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My Book Notes: The Case With Nine Solutions, 1928 (Sir Clinton Driffield #3) by J. J. Connington

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The Murder Room, 2012. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 799 KB. Print Length: 310 pages. ASIN: B00AES04WW. eISBN: 978-1-4719-0596-4. With an introduction by Curtis Evans. It was first published by V. G. Gollancz in the UK in 1928, and by Little, Brown and Company in 1929.

hbg-title-9781471905964-2Book Description: When a locum doctor is called out one foggy night to a case of scarlet fever, he mistakes one house for another and discovers a young man lying in a pool of blood, who manages to choke out a dying message. This intriguing clue-laden third case for Sir Clinton Driffield has its origin in a dark scheme that reveals as much about the means for murder as its motivation.

From the Introduction by Curtis Evans: In 1928 there appeared two additional Sir Clinton Driffield novels Mystery at Lynden Sands and The Case with Nine Solutions. Once again there was great praise for the latest Connigntons. … in the United States author and book reviewer Frederic F. Van de Water expressed nearly as high an opinion of The Case with Nine Solutions. ‘This book is a thoroughbred of a distinguished lineage that runs back to “The Golden Bug” of [Edgar Allan] Poe,’ he avowed. ‘It represents the highest type of detective fiction.’ In both of these Connington novels, Steward moved away from his customary country-house milieu, setting Lyden Sands at a fashionable beach resort and Nine Solutions at a scientific research institute.

My Take: Dr Ringwood, who is doing locum for old Carew, receives the visit of Dr Markfield, after a hard day’s work. The visit is interrupted by a phone call. One of the maids at the Silverdale household is concerned about the other maid who appears to be seriously ill. The whole family is away and she doesn’t know what to do. Since Dr Ringwood is unfamiliar with the town and there is a dense fog, he fears he won’t find his way and will get lost. But Dr Markfield offers to guide him up there, driving ahead of him. Once on the street of his destination, Dr Ringwood gets confused on account of the fog and enters the house next door where it seems that there is no one. However he soon finds a young man dying of gunshot wounds who barely manages to stammer a cryptic message and dies. There seems to be no phone in the house and Ringwood heads towards the Silverdale house, the correct  house, to call the police. After diagnosing the maid with scarlet fever, he contacts Sir Clinton Driffield himself to inform him of his find. With nothing else to be done for the young maid, Ringwood decides to wait for the police at the house next door. On arrival, Sir Clinton makes use of his excellent deduction skills to prove that the young man was murdered elsewhere. Then they head to the Silverdale house where no one answers their call. When they finally manage to enter they discover that the maid has been strangled, while the sick servant has managed to escape alive thanks to her condition.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading The Case With Nine Solutions. The story is highly interesting and is fairly clued. The plot is nicely constructed and the characters are very well defined and turn out to be attractive. Besides, I find Dr Steward writing style to be direct, clear and straightforward, what I really like it. Just to underline a small defect perhaps, the identity of the culprit becomes pretty evident at a given point, in my view. However, this has not distracted me at all. Besides one need to take into account that the number of characters is not too large. In any case, to tell you the truth, I was not able to form an idea of the motivation that was hidden behind the crimes. It is worth mentioning that in this instalment, Inspector Flamborough plays the role of Watson to Sir Clinton in stead of Wendover, and, as anticipated before by some other reviewer, perhaps a more appropriate title might have been A Case with Nine Possibilities. Overall, an excellent example a classic detective story, from a writer that deserves himself a much wider audience.

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

The Case With Nine Solutions has been reviewed, among others, at The Grandest Game in the World, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Beneath the Stains of Time, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, At the Crime Scene, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Classic Mysteries, Vintage Pop Fictions, and Noah’s Archives.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC, V. G. Gollancz (UK), 1928)

About the Author: Alfred Walter Stewart (1880 – 1947), who wrote under the pen name J. J. Connington, was born in Glasgow, the youngest of three sons of Reverend Dr Stewart. He graduated from Glasgow University and pursued an academic career as a chemistry professor, working for the Admiralty during the First World War. Known for his ingenious and carefully worked-out puzzles and in-depth character development, he was admired by a host of his better-known contemporaries, including Dorothy L. Sayers and John Dickson Carr, who both paid tribute to his influence on their work. He married Jessie Lily Courts in 1916 and they had one daughter. (Source: The Orion Publishing Group) J.J. Connington is one of three writers explored in depth in Curtis Evans’ Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery (2012).

