Month: July 2020

My Book Notes: Accident by Design, 1950 (Robert MacDonald #34) by E. C. R. Lorac

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Sold by Amazon Media EU S.à r.l. Published 14 June 2020- Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 957 KB. Print Length: 199 pages. ASIN: B08B6GPG3T. ISBN: N.A. First published in the UK for the Crime Club by Collins in London, 1950; and in the US for the Crime Club by Doubleday Doran & Co. in 1951.

515iED7NVvL._SX260_Synopsis: No one could call the Vansteads a happy family. Templedean Place has become a house divided among itself. The gracious, well-bred serenity of a fast vanishing mode of life typified by its master, the invalid Sir Charles, and his daughter Judith, clashed violently with the harsher and more realistic outlook of life which Judith’s brother Gerald and his Australian wife brought from the prison camp of Malaya. It was not a question of who was right and who was wrong: it was just a question of fundamental incompatibility, aggravated by the knowledge that on  Sir Charles’ death Templedean and its rich farms will go to Gerald, and Judith will be tolerated where she had reigned, or banished entirely. It was an atmosphere to breed tragedy, and when Gerald and his wife are killed in a car accident, Chief Inspector Macdonald has the uneasy feeling that it could have been accident by design. (Source: Classic Crime Fiction)

My Take: The story unfolds at Templedean Place, an aristocratic estate near the Cotswold Hills, where old ways and traditions are still preserved. For several generations it has belonged to the Vanstead family. When the story begins, the head of the family, Sir Charles Vanstead, is almost eighty, and both his daughter Judith and his surgeon have advised him to undergo another operation that, at best, could allow him to live one or two more years. The only one opposed to this idea is his son Gerald whom, at the request of his sister Judith, arrived from Australia a year ago along with his wife Meriel and their son Alan. Gerald, as the only living male child of Sir Charles, will inherit Templedean Place along with all its rich farmlands upon the death of his father but, in the meantime, Gerald hardly has any money of his own and depends entirely on the generosity of the rest of his family.

Sir Charles lost his two oldest sons during the war. They were both brilliant, extremely capable and hard-working people, just like their sister Judith. Gerald, however, was the opposite, useless in studies, inept in sports, and unable to socially relate. No one had thought that most of Gerald’s problems were due to fear of his own family. The fact was that Sir Charles let his youngest son go to Malaya where he was able to demonstrate his skills, learned the rubber business and bought his own plantation. He married Meriel and, for the first time in his life, he felt loved and admired. Life seemed perfect when his son was born in 1939 but upon the Japanese occupation of Malaya in 1943, Gerald and his family were sent to a concentration camp were they remained until the end of the war. It goes without saying Gerald lost the self-esteem he had regained and he is not yet fully recovered from this hard blow.

Now back in England in 1950, his position at Templedean Place doesn’t seem to help him. Everyone considers him a  stranger, no one shows him any kind of sympathy and Gerald himself does nothing to obtain their confidence and affection either. To compound matters, everyone is afraid of losing their job when he will become owner and lord of Templedean Place. But meanwhile, everyone mocks the accent and manners of his Australian wife, and the behaviour of his son Alan, an ill-mannered child, to put it mildly, doesn’t help at all. Besides, Gerald and his wife drink heavily and one day the inevitable happens, they lose their lives in a car accident. Shortly after, a family picnic ends in tragedy. Alan Vanstead is poisoned and dies after eating some poisonous berries. These accidents, at least in appearance, raises suspicions of foul play, given the number of people that will benefit. Chief Inspector Macdonald shows up to investigate what lies behind these tragic incidents.

Accident by Design is the fourth book featuring Chief Inspector Macdonald that I’ve read. In this outing, Inspector Macdonald seems to play a relative minor role in the story. In fact he makes his first appearance in the second half of the book. The story can be easily read and it turns out being interesting. At least it has not ceased to surprise me. It is both strange and curious to observe that although Rivett was a prolific author whose novels range for almost three decades, her books lost the publishers’ favour after her death, though she was a member of the prestigious Detection Club. It is true that most of her books were not entirely lost and became a cult item for collectors although at pretty high prices, partly due to its well-cared  editions. But fortunately, as of 2018 The British Library Crime Classics began to publish again several of her books, the most recent one, Checkmate to Murder: A Second World War Mystery (British Library Crime Classics Book 82), will go on sale on 10 August 2020 in both electronic and paper form. 

It was almost by chance when I came across the availability of this book. Someone, I can’t remember who, had mentioned in the Facebook group page Golden Age Detection that this one was one of her favourite Lorac’s books and it happened that it was available, only in Kindle Format, together with several others [Murderer’s Mistake; Murder in Vienna; Rope’s End, Rogue’s End; and Death Came Softly] at very attractive prices.  And I rushed to download all of them on my Kindle.  

The truth is that I feel very fortunate. I’ve very much enjoyed reading the Lorac’s books I have chosen so far, and this one has not been the exception. Nicely written and with a highly interesting plot, the psychological portrait of the characters is superb, and its pace is very much accomplished. The story provides us an overall vision, not exempt from criticism, to a form of life and of values, on the verge of disappearing. In a certain sense, the situation in which Sir Charles finds himself can be understand as a premonition of things to come.  All in all, the characterization is excellent and the atmosphere created outstanding. 

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the Author: Edith Caroline Rivett (1894 – 1958) (who wrote under the pseudonyms E. C. R. Lorac and Carol Carnac) was a British crime writer. Born in Hendon, Middlesex, (now London) on 6 May 1894, she attended the South Hampstead High School, and the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. Rivett was a member of the Detection Club. A very prolific author, she wrote forty-eight mysteries under her first pen name, and twenty-three under her second. An important author of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, she remained unmarried and lived her last years with her elder sister, Gladys Rivett (1891–1966), in Lonsdale, Lancashire. In her latter years, she wrote several mysteries feature Chief Inspector Macdonald with the Lune Valley, Lancashire, as its setting. Rivett died at the Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, near Lancaster. In 2018, the British Library included three novels by E.C.R. Lorac in its “British Library Crime Classics” series of re-issued works, including Fire in the Thatch, Bats in the Belfry, and Murder by Matchlight. The back cover of the re-issued, Fire in the Thatch: A Devon Mystery (originally published in 1946), declares that, “Her books have been almost entirely neglected since her death, but deserve rediscovery as fine examples of classic British crime fiction in its golden age.” (Source: Wikipedia)

