Friday, October 23, 2009
A murder in a tiny Dartmoor village in the dead of winter sets the stage for this classic Christie whodunit. Several had a motive, few had an opportunity. The most likely suspect is quickly imprisoned, but his fiance remains unsatisfied with the law's conclusions. Determined to clear James Pearson's name, Emily Trefusis sets off with intrepid newspaper reporter Charles Enderby to seek out the circumstances of Major Treveylan's murder. As with all of Christie's books, we get plenty of atmosphere as the plot unfolds in the Dartmoor countryside. Here we see the deepest depths of winter. This novel has all of the elements of a juicy, quick read. The plot and suspense build as we follow Emily on her quest for answers. This is classic Christie- a bit of brain-fluff, for sure, but engaging and well-written.
Agatha Christie, Murder at Hazelmoor (Putnam, 1987) ISBN: 0396090133
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It's easy to kill if no one suspects you, and in the situation Luke Fitzwilliam has wandered into, that seems to be the case. A series of deaths has mostly gone unnoticed-- unfortunate accidents, they seemed, but not to everyone. Lavinia Fullerton has suspicions and premonitions, but she is run down on her way to alert the authorities. After hearing Lavinia's story retired police office Luke Fitzwilliam decides to do a bit of investigating of his own. He finds a small town with a variety of eccentricities. In some ways, this novel follows the typical Christie pattern: murder, a variety of suspects, and an unsuspected conclusion. This particular Christie has more of an element of danger, however, which adds excitement. We actually get to see some action, not just the detective revealing his or her conclusions at the end. Christie has also been successful in underlining the fact that apparently, it is remarkably easy to kill (or at least it was in the days before DNA evidence and whatnot.)
Agatha Christie, Easy to Kill (Pocket Books, 1945) ISBN: 0671811282
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I must admit, I am captivated by jewels: their shine, their brilliance, their color. Thus, I was excited to read a history of jewels. Finlay's is a social history, examining how human beings have constructed the value of brilliant minerals. This is not a comprehensive study. Finlay has chosen a series of case studies, the research for which took her all over the globe, from Australia, to Russia, to Sri Lanka, to the American southwest. This is quite an interesting book, and it certainly does show that these stones that human beings so treasure have no inherent value. This is evident in the changing fortunes of so many stones, which have variously fallen in and out of favor. It also becomes clear through the course of Finlay's work, that stones have, and do, cause a tremendous amount of human suffering. Indeed, in the long history of gems there has been much more misery than fortune. Finlay's history is clearly narrative in nature. She is concerned with telling some of the most interesting stories behind the jewels. It is not a book that analyzes the larger social forces behind many of these changes. Still, this is an interesting book. Finlay gained access to many places most people cannot. She travelled to some of the most unforgiving parts of the world in search of the people who mine, cut, and sell valuable stones. Any jewelry-lover will likely find this book engaging.
Victoria Finlay, Jewels: A Secret History (Random House, 2007), ISBN: 0345466950