Sir Clinton Driffield Mysteries: Murder In The Maze (1927); Tragedy At Ravensthorpe (1927); The Case with Nine Solutions (1928); Mystery at Lynden Sands (1928); Nemesis at Raynham Parva apa Grim Vengeance (1929); The Boathouse Riddle (1931); The Sweepstake Murders (1931); The Castleford Conundrum (1932); The Ha-Ha Case apa The Brandon Case (1934); In Whose Dim Shadow (1935); A Minor Operation (1937); Murder Will Speak (1938); Truth Comes Limping (1938); The Twenty-One Clues (1941); No Past Is Dead (1942); Jack-in-the-Box (1944); and Common Sense is All You Need (1947).

In Particular, I look forward to reading next The Sweepstake Murders, The Ha-Ha Case, In Whose Dim Shadow, and Jack-in-the-Box.

The Orion Publishing Group publicity page

Coachwhip Publications publicity page

Alfred Walter Stewart, alias J. J. Connington at The Passing Tramp.

Mike Grost on J. J. Connington

J. J. Connington page at Golden Age of Detecttion Wiki

Nick Fuller’s survey article with many links to his reviews is at The Grandest Game in the World.

Nueve soluciones para un problema de J. J. Connington

30278744769Descripción del libro: Cuando un médico suplente es llamado para atender un caso de escarlatina una noche de niebla, confunde una casa con otra y descubre a un joven tendido en un charco de sangre, que consigue exhalar un último mensaje. Este fascinante tercer caso lleno de pistas de Sir Clinton Driffield tiene su origen en un oscuro esquema muy revelador tanto de los medios para asesinar como de sus motivos.

De la introducción de Curtis Evans: En 1928 aparecieron otras dos novelas mas de Sir Clinton Driffield Mystery at Lynden Sands y The Case with Nine Solutions. Una vez más, recibió grandes elogios por los  últimos Conningtons. … en los Estados Unidos, el autor y crítico de libros Frederic F. Van de Water expresó una opinión casi tan alta de Nueve soluciones para un problema. “Este libro es un pura sangre de un distinguido linaje que se remonta a “The Golden Bug” de [Edgar Allan] Poe”, confesó. “Representa la categoría mas elevada de novela policiaca”. En estas dos novelas de Connington, Steward se alejó de su ambiente habitual en una casa de campo, enmarcando a Lyden Sands en un moderno hotel de playa y a Nine Solutions en un instituto de investigación científica.

Mi opinión: El Dr. Ringwood, que sustituye al viejo Carew, recibe la visita del Dr. Markfield, después de un duro día de trabajo. La visita es interrumpida por una llamada telefónica. Una de las sirvientas de la casa de los Silverdale está preocupada por la otra sirvienta que parece estar gravemente enferma. Toda la familia está fuera y ella no sabe qué hacer. Como el Dr. Ringwood no está familiarizado con la ciudad y hay una densa niebla, teme no encontrar el camino y perderse. Pero el Dr. Markfield se ofrece a guiarlo hasta allí, conduciendo delante de él. Una vez en la calle de su destino, el Dr. Ringwood se confunde a causa de la niebla y entra en la casa de al lado donde parece que no hay nadie. Sin embargo, pronto encuentra a un joven moribundo por heridas de bala que apenas logra balbucear un mensaje críptico y muere. Parece que no hay teléfono en la casa y Ringwood se dirige hacia la casa de los Silverdale, la casa correcta, para llamar a la policía. Después de diagnosticar a la sirvienta con escarlatina, se pone en contacto con el propio Sir Clinton Driffield para informarle de su hallazgo. Sin nada más que hacer por la joven sirvienta, Ringwood decide esperar a la policía en la casa de al lado. A su llegada, Sir Clinton hace uso de sus excelentes dotes de deducción para demostrar que el joven fue asesinado en otro lugar. Luego se dirigen a la casa de los Silverdale, donde nadie responde a su llamada. Cuando finalmente logran entrar descubren que la criada ha sido estrangulada, mientras que la sirvienta enferma ha logrado escapar con vida gracias a su condición.