There are twenty-three Carol Carnac books and forty-eight E. C. R. Lorac books, the first being The Murder on the Burrows, under the Lorac (Lorac is Carol spelled backwards) pseudonym, which was published by Sampson Law in 1931. It features her main series character, Chief Inspector  Robert Macdonald, ‘a London Scott’ and bachelor with a love for walking the English countryside. Macdonald had an assistant, Detective Inspector Reeves who appeared in twenty-eight of the forty-six Macdonald’s books. They were a formidable team, whilst diverse characters, as all good detective fiction partnerships have to be, they complemented each other well. All of the Lorac books were first published in London but, incredibly, twenty-four titles were not published in the USA. The first Carol Carnac book, Triple Death, was published by Thornton Butterworth in 1936 and featured Inspector Ryvet, the first of three series character under the Carnac name. Carnac’s other two main characters were Chief Inspector Julian Rivers of Scotland Yard, who appeared in fifteen books, and his assistant Inspector Lancing, who appeared in eighteen cases (four with Ryvet). The novels are all generally well plotted and set against attractive period backgrounds. The only real criticism, the perennial one with detective fiction, is lack of descriptive depth and colour to the main series character. (Source: Classic Crime Fiction)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1950)

Bibliography as E. C. R. Lorac: The Murder on the Burrows (1931); The Affair on Thor’s Head (1932); The Greenwell Mystery (1932); The Case of Colonel Marchand (1933); Death on the Oxford Road (1933); Murder in St.John’s Wood (1934); Murder in Chelsea (1934); The Organ Speaks (1935); Death of an Author (1935); Crime Counter Crime (1936); Post after Post-Mortem (1936); A Pall for a Painter (1936); Bats in the Belfry (1937); These Names Make Clues (1937); The Devil and the C.I.D. (1938); Slippery Staircase (1938); John Brown’s Body (1939); Black Beadle (1939); Death at Dyke’s Corner (1940); Tryst for a Tragedy (1940); Case in the Clinic (1941); Rope’s End – Rogue’s End (1942); The Sixteenth Stair (1942); Death Came Softly (1943); Checkmate to Murder (1944); Fell Murder (1944); Murder by Matchlight (1945); Fire in the Thatch (1946); The Theft of the Iron Dogs (1946) vt Murderer’s Mistake (1947 US); Relative to Poison (1947); Death before Dinner (1948); Part for a Poisoner (1948); Still Waters (1949); Policemen in the Precinct (1949); Accident by Design (1950); Murder of a Martinet (1951); The Dog It Was That Died (1952); Murder in the Mill-Race (1952) (US title: “Speak Justly of the Dead” 1953); Crook O’Lune (1953) [US title: Shepherd’s Crook]; Shroud of Darkness (1954); Let Well Alone (1954); Ask a Policeman (1955); Murder in Vienna (1956); Picture of Death (1957); Dangerous Domicile (1957); Death in Triplicate (1958); Murder on a Monument (1958); and Dishonour among Thieves (U.S. title: The Last Escape) (1959). (Most of them featuring her main series character, Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald).

As Carol Carnac: Triple Death (1936); Murder at Mornington (1937); The Missing Rope (1937); When the Devil Was Sick (1939); The Case of the First Class Carriage (1939); Death in the Diving Pool (1940); A Double for Detection (1945); The Striped Suitcase (1946); Clue Sinister (1947); Over the Garden Wall (1948); Upstairs Downstairs (1950); Copy for Crime (1950); It’s Her Own Funeral (1951); Crossed Skis (1952); Murder as a Fine Art (1953); A Policeman at the Door (1953); Impact of Evidence (1954); Murder among Members (1955); Rigging the Evidence (1955); The Double Turn (1956); The Burning Question (1957); Long Shadows (1958) (U.S. title: Affair at Helen’s Court); and Death of a Lady Killer (1959).

Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958), aka ECR Lorac and Carol Carnac

Accident by Design, de E. C. R. Lorac

Sinopsis: Nadie podía considerar a los Vansteads una familia feliz. Templedean Place se ha convertido en una casa dividida. La amable y bien educada serenidad de un modo de vida que está desapareciendo, caracterizado por su dueño, el inválido Sir Charles y por su hija Judith, chocó violentamente con la actitud más dura y más realista ante la vida que el hermano de Judith, Gerald y su esposa australiana trajeron del campo de prisioneros de Malasia. No se trataba de quién tuviera razón y de quién estubiera equivocado: era solo una cuestión de incompatibilidad fundamental, agravada por el conocimiento de que, cuando Sir Charles muriera, Templedean y sus ricas granjas irán a Gerald, y Judith sería tolerada donde antes había reinado, o sería completamente desterrada. Era una atmósfera que engendra tragedia, y cuando Gerald y su mujer mueren en un accidente de automovil, el Inspector Jefe Macdonald tiene la incómoda sensación de que podría haber sido un accidente a propósito. (Fuente: Classic Crime Fiction)

Mi opinión: La historia se desarrolla en Templedean Place, una finca aristocrática cerca de las colinas de Cotswold, donde aún se conservan las viejas costumbres y tradiciones. Durante varias generaciones ha pertenecido a la familia Vanstead. Cuando comienza la historia, el jefe de la familia, Sir Charles Vanstead, tiene casi ochenta años, y tanto su hija Judith como su cirujano le han aconsejado que se someta a otra operación que, en el mejor de los casos, podría permitirle vivir uno o dos años más. El único opuesto a esta idea es su hijo Gerald, quien, a petición de su hermana, llegó de Australia hace un año junto con su esposa Meriel y su hijo Alan. Gerald, como  único hijo varón vivo de Sir Charles, heredará Templedean Place junto con todas sus ricas tierras agrícolas tras la muerte de su padre, pero, mientras tanto, Gerald apenas tiene dinero propio y depende por completo de la generosidad de su familia.

