to need these days. I mean why just batter someone other the head when you can literally decapitate them with a spade or leave them in a vast pool of blood after slitting their throat?

I also found the stereotypical chubby sister of the second murder victim, Betty Barnard, finding freedom from the shadows of her slim, beautiful sister a little unnecessary. The Megan Barnard of the novel was rather intelligent and interesting. We could delve deeper into why Sarah chose for the attractive, promiscuous sister to meet a gruesome end, and the sister who was presented on screen as over weight, drab and bitter, as the one who eventually finds freedom by escaping out the window (where on earth does she go!?) but that’s not for this blog to discuss today. Agatha has written many meek, forgotten women in her novels but they quite often tend to end up having strength simmering beneath the surface, as what is revealed is a strong, resilient (and at times calculating and murderous) woman. Perhaps this is how Sarah chose to portrayed this.

My only (slight) disappointments in this adaptation being the death of Detective Inspector Japp, the absence of Hastings, and the rather sad, lonely and humiliated Poirot that I couldn’t really see in the novels. Once I got over that though I became thoroughly engrossed. I did feel John Malkovich made an excellent Poirot and as the story progressed our beloved character did make a rather wonderful comeback. Saying that I do feel that losing the Belgium accent takes away part of the essence of the character (but I believe that was director, Alex Gabassi‘s call). You could say they have almost created a completely different Poirot.

The retelling as a whole did encourage me to look at Agatha’s books in a new light to see where Sarah’s inspiration came for the backstory and changes she chose to make. This is the wonderful thing about brokerage bringing these fresh adaptations to the screen. Not only do they bring a whole new audience to the stories but they make those of us familiar with the author and characters look at them with fresh eyes too. The acting and overall production was superb and I look forward to more from the BBC and Sarah in the future.

David Suchet – my Poirot

A few weeks after watching the BBC adaptation I settled down to watch the wonderful David Suchet take the lead in the investigation along with Hastings and, thankfully, a very fit and healthy Japp. I never tire of watching these versions and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have enjoyed each of the many different actors who have taken on the famous detective but Suchet is without doubt my favourite. He played the detective for 25 years and in an article in The Express is quoted as saying that whilst preparing for his role back in 1988…

I started to write my private list of Poirot’s habits and character. I called it my ‘dossier of characteristics’. It ended up five pages long and detailed 93 different aspects of life. I have the list to this day – in fact, I carried it around on the set with me throughout all my years as Poirot, just as I gave a copy to every director I worked with on a Poirot film.

I feel that he is possibly the truest Hercule to Agatha’s creation. He is a joy to watch and he is how I imagine Poirot to be when I read the books.

Are you taking part in Read Christie 2019? Which Christie novel would you most like to read this year? I’m hoping for Murder on the Orient Express. A story I know very well but still haven’t read.

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Adult Fiction, Crime, Reading Challenge

Read Christie 2019 – The official Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

If you’ve visited my site recently you may well have guessed I’m rather fond of an Agatha Christie story. Growing up I enjoyed watching Hercule Poirot on television (both Peter Ustinov and David Suchet) and I still watch them to this day – I recently enjoyed a very lazy, relaxing afternoon watching back to back Death on the Nile and Evil Under The Sun. I also thoroughly enjoyed the recent BBC adaptation of The ABC Murders. I read my first actual Agatha Christie book about this time eleven years ago. I remember it vividly as I was newly pregnant and suffering from a heavy cold. I was ill enough to need a few days in bed and although my head pounded I just couldn’t stop reading until the book literally fell from my hands.

My delight and enjoyment of her stories has never ceased and although I have seen many adaptations on the screen I haven’t read as many as I would have liked. So I am going to rectify that by signing up for the Read Christie 2019 challenge on the official Agatha Christie website. I thoroughly look forward to discovering some old favourites along with some new tales from the Queen of murder mystery herself.

We begin with The ABC Murders. I know the BBC adaptation has received a mixed bag of responses but personally I really don’t mind how faithful an adaptation is to the original book – I like to see a story from a different perspective. I am intrigued to see the differences though and can’t wait to read the story as Agatha intended it. Already I’m thrilled to find Japp very much alive and Hastings providing the narration.

So my reading pile grows ever larger with new and now classic fiction. I look forward to sharing them with you. Have you read any Agatha Christie before? If so which would you recommend? Do answer in the comments and do let me know if you’re also taking part in the reading challenge.

Must go now… am itching to get reading.

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.

 

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!