Disfruté mucho leyendo Nueve soluciones para un problema. La historia es muy interesante y tiene bastante pistas. La trama está muy bien construida y los personajes están muy bien definidos y resultan atractivos. Además, encuentro que el estilo de escritura del Dr. Steward es directo, claro y sencillo, lo que realmente me gusta. Solo para subrayar un pequeño defecto, tal vez, la identidad del culpable se vuelve bastante evidente en un momento dado, en mi opinión. Sin embargo, esto no me ha distraído en absoluto. Además hay que tener en cuenta que el número de personajes no es demasiado extenso. En cualquier caso, a decir verdad, no pude hacerme una idea de la motivación que se escondía detrás de los crímenes. Vale la pena mencionar que en esta entrega, el inspector Flamborough hace de Watson para Sir Clinton en lugar de Wendover y, como lo anticipó antes algún otro crítico, quizás un título más apropiado hubiera sido Nueve posibilidades para un problema. En general, un excelente ejemplo de una novela de detectives clásica, de un escritor que se merece una audiencia mucho más amplia.

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

Acerca del autor: Alfred Walter Stewart (1880 – 1947), quien escribió bajo el seudónimo J. J. Connington, nació en Glasgow, era el menor de los tres hijos del reverendo Dr. Stewart. Se graduó en la Universidad de Glasgow y continuó la carrera académica como profesor de química, trabajando para el Almirantazgo durante la Primera Guerra Mundial. Conocido por sus ingeniosos y cuidadosamente elaborados acertijos y un profundo desarrollo de sus personajes, fue admirado por una gran cantidad de sus contemporáneos más conocidos, incluidos Dorothy L. Sayers y John Dickson Carr, quienes rindieron homenaje a su influencia en su trabajo. Se casó con Jessie Lily Courts en 1916 y tuvieron una hija. (Fuente: The Orion Publishing Group) J.J. Connington es uno de los tres escritores explorados en profundidad en Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery (2012) de Curtis Evans.

Sir Clinton Driffield Mysteries: Murder In The Maze (1927) Spanish title: Asesinato en el laberinto (Siruela, 2018); Tragedy At Ravensthorpe (1927); The Case with Nine Solutions (1928) Spanish title: Nueve soluciones para un problema (Molino, 1954); Mystery at Lynden Sands (1928); Nemesis at Raynham Parva apa Grim Vengeance (1929); The Boathouse Riddle (1931); The Sweepstake Murders (1931) Spanish title: La lotería trágica (Molino, 1941); The Castleford Conundrum (1932); The Ha-Ha Case apa The Brandon Case (1934); In Whose Dim Shadow (1935); A Minor Operation (1937); Murder Will Speak (1938); Truth Comes Limping (1938); The Twenty-One Clues (1941) Spanish title: Los 21 indicios (Molino, 1947); No Past Is Dead (1942); Jack-in-the-box (1944); and Common Sense is All You Need (1947) Spanish title: Solo se necesita sentido común (Reguera, 1948).

En concreto, espero leer a continuación The Sweepstake Murders, The Ha-Ha Case, In Whose Dim Shadow y Jack-in-the-Box.

My Book Notes: Maigret and the Killer, 1969 (Inspector Maigret #70) by Georges Simenon (translated by Shaun Whiteside)

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Penguin Classics, 2019. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 2107 KB. Print Length: 1184 pages. ASIN: B07NBZTNHB. ISBN: 978-0-241-30427-3. A pre-original version was published in the daily Le Figaro between 31 July and 29 August 1969 (23 episodes).  First published in French as Maigret et le Tueur by Presses de la Cité 1969. The story was written between 15 and 21 April 1969 in Épalinges (Canton of Vaud), Switzerland. The first English translation came out as Maigret and the Killer in 1971 translated by Lyn Moir published in the US by Harcourt Brace Jovanovic and was followed by its publication in the UK by Hamish Hamilton the same year. It was subsequently published six times with the same translation. This new translation by Shaun Whiteside was first published in 2019.

imageFirst lines: For the first time since they had been going for dinner with the Pardons once a month, Maigret had a memory of the evening at Boulevard Voltaire that it was almost painful. It had started in Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. His wife had phoned for a taxi, because for three days it had, according to the radio, been raining harder than any time in the past thirty-five years. The rain was coming down in sheets, frozen, lashing people’s hands and faces, making their wet clothes stick to their bodies.