Sir Charles perdió a sus dos hijos mayores durante la guerra. Ambos eran personas brillantes, extremadamente capaces y trabajadoras, al igual que su hermana Judith. Gerald, por su parte, era todo lo contrario, inútil en los estudios, inepto en los deportes e incapaz de relacionarse socialmente. Nadie había pensado que la mayoría de los problemas de Gerald se debían al miedo a su propia familia. El hecho fue que Sir Charles dejó que su hijo menor fuera a Malasia, donde pudo demostrar sus habilidades, aprendió el negocio del caucho y compró su propia plantación. Se casó con Meriel y, por primera vez en su vida, se sintió amado y admirado. La vida parecía perfecta cuando su hijo nació en 1939, pero tras la ocupación japonesa de Malasia en 1943, Gerald y su familia fueron enviados a un campo de concentración donde permanecieron hasta el final de la guerra. No hace falta decir que Gerald perdió la autoestima que había recuperado y aún no está completamente recuperado de este duro golpe.

Ahora de regreso en Inglaterra en 1950, su posición en Templedean Place no parece ayudarlo. Todos lo consideran un extraño, nadie le muestra ningún tipo de simpatía y el propio Gerald tampoco hace nada para ganar su confianza y afecto. Para complicar las cosas, todos temen perder su trabajo cuando se convierta en dueño y señor de Templedean Place. Pero mientras tanto, todos se burlan del acento y los modales de su esposa australiana, y el comportamiento de su hijo Alan, un niño mal educado, por decirlo suavemente, no ayuda en absoluto. Además, Gerald y su esposa beben mucho y un día sucede lo inevitable, pierden la vida en un accidente automovilístico. Poco después, un picnic familiar termina en tragedia. Alan Vanstead es envenenado y muere después de comer algunas bayas venenosas. Estos accidentes, al menos en apariencia, levantan sospechas de juego sucio, dada la cantidad de personas que se beneficiarán. El inspector jefe Macdonald aparece para investigar qué hay detrás de estos trágicos incidentes.

Accident by Desing (que podría significar tanto accidente a medida como accidente intencionado) es el cuarto libro protagonizado por el inspector jefe Macdonald que he leído. En esta nueva entrega, el inspector Macdonald parece desempeñar un papel relativamente menor en la historia. De hecho, hace su primera aparición en la segunda mitad del libro. La historia se puede leer fácilmente y resulta interesante. Al menos no ha dejado de sorprenderme. Es extraño y curioso observar que, aunque Rivett fue una autora prolífica cuyas novelas abarcaron casi tres décadas, sus libros perdieron el favor de los editores después de su muerte, aunque era miembro del prestigioso Detection Club. Es cierto que la mayoría de sus libros no se perdieron por completo y se convirtieron en objeto de culto para los coleccionistas, aunque a precios bastante altos, en parte debido a sus muy cuidadas ediciones. Pero afortunadamente, a partir de 2018, The British Library Crime Classics comenzó a publicar nuevamente varios de sus libros, el más reciente, Checkmate to Murder: A Second World War Mystery (British Library Crime Classics Book 82), saldrá a la venta el 10 de agosto 2020 en formato electrónico y en papel.

Fue casi por casualidad cuando me encontré con la disponibilidad de este libro. Alguien, no recuerdo quién, había mencionado en la página del grupo de Facebook Golden Age Detection que este era uno de sus libros favoritos de Lorac y sucedió que estaba disponible, solo en formato Kindle, junto con varios otros [Murderer’s Mistake; Murder in Vienna; Rope’s End, Rogue’s End; y Death Came Softly] a precios muy atractivos. Y me apresuré a descargarlos todos en mi Kindle.

La verdad es que me siento muy afortunado. Me ha encantado leer los libros de Lorac que he elegido hasta ahora, y este no ha sido la excepción. Bien escrito y con una trama muy interesante, el retrato psicológico de los personajes es excelente, y su ritmo está muy logrado. La historia nos proporciona una visión general, no exenta de críticas, a una forma de vida y de valores, a punto de desaparecer. En cierto sentido, la situación en la que Sir Charles se encuentra puede entenderse como una premonición de lo que vendrá. En general, la caracterización es excelente y el ambiente creado excepcional.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Edith Caroline Rivett (1894 – 1958), que escribió con los seudónimos de E. C. R. Lorac y Carol Carnac, fue una escritora británica de misterio. Nació en Hendon, Middlesex, (actualmente parte de Londres) el 6 de mayo de 1894, se educó en la South Hampstead High School y en la Central School of Arts and Crafts de Londres. Rivett fue miembro del Detection Club. Una escritora muy prolífica, con un total de cuarenta y ocho obras de misterio bajo su primer seudónimo, y otras veintitrés con el segundo. Fue uno de los autores más importantes de la edad dorada del género. Permaneció soltera y vivió sus últimos años con su hermana mayor, Gladys Rivett (1891-1966), en Lonsdale, Lancashire. En sus últimos años, escribió varios misterios protagonizados por el inspector jefe Macdonald ambientadas en el Lune Valley, Lancashire. Rivett murió en Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, cerca de Lancaster. En el 2018, la British Library incluyó tres novelas de E.C.R. Lorac en su serie “British Library Crime Classics” de obras reeditadas, incluidas Fire in the Thatch, Bats in the Belfry y Murder by Matchlight. La contraportada de la reeditada Fire in the Thatch: A Devon Mystery (publicada originalmente en 1946), afirma que “tras su muerte, sus libros fueron descuidados casi por completo, pero merecen ser redescubiertos como buenos ejemplos de la clásica novela policiaca británica en su edad dorada. (Fuente: Wikipedia)

Escribió veintitrés libros como Carol Carnac y cuarenta y ocho libros como ECR Lorac, The Murder on the Burrows, el primero bajo el seudónimo Lorac (Lorac is Carol deletreado al revés), fue publicado por Sampson Law en 1931. En el nos presenta al principal personaje de su serie, el Inspector Jefe Robert Macdonald, ‘un escocés de Londres’ soltero y aficionado a pasear por el campo inglés. Macdonald tiene un ayudante, el Inspector Detective Reeves, que aparece en veintiocho de los cuarenta y seis libros protagonizados por Macdonald. Forman un equipo formidable, aunque de características opuestas, como deben ser todas las buenas parejas de ficción, se complementan bien. Todos los libros de Lorac se publicaron por primera vez en Londres, pero, increíblemente, veinticuatro títulos no se publicaron en los Estados Unidos. El primer libro de Carol Carnac, Triple Death, fue publicado por Thornton Butterworth en 1936 y contó con el inspector Ryvet, el primero de los tres personajes principales que aparecen en los libros publicados con el seudónimo de Carnac. Los otros dos son el Inspector Jefe Julian Rivers, de Scotland Yard, que aparece en quince libros, y su asistente, el inspector Lancing, que aparece en dieciocho casos (cuatro de ellos con Ryvet). Las novelas generalmente están bien estructuradas y se insertan en un atractivo marco histórico. El único auténtico reproche que se le puede  hacer, perenne en todas las novelas policiacas, es la ausencia de color y profundidad descriptiva del protagonista de la serie. (Fuente: Classic Crime Fiction)