Les premières lignes…: Pour la première fois depuis qu’ils dînaient chaque mois chez les Pardon, Maigret devait conserver de cette soirée boulevard Voltaire un souvenir presque pénible. Cela avait commencé boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Sa femme avait commandé un taxi par téléphone, car il pleuvait, depuis trois jours, comme, selon la radio, il n’avait pas plu depuis trente-cinq ans. L’eau tombait par rafales, glacée, vous fouettant le visage et les mains, collant les vêtements mouillés au corps.

Book description: A young man is found dead, clutching his tape recorder, just streets away from Maigret’s home, leading the inspector on a disturbing trail into the mind of a killer.

My take: While Maigret and his wife are dining with the Pardons, the quiet evening is interrupted by the sudden arrival of a neighbour, Gino Pagliati, to tell the doctor that not far away, in Rue Popincourt, there is a man seriously injured, on the pavement. The man has been stabbed several times and dies on arrival at the hospital. According to witnesses he was attacked by one man who was fast to flee away and could not be identified. The victim is Antoine Batille, son of the owner of Mylène Perfumes and Beauty Products. The young Batille was carrying a tape recorder hanging around his neck as if it were a camera. Apparently, his pastime was to record and collect voices and conversations. In the absence of a motive that could explain the crime, the police examine the last recordings. In one a conversation has been recorded wherein some voices appear to be preparing a robbery. Once the voices have been identified, the police keeps the potential burglars under intense surveillance. And, with the help of Superintendent Grojean of the CID, they are caught red-handed while they are plundering a mansion in the outskirts of Paris. However, it doesn’t seem probably one of them could have been the murderer. It is also not clear they would have realise they were being recorded. Besides, none of them took the recorder away and that would have been the only reason to kill the young Batille.

Maigret and the Killer is a good example of a late Maigret novel. The most interesting aspect of this instalment is, perhaps, that, contrary to Maigret usual procedure, in stead of placing the emphasis on the life of the victim, he places the attention here on the life of the murderer, even if not identified yet. I particularly would not recommend it, if you are not familiar with other books in the series, and even though in my view it isn’t among Simenon bests, it is still quite a pleasant read. 

My rating: B (I liked it)

Maigret and the Killer has been reviewed, among others, at Crime Review UK,

About the Author: Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. Altogether, about 550 million copies of his works have been printed. He is best known, however, for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Maigret. The first novel in the series, Pietr-le-Letton, appeared in 1931; the last one, Maigret et M. Charles, was published in 1972. The Maigret novels were translated into all major languages and several of them were turned into films and radio plays. Two television series (1960-63 and 1992-93) have been made in Great Britain. During his “American” period, Simenon reached the height of his creative powers, and several novels of those years were inspired by the context in which they were written. Simenon also wrote a large number of “psychological novels”, as well as several autobiographical works. (Source: Goodreads).

About the Translator: Shaun Whiteside (born in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland in 1959) is a Northern Irish translator of French, Dutch, German, and Italian literature. He has translated many novels, including Manituana and Altai by Wu Ming, The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink, and Magdalene the Sinner by Lilian Faschinger, which won him the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation in 1997. He graduated with a First in Modern Languages at King’s College, Cambridge. After he finished his studies, he worked as a business journalist and television producer before translating full-time. As he said in a brief interview, “Did I always want to be a translator? I certainly wanted to do something that involved travel and languages, but even when my work in television took me to far-off places, I kept coming back to translation, first for fun, and eventually as a way of earning a living.” Whiteside is the former Chair of the Translators Association of the Society of Authors. He currently lives in London with his wife and son, where he sits on the PEN Writers in Translation committee, the editorial board of New Books in German, and the Advisory Panel of the British Centre for Literary Translation, where he regularly teaches at the summer school.

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page

Maigret and the Killer 

Maigret of the Month: November, 2009

Tout Maigret

Maigret y el asesino de Georges Simenon

50220459Maigret y el asesino es una novela policíaca de Georges Simenon publicada en 1969. Forma parte de la serie de Maigret. Su escritura se desarrolló entre el 15 y 21 de abril de 1969. Hubo una publicación de una edición preoriginal en el diario Le Figaro entre el 31 de julio y 29 de agosto de 1969 (23 episodios). Traducción al español de Silvia Ruiz. Editorial Luis de Caralt, Barcelona 1972. 158 páginas. (Las novelas de Maigret; 73)

Les premières lignes…: Pour la première fois depuis qu’ils dînaient chaque mois chez les Pardon, Maigret devait conserver de cette soirée boulevard Voltaire un souvenir presque pénible. Cela avait commencé boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Sa femme avait commandé un taxi par téléphone, car il pleuvait, depuis trois jours, comme, selon la radio, il n’avait pas plu depuis trente-cinq ans. L’eau tombait par rafales, glacée, vous fouettant le visage et les mains, collant les vêtements mouillés au corps.