Bibliografía como E. C. R. Lorac: The Murder on the Burrows (1931); The Affair on Thor’s Head (1932); The Greenwell Mystery (1932); The Case of Colonel Marchand (1933); Death on the Oxford Road (1933); Murder in St.John’s Wood (1934); Murder in Chelsea (1934); The Organ Speaks (1935); Death of an Author (1935); Crime Counter Crime (1936); Post after Post-Mortem (1936); A Pall for a Painter (1936); Bats in the Belfry (1937); These Names Make Clues (1937); The Devil and the C.I.D. (1938); Slippery Staircase (1938); John Brown’s Body (1939); Black Beadle [La sombra del sacristán] (1939); Death at Dyke’s Corner (1940); Tryst for a Tragedy (1940); Case in the Clinic (1941); Rope’s End – Rogue’s End (1942); The Sixteenth Stair (1942); Death Came Softly (1943); Checkmate to Murder [Jaque mate al asesino] (1944); Fell Murder (1944); Murder by Matchlight (1945); Fire in the Thatch (1946); The Theft of the Iron Dogs (1946) vt Murderer’s Mistake (1947 US); Relative to Poison (1947); Death before Dinner [La muerte antes de comer]  (1948); Part for a Poisoner (1948); Still Waters (1949); Policemen in the Precinct (1949); Accident by Design (1950); Murder of a Martinet (1951); The Dog It Was That Died [Y el perro fue el que murió] (1952); Murder in the Mill-Race (1952) (US title: “Speak Justly of the Dead” 1953); Crook O’Lune (1953) [US title: Shepherd’s Crook]; Shroud of Darkness (1954); Let Well Alone (1954); Ask a Policeman (1955); Murder in Vienna (1956); Picture of Death (1957); Dangerous Domicile (1957); Death in Triplicate [Muerte por triplicado] (1958); Murder on a Monument (1958); and Dishonour among Thieves (U.S. title: The Last Escape) (1959). (La mayoría de ellas prtotagonizadas por el inspector jefe Robert Macdonald, el personaje principal de la serie).

Como Carol Carnac: Triple Death (1936); Murder at Mornington (1937); The Missing Rope (1937); When the Devil Was Sick (1939); The Case of the First Class Carriage (1939); Death in the Diving Pool (1940); A Double for Detection (1945); The Striped Suitcase (1946); Clue Sinister (1947); Over the Garden Wall (1948); Upstairs Downstairs (1950); Copy for Crime (1950); It’s Her Own Funeral (1951); Crossed Skis (1952); Murder as a Fine Art (1953); A Policeman at the Door (1953); Impact of Evidence (1954); Murder among Members (1955); Rigging the Evidence (1955); The Double Turn (1956); The Burning Question (1957); Long Shadows (1958) (U.S. title: Affair at Helen’s Court); and Death of a Lady Killer (1959).

My Book Notes: The Secret of High Eldersham, 1930 (Desmond Merrion #1) by Miles Burton

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The British Library Publishing Division, 2016. Book Form: Kindle Edition. File Size: 3333 KB. Print Length: 277 pages. eISBN: 978-0-7123-6421-8. ASIN: B01DPLMSG4. Originally published in 1930 by Collins, this is the second book written by Cecil John Charles Street as Miles Burton, the first to feature his series sleuth Desmond Merrion.

61xAEME-CeLBook Description: Samuel Whitehead, the new landlord of the Rose and Crown, is a stranger in the lonely East Anglian village of High Eldersham. When the newcomer is stabbed to death in his pub, and Scotland Yard are called to the scene, it seems that the veil dividing High Eldersham from the outside world is about to be lifted.
Detective-Inspector Young forms a theory about the case so utterly impossible that merely entertaining the suspicion makes him doubt his own sanity. Surrounded by sinister forces beyond his understanding, and feeling the need of rational assistance, he calls on a brilliant amateur and ‘living encyclopedia’, Desmond Merrion. Soon Merrion falls for the charms of a young woman in the village, Mavis Owerton. But does Mavis know more about the secrets of the village than she is willing to admit?

My Take: Strangers are not welcome in the East Anglian village of High Eldersham. For some time, Samuel Whitehead seems to be the exception to the rule. Four and a half years ago, Whitehead, a retired Metropolitan Police sergeant, took over the local pub, the Rose and Crown, and, against all odds, he’s been quite successful. But one night, the local constable, realising that the pub light was on, finds Whitehead dead with a knife wound to his back. A local man who held a grudge towards him becomes the prime suspect. However, he has a compelling alibi for the night of the crime and is discarded. The Chief Constable calls Scotland Yard for help and Detective-Inspector Robert Young is sent to investigate. Young settles himself in the Rose and Crown but, finding no cooperation amongst the local people, he senses it is an issue that far exceeds him and requests the assistance of his friend Desmond Morris.

Martin Edwards has not only written the introduction to this new edition of The Secret of High Eldersham (British Library Crime Classics, 2016) but he includes this novel in his book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (British Library Crime Classics, 2017), a book that, by the way, I strongly recommend. If only for this reason, it is well worth reading The Secret of High Eldersham. But the story in itself is full of surprises. What it might at first sight appears to be a detective novel it soon becomes a thriller in which traditional beliefs about curses, spells and witchcraft play a significant role. Elements that make this novel closely related to the gothic tradition of early mystery stories. Though at the end there are no supernatural elements and all fits into place. It is quite possible that, for this reason, may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I can assure you that it has many unforgettable moments to the delight of the most demanding readers. Additionally you may also enjoy the description of the sites where these events take place. Ultimately, as Martin Edwards writes in the Introduction quoting Jacques Barzun and Wendel Hertig Taylor, “a primary function of the mystery story is to entertain in a variety of ways, and on this score The Secret of High Eldersham. . . has no superior.’