Primeras líneas…: Por primera vez, desde que iban a cenar una vez todos los meses a casa de los Pardon, Maigret conservaría durante tiempo un recuerdo bastante desagradable de aquella velada. Todo comenzó en el bulevar Richard-Lenoir. Su mujer había pedido un taxi por teléfono, ya que llovía desde hacía tres días, como no había llovido, según la radio, desde hacía treinta y cinco años. El agua caía a raudales, helada, azotando el rostro y las manos, llegando a pegar la ropa empapada al cuerpo. (Traducción de Sylvia Ruiz)

Descripción del libro: La intriga se desarrolla en París. Antoine Batille, que acaba de ser asesinado de siete cuchilladas en la calle Popincourt, tenía la manía de coleccionar conversaciones con la ayuda de un magnetófono portátil, como otros hacen fotos. ¿Lo mataron porque sorprendió una conversación comprometedora? En todo caso, la escucha de la última casette grabada por el joven pone a la policía sobre la pista de una cuadrilla de ladrones de cuadros entre los que cuatro miembros son detenidos. (Fuente: Goodreads)

Mi opinión: Mientras Maigret y su esposa cenan con los Pardon, la tranquila velada se ve interrumpida por la llegada repentina de un vecino, Gino Pagliati, para decirle al médico que no muy lejos, en la Rue Popincourt, hay un hombre gravemente herido, en la acera. El hombre ha sido apuñalado varias veces y muere al llegar al hospital. Según testigos, fue atacado por un hombre que se apresuró a huir y no pudo ser identificado. La víctima es Antoine Batille, hijo del propietario de Mylène Perfumes and Beauty Products. El joven Batille llevaba una grabadora colgada del cuello como si fuera una cámara. Al parecer, su pasatiempo era grabar y recopilar voces y conversaciones. A falta de un motivo que pudiera explicar el crimen, la policía examina las últimas grabaciones. En una se ha grabado una conversación en la que algunas voces parecen estar preparando un robo. Una vez que se han identificado las voces, la policía mantiene a los posibles ladrones bajo una intensa vigilancia. Y, con la ayuda del superintendente Grojean del CID, son sorprendidos in fraganti mientras saquean una mansión en las afueras de París. Sin embargo, no parece probable que uno de ellos haya sido el asesino. Tampoco está claro que se hubieran dado cuenta de que estaban siendo grabados. Además, ninguno se llevó la grabadora y esa habría sido la única razón para matar al joven Batille.

Maigret y el asesino es un buen ejemplo de una novela tardía de Maigret. El aspecto más interesante de esta entrega es, quizás, que, contrariamente al procedimiento habitual de Maigret, en lugar de poner el acento en la vida de la víctima, pone aquí la atención en la vida del asesino, aunque aún no esté identificado. Particularmente no lo recomendaría, si no está familiarizado con otros libros de la serie, y aunque en mi opinión no está entre los mejores de Simenon, sigue siendo una lectura bastante agradable.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Acerca del autor: Georges Simenon (1903-1989) fue uno de los escritores más prolíficos del siglo XX, capaz de escribir de 60 a 80 páginas al día. Su obra incluye cerca de 200 novelas, más de 150 novelas cortas, varias obras autobiográficas, numerosos artículos y decenas de novelas baratas escritas con más de dos docenas de seudónimos. En total, se han hecho alrededor de 550 millones de copias de sus obras. Sin embargo, es más conocido por sus 75 novelas y 28 cuentos con el comisario Maigret. La primera novela de la serie, Pietr-le-Letton, apareció en 1931; la última, Maigret et M. Charles, se publicó en 1972. Las novelas de Maigret se tradujeron a los principales idiomas y varias de ellas se convirtieron en películas y obras de teatro para la radio. En Gran Bretaña se han realizado dos series de televisión (1960-63 y 1992-93). Durante su período “americano”, Simenon alcanzó la cúspide de su capacidad creadora, y varias novelas de esos años se inspiraron en el contexto en el que fueron escritas. Simenon también escribió una gran cantidad de “novelas psicológicas”, así como varias obras autobiográficas.

My Book Notes: Murder is Easy (1939) by Agatha Christie

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HarperCollins, 2010. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1210 KB. Print Length: 274 pages. ASIN: B004APA54M. eISBN: 978-0-0074-2270-8. First published in Great Britain by Collins, The Crime Club on 5 June 1939, and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in September of the same year under the title of Easy to Kill. The book was first serialised in the US in The Saturday Evening Post in seven parts from 19 November (Volume 211, Number 21) to 31 December 1938 (Volume 211, Number 27) under the title Easy to Kill with illustrations by Henry Raleigh. The UK serialisation was in twenty-three parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday, 10 January, to Friday, 3 February 1939, as Easy to Kill. Christie’s recurring character, Superintendent Battle, has a cameo appearance at the end, but plays no part in either the solution of the mystery or the apprehension of the criminal.

Murder-is-EasySynopsis: Agatha Christie’s ingenious murder mystery thriller, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. In a quiet English village, a killer is about to strike. Again and again. Officer Luke Fitzwilliam is on a train to London when he meets a strange woman. She claims there is a serial killer in the quiet village of Wychwood. He has already taken the lives of three people and is about claim his fourth victim. Fitzwilliam dismisses this as the rambling of an old woman. But within hours she is found dead. Crushed by a passing car. And then the fourth victim is found. Each death looks like an accident. But in Wychwood nothing is as it appears…

More about this story: Here Agatha Christie again turns away from her established detectives to try something new. A string of apparently unrelated deaths turns out to be devious multiple murder plot. Perhaps tiring of her little Belgian, Murder is Easy is an early example of Agatha Christie dropping her famous detective in favour of the lesser known Superintendent Battle. Here she plays with one her favourite themes, devious multiple murders disguised as accidents. The story is considered to feature all the Agatha Christie staples of country village life. It was adapted for TV in the US in 1982, featuring Bill Bixby as Luke and Helen Hayes as Livinia, who would later go on to star as Miss Marple. Clive Exton adapted the story for stage in 1993 and in 2008 it was included in the TV series Agatha Christie’s Marple. Miss Marple was played by Julia McKenzie while rising star Benedict Cumberbatch featured as Luke. In 2013, the story was dramatized for BBC Radio 4.

My Take: After years of service as a policeman in the Straits Settelments, Luke Fitzwilliam has returned for good to England to enjoy his retirement. On an unplanned stop, he loses his train bound to London and has to take another one sharing a compartment with an elderly lady that reminds him of Aunt Mildred, his favourite aunt, although he is certain she won’t remain in silence to London. Indeed, after some minutes, he finds out she is heading to Scotland Yard. Her local constable doesn’t seem to her the right person to deal with serious crimes, and she believes it will be better to go straight to Scotland Yard. In fact, it is a matter of several murders. First was Amy Gibbs, then it was Carter and Tommy Pierce came afterwards. Now she is worried for Dr Humbleby, who is such a good man. Carter drank and Tommy Pierce was a dreadfully cheeky impertinent little boy, but Dr Humbleby is different, he must be saved. Fitzwilliam is sure that in Scotland Yard they will know how to deal with her adequately. When saying goodbye, he finds out her name is Pinkerton. But when she makes a remark that at first she thought he didn’t believe her and he answers that’s rather hard to do a lot of murders and get away with it. She estates seriously: ‘No, no my dear boy, that’s where you’re wrong. It’s very easy to kill –so long as no one suspects you. And you see, the person in question is just the last person anyone would suspect!’.

Everything could have remained just like that, had it not been that Fitzwilliam read in The Times the next day that one Miss Pinkerton was run over by a car that didn’t stop as she was crossing Whitehall and died. Later on, he read as well that a certain Dr Humbleby had died suddenly at his residence in Wychwood-under-Ashe. And the story that at first had seemed to him improbable, though not impossible, begun to seem to him that it might be true and must be investigated. Fitzwilliam decides to take matters in his own hands. After all, once a policeman, always a policeman. And he does find the way to travel to Wychwood, concealing his true intentions.

The investigation will proved to be rather difficult. Each murder has been different. Each mysterious death has seem to be the result of an accident, an illness or an error, without the involvement of any another person. And it doesn’t seem to exist any denominator in common. Although there is no lack of possible suspects, they don’t seem to have a motive that could have explain each and every one of the killings. The only plausible explanation is that they could have been the deed of a sick mind.