My rating: B (I liked it)

The Secret of High Eldersham has been reviewed, among others, at Cross-Examining Crime, Past Offences, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Crime Review, The Grandest Game in the World, Classic Mysteries, Vintage Pop Fictions, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Mystery File, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1930)

About the Author: Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – January 1965), known as CJC Street and John Street, began his military career as an artillery officer in the British army. During the course of World War I, he became a propagandist for MI7, in which role he held the rank of Major. After the armistice, he alternated between Dublin and London during the Irish War of Independence as Information Officer for Dublin Castle, working closely with Lionel Curtis. He later earned his living as a prolific writer of detective novels. He produced two long series of novels; one under the name of John Rhode featuring the forensic scientist Dr Priestley, and another under the name of Miles Burton featuring the investigator Desmond Merrion. Under the name Cecil Waye, Street produced four novels: The Figure of Eight; The End of the Chase; The Prime Minister’s Pencil; and Murder at Monk’s Barn. The Dr. Priestley novels were among the first after Sherlock Holmes to feature scientific detection of crime, such as analysing the mud on a suspect’s shoes. Desmond Merrion is an amateur detective who works with Scotland.

Recommended books by Miles Burton: The Secret of High Eldersham (1930) aka The Mystery of High Eldersham; Death of Mr Gantley (1931); To Catch a Thief (1934); The Devereux Court Mystery (1935); Death in the Tunnel (1936) aka Dark is the Tunnel; Murder of a Chemist (1936); Where is Barbara Prentice (1936) aka The Clue of the Silver Cellar; Death at the Club (1937) aka The Clue of the Fourteen Keys; The Platinum Cat (1938); Death Leaves No Card (1939); Mr Babbacombe Dies (1939); Mr Westerby Missing (1940); Up the Garden Path (1941) aka Death Visits Downspring; Murder, MD (1943) aka Who Killed The Doctor; Four-ply Yarn (1944) aka The Shadow on the Cliff; The Three Corpse Trick (1944); Not a Leg to Stand On (1945); The Cat Jumps (1946); Situation Vacant (1946); Death Takes the Living (1949) aka The Disappearing Parson; Ground for Suspicion (1950); Murder in Absence (1954); and Bones in the Brickfield (1958). (Source: Curtis Evans’ Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery, McFarland, 2012). For a detailed list of Miles Burton books click at John Rhode page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, here).

The British Library publicity page

Poisoned Pen publicity page

Mike Grost page on John Rhode and Miles Burton

El secreto de High Eldersham, de Miles Burton

el-secreto-de-high-eldershamDescripción del libro: La Inglaterra profunda y siniestra, aquí representada en la remota región de East Anglia, es magistralmente evocada en la segunda novela de Cecil John Charles Street, publicada bajo el nombre de Miles Burton. Estamos en High Eldersham, un villorrio empapado de viejas tradiciones. Un anochecer, en el apartado pub The Rose and Crown, el policía local encuentra apuñalado a su propietario, Samuel Whitehead, sargento retirado de la policía metropolitana. La historia, también conocida como El misterio de High Eldersham, combina con éxito una trama detectivesca con ingredientes propios de las novelas de suspense (Thrillers). El secreto de High Eldersham supuso el debut de su protagonista, el detective privado Desmond Merrion, personaje que, como modelo en su género, tanto ensalzaron los críticos Jacques Barzun y Wendel Hertig Taylor, conocidos autores del canónico Catalog of Crime (1971). Es una novela con una trama sumamente ingeniosa que mantiene el interés hasta el desenlace y que entronca con la tradición del cuento gótico británico de Ann Radcliffe o M.R. James. El secreto de High Eldersham se publicó en España en los años treinta y posteriormente se recogió en la colección Revista Literaria Novelas y Cuentos en 1945. Ahora la presentamos en una nueva edición con el texto completo. (Fuente: Editorial Renacimiento, Ediciones Espuela de Plata, 2019).

Mi opinión: Los extraños no son bienvenidos en el pueblo de High Eldersham en East Anglia. Durante algún tiempo, Samuel Whitehead parece ser la excepción a la regla. Hace cuatro años y medio, Whitehead, un sargento retirado de la Policía Metropolitana, se hizo cargo del pub local, el Rose and Crown, y, contra todo pronóstico, ha tenido bastante éxito. Pero una noche, el policía local, al darse cuenta de que la luz del pub estaba encendida, encuentra a Whitehead muerto con una herida de cuchillo en la espalda. Un hombre de la localidad que le guardaba rencor se convierte en el principal sospechoso. Sin embargo, tiene una coartada convincente en la noche del crimen y es descartado. El jefe de policía llama a Scotland Yard en busca de ayuda y el detective-inspector Robert Young es enviado a investigar. Young se instala en el Rose and Crown pero, al no encontrar cooperación entre la población local, siente que es un problema que lo supera con creces y solicita la ayuda de su amigo Desmond Morris.

Martin Edwards no solo ha escrito la introducción a esta nueva edición de El secreto de High Eldersham (British Library Crime Classics, 2016) sino que incluye esta novela en su libro The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (British Library Crime Classics, 2017) , un libro que, por cierto, recomiendo encarecidamente. Aunque solo sea por esta razón, vale la pena leer El secreto de High Eldersham. Pero la historia en sí está llena de sorpresas. Lo que a primera vista parece ser una novela de detectives, pronto se convierte en un thriller en el que las creencias tradicionales sobre maleficios, hechizos y brujería juegan un papel importante. Elementos que hacen que esta novela esté estrechamente relacionada con la tradición gótica de las primeras historias de misterio. Aunque al final no hay elementos sobrenaturales y todo encaja en su lugar. Es muy posible que, por esta razón, no sea del gusto de todos, pero puedo asegurarles que contiene muchos momentos inolvidables para el deleite de los lectores más exigentes. Además, también pueden disfrutar de la descripción de los sitios donde discurren estos acontecimientos. En última instancia, como Martin Edwards escribe en la Introducción citando a Jacques Barzun y Wendel Hertig Taylor, “una función esencial de la historia de misterio es entretener de varias maneras, y en este sentido El secreto de High Eldersham … no tiene parangón.”

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: Miles Burton es uno de los tres seudónimos –los otros dos fueron John Rhode y Cecil Waye–, que el mayor Cecil John Charles Street (Gibraltar 1884-Eastbourne 1964) utilizó para dar rienda suelta a su portentosa creatividad como autor de novelas policiacas o detectivescas –más de ciento cincuenta novelas publicadas entre 1924  y 1961–. Sus dos personajes más conocidos son el detective aficionado Desmond Merrion, protagonista de esta novela, y el Dr. Prestley.  Fue uno de los fundadores del Detection Club británico junto a otros conocidos autores como G. K. Chesterton, E. C. Bentley, Anthony Berkeley, y, autoras como Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers o la baronesa Emma Orczy.