Ultimately, Murder is Easy is a good example of a classic village murder mystery with a hint of romance or, in other words, what has come to be called Mayhem Parva, a term coined in 1971 by Colin Watson to refer to the detective stories that unfold in a quiet country village, if by any chance this term is still in use. In my view another quite entertaining read, that falls a bit short from as to be included among Christie’s best, but which is certainly worth reading and I highly recommend it.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Murder is Easy has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Cross-Examining Crime, Mysteries Ahoy! reviewingtheevidence (1), reviewingtheevidence (2), Books Please, Mysteries in Paradise, ahsweetmysteryblog, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Dead Yesterday, and Countdown John’s Christie Journal,

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1939)

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)

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Matar es fácil, de Agatha Christie

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Sinopsis: En un tranquilo pueblo inglés, un asesino está a punto de atacar. Una y otra vez. El oficial Luke Fitzwilliam está en un tren destino a Londres cuando se encuentra con una mujer extraña. Ella afirma que hay un asesino en serie en el tranquilo pueblo de Wychwood. Ya se ha cobrado la vida de tres personas y está a punto de atribuirse su cuarta víctima. Fitzwilliam descarta esto como las divagaciones de una anciana. Pero a las pocas horas la encuentran muerta. Atropellada por un vehículo en marcha. Y más tarde se encuentra la cuarta víctima. Cada muerte parece un accidente. Pero en Wychwood nada es lo que parece …

Más sobre esta historia: Nuavamente aquí Agatha Christie se aparta de sus detectives arraigados para intentar algo nuevo. Una serie de muertes aparentemente no relacionadas resulta ser una trama retorcida de asesinatos múltiples. Quizás cansado de su pequeño belga, Matar es fácil es uno de los primeros ejemplos de Agatha Christie descartando a su famoso detective a favor del menos conocido Superintendent Battle. Aquí juega con uno de sus temas favoritos, intrincados asesinatos múltiples disfrazados de accidentes. Se considera que la historia cuenta con todos los elementos básicos de Agatha Christie sobre la vida rural. Fue adaptada para la televisión en los EE. UU. en 1982, con Bill Bixby como Luke y Helen Hayes como Livinia, quien luego interpretaría a Miss Marple. Clive Exton adaptó la historia para el teatro en 1993 y en 2008 se incluyó en la serie de televisión Marple de Agatha Christie. Miss Marple fue interpretada por Julia McKenzie, mientras que el prometedor actor Benedict Cumberbatch interpretó a Luke. En el 2013, la historia fue dramatizada para la BBC Radio 4.

Mi opinión: Después de años de servicio como policía en las Colonias del Estrecho, Luke Fitzwilliam ha regresado definitivamente a Inglaterra para disfrutar de su jubilación. En una parada no planificada, pierde su tren con destino a Londres y tiene que tomar otro compartiendo compartimento con una anciana que le recuerda a la tía Mildred, su tía favorita, aunque está seguro de que no se quedará callada hasta Londres. De hecho, después de unos minutos, descubre que ella se dirige a Scotland Yard. Su policía local no le parece la persona adecuada para ocuparse de delitos graves y cree que será mejor ir directamente a Scotland Yard. De hecho, se trata de varios asesinatos. Primero fue Amy Gibbs, luego Carter y Tommy Pierce vino después. Ahora está preocupada por el Dr. Humbleby, que es un buen hombre. Carter bebía y Tommy Pierce era un niño terriblemente descarado e impertinente, pero el Dr. Humbleby es diferente, hay que salvarlo. Fitzwilliam está seguro de que en Scotland Yard sabrán cómo tratarla adecuadamente. Al despedirse, descubre que su nombre es Pinkerton. Pero cuando ella hace un comentario de que al principio pensó que él no le creía y él responde que es bastante difícil cometer muchos asesinatos y salirse con la suya. Ella dice seriamente: ‘No, no mi querido muchacho, ahí es donde te equivocas. Es muy fácil matar, siempre que nadie sospeche de ti. ¡Y ya ves, la persona en cuestión es la última persona en quien alguien sospecharía!’.