My Book Notes: The Body in the Library, 1942 (Miss Marple #2) by Agatha Christie

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en castellano

HarperCollins, Masterpiece Ed., 2010. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 638 KB. Print Length: 226 pages. ASIN: B0046H95MC. eISBN: 9780007422173. First published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in February 1942 and in UK by the Collins Crime Club in May of the same year. The novel features her fictional amateur detective, Miss Marple. The novel was first serialised in the US in The Saturday Evening Post in seven parts from 10 May (Volume 213, Number 45) to 21 June 1941 (Volume 213, Number 51) with illustrations by Hy Rubin.

51n5wQ5vopLSynopsis: It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing evening dress and heavy make-up, which is now smeared across her cheeks. But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry? The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery… before tongues start to wag.

More about this story: One of Miss Marple’s finest cases, here we see her at the height of her female intuition, an inconspicuous elderly lady who can investigate undetected. Several other detectives get involved in the case – almost as many as there are suspects. Of course, it is Miss Marple who will unveil the ultimate clue.The novel was first released in February 1942 in the US and later that year in the UK. There is a rare example of Agatha Christie name checking herself, via the voice of Peter Carmody, who claims to love detective fiction and has signed copies by Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers among others. The novel’s title was an in-joke between Agatha Christie and her character Ariadne Oliver, who reveals in Christie’s earlier work Cards on the Table, that she herself had written a crime novel titled The Body in the Library.

It was adapted for TV in 1984, starring Joan Hickson as Marple, her first appearance in what would become an acclaimed role for her. It was broadcast in three parts over the Christmas period of that year. 2004 saw a more radical adaptation, with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. It featured several well-known British actors, including Ian Richardson and Joanna Lumely. BBC Radio 4 dramatised the story in 2005, with June Whitfield reassuming her role as the radio Marple.

Foreword by Agatha Christie: There are certain clichés belonging to certain types of fiction. The “bold bad baronet” for melodrama, the “body in the library” for the detective story. For several years I treasured up the possibility of a suitable “Variation on a well-known Theme.” I laid down for myself certain conditions. The library in question must be a highly orthodox and conventional library. The body, on the other hand, must be a wildly improbable and highly sensational body. Such were the terms of the problem, but for some years they remained as such, represented only by a few lines of writing in an exercise book. Then, staying one summer for a few days at a fashionable hotel by the seaside I observed a family at one of the tables in the dining room; an elderly man, a cripple, in a wheeled chair, and with him was a family party of a younger generation. Fortunately they left the next day, so that my imagination could get to work unhampered by any kind of knowledge. When people ask “Do you put real people in your books?” the answer is that, for me, it is quite impossible to write about anyone I know, or have ever spoken to, or indeed have even heard about! For some reason, it kills them for me stone dead. But I can take a “lay figure” and endow it with qualities and imaginings of my own.

So an elderly crippled man became the pivot of the story. Colonel and Mrs Bantry, those old cronies of my Miss Marple, had just the right kind of library. In the manner of a cookery recipe add the following ingredients: a tennis pro. a young dancer, an artist, a girl guide, a dance hostess, etc., and serve up à la Miss  Marple!

My Take: As suggested by the title, in Gossington Hall, the house of Colonel and Mrs Bantry, one morning their maid discovers a body in the library. It belongs to a young and beautiful blonde woman in evening dress and with heavy make-up. Nobody in the household seems to know who she is. The Colonel calls the police while his wife calls her old friend Miss Marple. Colonel Melchett, the Chief Constable of the county, and Inspector Slack take charge of the investigation. To identify the woman they head towards a nearby cottage rented by a young man who seems to work in the film industry. But a platinum blonde young woman, completely alive, welcomes them at the door. The autopsy reveals the victim was drugged before being strangled and was not sexually assaulted. However, Miss Marple observes some things don’t fit neatly in. The list of persons recently missing leads the police to the Majestic Hotel in Danemouth, where one of the guests, an elderly man wheelchair-bound, has reported the disappearance a woman who works as a dancer at the hotel. In this way, the body is identified by a close relative to the victim, a woman who also works at the hotel. Meanwhile, Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple move to the Majestic to follow the investigation more closely.

The Body in the Library is the second full-length novel featuring Miss Marple. It follows The Murder at the Vicarage (1930) in Miss Marple’s canon, a book published some twelve years before. I don’t know why it took Christie that long to take up again this character, though probably John Curran may have some explanation on this matter in any of his books that I look forward to reading soon. Returning to the theme of the novel before us I would like to stress that Christie though it as a kind of farce in which she challenges herself to use some of the most prevalent clichés in detective fiction, and she comes out successfully of this trance. Besides, the reader will have the opportunity to become familiar with Miss Marple’s method of investigation. To the casual observer it may seem based only on her feminine intuition, when in reality it is founded on her own experience, on examples from the daily life of her own village. In short The Body in the Library is a brilliant novel, very well written, carefully crafted, and second only to Christie’s masterpiece featuring Miss Marple, A Murder is Announced. A superb summer reading that brings me back to my childhood when I started reading Christie’s novels during the long summertime siestas, when we couldn’t leave the house due to excess heat.  

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

The Body in the Library has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Bitter Tea and Mystery, Cross-Examining Crime, The Grandest Game in the World, Countdown John’s Christie Journal, Books Please, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Mysteries in Paradise, ahsweetmysteryblog, Classic Mysteries, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ 

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Dodd, Mead & Company (USA), 1942)

About the Author: Agatha Christie is the world’s best-known mystery writer. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her writing career spanned more than half a century, during which she wrote 80 novels and short story collections, as well as 14 plays, one of which, The Mousetrap, is the longest-running play in history. Two of the characters she created, the brilliant little Belgian Hercule Poirot and the irrepressible and relentless Miss Marple, went on to become world-famous detectives. Both have been widely dramatized in feature films and made-for-TV movies. Agatha Christie also wrote romantic novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. As well, she wrote four non-fiction books including an autobiography and an entertaining account of the many expeditions she shared with her archaeologist husband, Sir Max Mallowan. Agatha Christie died in 1976. (Source: Fantastic Fiction)

The Murder at the Vicarage [1930] ,The Body in the Library [1942], The Moving Finger [1943], A Murder is Announced [1950], They Do it with Mirrors apa Murder With Mirrors [1952], A Pocket Full of Rye [1953], 4.50 from Paddington apa What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! [1957], The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side [1962], A Caribbean Mystery [1964], At Bertram’s Hotel [1965], Nemesis [1971], Sleeping Murder [1976], and Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories [1985].

Harper Collins UK publicity page

HarperCollins US publicity page

Home of Agatha Christie website

The official Agatha Christie website 

Notes On The Body In The Library

SoundCloud

Agatha Christie page at gadetection

Mike Grost on Agatha Christie

Un cadaver en la biblioteca, de Agaatha Christie

portada_un-cadaver-en-la-biblioteca_agatha-christie_201505291005Sinopsis: Son las siete de la mañana. Los Bantry se despiertan con una desagradable sorpresa: el cuerpo inerte de una joven mujer desconocida en su biblioteca. Lleva un vestido de noche y bastante maquillaje, que ahora embadurna sus mejillas. Pero, ¿quién es ella? ¿Cómo llegó allí? ¿Y cuál es la conexión con otra chica muerta, cuyos restos carbonizados se descubrieron más tarde en una cantera abandonada? Los respetables Bantry invitan a Miss, Marple, amiga de la señora Bantry, a resolver el misterio con su increíble intuición antes de que las malas lenguas empiecen a trabajar. (Fuente: Planeta de Libros)

Más sobre esta historia: Uno de los mejores casos de la señorita Marple, aquí la encontramos en el apogeo de su intuición femenina, una discreta anciana que puede investigar sin ser detectada. Otros varios detectives se ven involucrados en el caso, casi tantos como sospechosos. Por supuesto, será la señorita Marple quien desvelará la pista definitiva. La novela fue publicada por primera vez en febrero de 1942 en los Estados Unidos y más tarde ese año en el Reino Unido. Contiene una rara muestra de Agatha Christie autonomándose a si misma, a través de Peter Carmody, quien afirma que le encanta la novela policiaca y que tiene copias firmadas por Agatha Christie y Dorothy L. Sayers, entre otras. El titulo de la novela resulta ser una broma privada entre Agatha Christie y su personaje Ariadne Oliver, quien desvela en una novela anterior de Christie, Cartas sobre la mesa, que ella misma habia escrito una novela policiaca tituladas Un cadaver en la biblioteca.

Fue adaptada para la televisión en 1984, protagonizada por Joan Hickson como Marple, su primera aparición en lo que se convertiría para ella en un papel de éxito. Fue retransmitida en tres partes durante las Navidades de ese año. El 2004 vio una adaptación más innovadora, con Geraldine McEwan como Miss Marple. Contaba con la presencia de varios conocidos actores británicos, incluidos Ian Richardson y Joanna Lumely. BBC Radio 4 teatralizó la historia en el 2005, con June Whitfield retomando su papel como la Marple radiofónica.111687867

Prólogo de Agatha Christie: Hay ciertos clichés que pertenecen a cierto tipo de novelas: El “barón calvo y malo” en los melodramas, el “cadaver en la biblioteca” en las historias de detectives. Durante varios años atesoré la posibilidad de una adecuada “Variación sobre un tema conocido”. Me impuse ciertas condiciones. La biblioteca en cuestión debia ser una biblioteca sumamente ortodoxa y convencional. El cadaver, en cambio, debía ser extremadamente inverosímil y sumamente fantástico. Tales fueron las condiciones del asunto, pero durante algunos años permanecieron así, representados solo por unas pocas líneas escritas en un cuaderno de ejercicios. Más adelante, mientras pasaba un verano en un hotel de moda junto al mar, observé a una familia en una de las mesas del comedor; un anciano, un inválido, en una silla de ruedas, y con él un grupo familiar de una generación más joven. Afortunadamente se fueron al día siguiente, de manera que mi imaginación pudo ponerse a trabajar sin trabas por ningún tipo de conocimiento previo. Cuando la gente me pregunta “¿Si saco a personas reales en mis libros?” la respuesta es que me resulta imposible escribir sobre alguien que conozca, con quien haya hablado, o de quien incluso haya oído hablar. Por alguna razón, eso los elimina para mi de forma fulminante. Pero puedo utilizar un personaje “cualquiera” y dotarle de características y elucubraciones mias.

De esta manera, un anciano inválido se convirtió en el eje de la historia. El coronel y la señora Bantry, esos viejos amigos de la señorita Marple, tenían la biblioteca adecuada. Y, a la manera de una receta de cocina, agregué los siguientes ingredientes: un profesor de tenis, una joven bailarina, una artista, una chica exploradora, una anfitriona de baile, etc., y sirvase ¡al estilo de la señorita Marple! (Mi traducción libre).

My opinión: Como sugiere el título, en Gossington Hall, la casa del coronel y la señora Bantry, una mañana su criada descubre un cadaver en la biblioteca. Pertenece a una joven y bella mujer rubia en traje de noche y con mucho maquillaje. Nadie en la casa parece saber quién es. El coronel llama a la policía mientras su esposa llama a su vieja amiga, la señorita Marple. El coronel Melchett, el jefe de policía del condado y el inspector Slack se hacen cargo de la investigación. Para identificar a la mujer, se dirigen a una cabaña cercana alquilada por un joven que parece trabajar en la industria del cine. Pero una joven rubia platino, completamente viva, los recibe en la puerta. La autopsia revela que la víctima fue drogada antes de ser estrangulada y que no fue agredida sexualmente. Sin embargo, la señorita Marple observa que algunas cosas no encajan perfectamente. La lista de personas desaparecidas recientemente lleva a la policía al Hotel Majestic en Danemouth, donde uno de los invitados, un anciano en silla de ruedas, informó de la desaparición de una mujer que trabaja como bailarina en el hotel. De esta manera, el cuerpo es identificado por un pariente cercano a la víctima, una mujer que también trabaja en el hotel. Mientras tanto, la Sra. Bantry y la señorita Marple se mudan al Majestic para seguir la investigación más de cerca.