Todo podría haber quedado así, si no hubiera sido porque Fitzwilliam leyó en The Times al día siguiente que una tal Miss Pinkerton fue atropellada por un automóvil que no se detuvo mientras cruzaba Whitehall y murió. Más tarde, leyó también que cierto Dr. Humbleby había muerto repentinamente en su residencia en Wychwood-under-Ashe. Y la historia que al principio le había parecido improbable, aunque no imposible, empezó a parecerle que podía ser cierta y debía ser investigada. Fitzwilliam decide tomar el asunto en sus propias manos. Después de todo, una vez policía, siempre se es policía. Y encuentra la manera de viajar a Wychwood, ocultando sus verdaderas intenciones.

La investigación resultará bastante difícil. Cada asesinato ha sido diferente. Cada muerte misteriosa parece ser el resultado de un accidente, una enfermedad o un error, sin la participación de ninguna otra persona. Y no parece existir ningún denominador en común. Aunque no faltan posibles sospechosos, no parecen tener un motivo que pueda explicar todos y cada uno de los asesinatos. La única explicación plausible es que podrían haber sido obra de una mente enferma.

En última instancia, Matar es fácil es un buen ejemplo de un clásico misterio de asesinato en una aldea con un toque de romance o, en otras palabras, lo que ha llegado a llamarse Mayhem Parva, un término acuñado en 1971 por Colin Watson para referirse a las historias de detectives que se desarrollan en un tranquilo pueblo rural, si por casualidad este término todavía está en uso. En mi opinión, otra lectura bastante entretenida, que se queda un poco corta como para estar incluida entre las mejores de Christie, pero que sin duda merece la pena leer y la recomiendo encarecidamente.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Agatha Christie es la escritora de misterio más conocida del mundo. Sus libros han vendido más de mil millones de copias en inglés y otros mil millones en 44 idiomas extranjeros. Es la autora más publicada de todos los tiempos en cualquier idioma, superada solo por la Biblia y Shakespeare. Su carrera como escritora abarcó más de medio siglo, durante el cual escribió 80 novelas y colecciones de cuentos, así como 14 obras de teatro, una de las cuales, The Mousetrap, es la obra de teatro mas representada de la historia. Dos de los personajes que creó, el pequeño y brillante belga Hércules Poirot y la imparable y constante Miss Marple, se convirtieron en detectives de fama mundial. Ambos han sido ampliamente dramatizados en largometrajes y películas para la televisión. Agatha Christie también escribió novelas románticas bajo el seudónimo de Mary Westmacott. Además, escribió cuatro libros de no ficción que incluyen una autobiografía y un entretenido relato de las muchas expediciones que compartió con su esposo el arqueólogo Sir Max Mallowan. Agatha Christie murió en 1976.

My Book Notes: “The Tea Leaf” (1925) a short story by Edgar Jepson & Robert Eustace

This short story is included in The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries: the Most Complete Collection of Impossible Crime Stories Ever Assembled / edited and with an introduction by Otto Penzler. A Vintage Crime/Black Lizar Original, 2014. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 10617 KB. Print Length: 962 page. eISBN: 978-0-8041-7279-0. ASIN: B00J1ISJJQ. “The Tea Leaf” was originally published in the October 1925 issue of The Strand Magazine.

25836643My Take: Two friends, Arthur Kelstern and Hugh Willoughton, were known for their bad character and their nasty temper and no one could believed that they would have become friends. One day, Hugh became engaged to Arthur’s daughter only to cancel it a year later. From then on they began to hate each other. They were both in the habit to have a Turkish bath twice a week, in the same place, at the same time, and on the same days. None of them changed their habits after their row and everyone sensed it was only a matter of time so that this relationship will end up in tragedy. Worst omens were fulfilled the day  in which they found themselves alone, sharing a bath in the hottest room. After a heated discussion Hugh left the room in a bad mood and, shortly after, another customer entered the room where he found Arthur stabbed to death. When the police arrived, Hugh was arrested. After a highly rigorous search, no trace whatsoever of the murder weapon was found. The autopsy revealed that the fatal wound was caused by a long circular weapon that would need at least a 4-inch handle to inflict such a deep and gruesome wound. Even in the absence of the murder weapon, Hugh is brought to trial.

Though now-a-days its denouement may seemed to us pretty obvious, it still makes a fascinating read.

About the Authors: Edgar Alfred Jepson (1863-1938) was an English author best known for his adventure and detective fiction. He also wrote supernatural and fantasy stories. Robert Eustace was the pen name of Eustace Robert Barton (1854-1943), an English doctor and author of mystery and crime fiction with a theme of scientific innovation.

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