Un cadaver en la biblioteca es la segunda novela protaginizada por la señorita Marple. Sigue a Muerte en la vicaría (1930) en el canon de Miss Marple, un libro publicado unos doce años antes. No sé por qué Christie tardó tanto en retomar este personaje, aunque probablemente John Curran pueda tener alguna explicación sobre este asunto en cualquiera de sus libros que espero leer pronto. Volviendo al tema de la novela que tenemos ante nosotros, me gustaría destacar que Christie lo consideró como una especie de farsa en la que se reta a sí misma a usar algunos de los tópicos más frecuentes en las novelas de detectives, y sale con éxito de este trance. Además, el lector tendrá la oportunidad de familiarizarse con el método de investigación de la señorita Marple. Para el observador casual, puede parecer basado solo en su intuición femenina, cuando en realidad se basa en su propia experiencia, en ejemplos de la vida cotidiana de su propio pueblo. En resumen, Un cadaver en la biblioteca es una novela brillante, muy bien escrita, cuidadosamente elaborada, y solo superada por la obra maestra de Christie protagonizada por la señorita Marple, Se anuncia un asesinato. Una excelente lectura de verano que me retrotrae a mi infancia cuando comencé a leer las novelas de Christie durante las largas siestas de verano, cuando no podíamos salir de la casa debido al exceso de calor.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Nacida en Torquay en 1890, Agatha Christie recibió la típica educación victoriana impartida por institutrices en el hogar paterno. Tras la muerte de su padre, se trasladó a París, donde estudió piano y canto. Contrajo matrimonio en 1914 y tuvo una hija, pero su matrimonio terminó en divorcio en 1928. Dos años después, durante un viaje por Oriente Medio conoció al arqueólogo Max Mallowan, con quien se casó ese mismo año; a partir de entonces pasó varios meses al año en Siria e Irak, escenario de Ven y dime cómo vives (Andanzas 50, ahora también en la colección Fábula) y de alguna de sus novelas policiacas, como Asesinato en Mesopotamia o Intriga en Bagdad. Además del gran éxito de que disfrutaron sus célebres novelas, a partir de 1953 ganó celebridad con las adaptaciones teatrales de sus novelas en el West End londinense. En 1971 le fue concedida la distinción de Dame of the British Empire. Murió en 1976. (Fuente: Planeta de Libros)

Muerte en la vicaría (The Murder at the Vicarage, 1930); Un cadáver en la biblioteca (The Body in the Library, 1942); El caso de los anónimos (The Moving Finger, 1943); Se anuncia un asesinato (A Murder is Announced, 1950); El truco de los espejos (They Do It with Mirrors, or Murder With Mirrors, 1952); Un puñado de centeno (A Pocket Full of Rye, 1953); El tren de las 4:50 (4.50 from Paddington, or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!, 1957); The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, 1962; Misterio en el caribe (A Caribbean Mystery, 1964); At Bertram’s Hotel, 1965; Nemesis, 1971; Sleeping Murder, 1976; y Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories, 1985.

Planeta de Libros página de publicidad

Lea un fragmento (traducción de Guillermo López Hipkiss)

Other Agatha Christie Mysteries

Besides Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries, Agatha Christie also wrote other mystery books. Among them, we can point out:

The Secret Adversary (1922) [Tommy & Tuppence]

The Man in the Brown Suit
(1924) 

The Secret of Chimneys
(1925)

The Seven Dials Mystery
(1929)

The Mysterious Mr.Quin
(1930) s.s. collection

The Sittaford Mystery
apa
Murder at Hazelmoor (1931)   

Parker Pyne Investigates
apa Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (1934) s.s. collection.

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
apa The Boomerang Clue (1934)  

Murder is Easy
apa Easy to Kill
(1939)

And Then There Were None
(1939) 

N or M?
(1941) [Tommy and Tuppence]

Towards Zero
(1944)

Death Comes as the End
(1944)  

Sparkling Cyanide
apa Remembered Death
(1945)

Crooked House
(1949)   

They Came to Baghdad
(1951)   

Destination Unknown
apa So Many Steps to Death (1954)   

Ordeal by Innocence
(1958)   

The Pale Horse
(1961)   

Endless Night
(1967)   

By the Pricking of My Thumbs
(1968) [Tommy and Tuppence]

Passenger to Frankfurt
(1970)   

Postern of Fate
(1973) [Tommy and Tuppence]

In bold letters the books I look forward to reading first.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. John Lane, The Bodley Head (UK), 1924)

The Miss Marple Mysteries by Agatha Christie

This blog post meant to be a private note, but I thought afterwards it might be of some interest to any potential reader. Having finished reading the Hercule Poirot mysteries, it seemed to me a good idea to follow it up with Miss Marple mysteries. Stay tuned.

Miss Marple first came into being in 1927 in “The Tuesday Night Club”, a short story pulled together into the collection The Thirteen Problems. It was first published in the December 1927 issue of Royal Magazine. Christie never expected Miss Marple to rival Poirot in the public’s affections but since the publication of The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930, Marple’s first full length novel, readers were hooked. While Agatha Christie acknowledged that her grandmother had been a huge influence on the character, she writes that Miss Marple was “far more fussy and spinsterish than my grandmother ever was. But one thing she did have in common with her – though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.” Mellowing with appearances (if not with age) Miss Marple graced twelve novels and twenty short stories during her career as an amateur detective, never paid and not always thanked. The Miss Marple of The Thirteen Problems is decidedly more shrewish and Victorian than the later character, who is often more forgiving. She certainly changes with the times, even down to wearing plimsolls in 1964’s A Caribbean Mystery. Miss Marple never married and her closest living relatives are her nephews and nieces. Her nephew, the well-known author Raymond West and his wife Joan (initially Joyce) crop up most commonly in her stories. Marple also employs a selection of maids, all young women from the nearby orphanage, training them in her Victorian way. (Source: The Home of Agatha Christie)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1930)

The Murder at the Vicarage [1930] ,The Body in the Library [1942], The Moving Finger [1943], A Murder is Announced [1950], They Do it with Mirrors apa Murder With Mirrors [1952], A Pocket Full of Rye [1953], 4.50 from Paddington apa What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! [1957], The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side [1962], A Caribbean Mystery [1964], At Bertram’s Hotel [1965], Nemesis [1971], Sleeping Murder [1976], and Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories [1985].

Sleeping Murder, although published in 1976, was written during World War II and portrays a sprightlier Miss Marple than Nemesis.