A couple of books to catch up on today because, as usual, I'm behind with my reviews.
First up, Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie.
This book was written in 1955 (I was two!) and aside from some attitudes in places being 'of the time' it could've been written yesterday. They say, 'The more things change, the more they stay the same' and it's so true. *SPOILER ALERT* I had no idea drug smuggling was such a problem in the 1950s. That people went to great lengths to establish smuggling rings or the tricks they got up to... exactly as they do now of course. Poirot doesn't actually appear in this one a great deal. It concentrates more or less exclusivly on the students living in the lodging house, their lives, their attitudes... especially towards students from foreign countries or who're less well off. It made for very interesting reading. You can learn as much about social history by reading something like this as you can by reading text books in my opinion. Thoroughly enjoying these occasional Agatha Christie reads, my respect for her has grown and grown.
Lastly, From the Depths and Other Strange Tales of the Sea edited by Mike Ashley.
Anyway, this was rather a good volume of short stories. For me, the stories got better as the book progressed. At the start, several were about being becalmed in the Sargasso sea, stuck in terrible seaweed, that kind of thing. And those were fine, very readable. But story number seven, The Mystery of the Water-logged ship by William Hope-Hodgson, about men boarding a floating wreck and then constantly disappearing, was really creepy and atmospheric and started a run of similarly good tales. I liked the story the title was taken from, From the Depths by F. Britten Austin, a World War Two tale which combined the supernatural and with a sort of spy yarn. Clever. Devereux's Last Smoke by Izola Forrester was a 'tip of a cigar' ghost story, really well written, claustrophobic in atmosphere as it takes place on a fogbound Atlantic liner. The High Seas by Elinor Mordaunt tells the story of twins boys, one big and a bully, the other small and bullied. Really good story-telling in this one and an excellent sense of place in Rye on the south coast of England. But for me, the best story of the whole bunch was The Soul-Saver by American writer, Morgan Burke. A ruthless and cruel captain kills one of his crew and then claims a white mouse that's appeared from nowhere is the dead sailor's soul. Superb story-telling, New England jumps off the pages at you, and I loved the story's wierdness. The final story of the volume, No Ships Pass by Lady Eleanor Smith was also an odd one. Mike Ashley felt it could have been the inspiration for the TV series, Lost and I can see why. A ship-wrecked sailor washes up on an island, where he finds four other people, one of them a pirate captain who has been marooned there for over a hundred years. Odd story and again, well written.
All in all a good, solid anthology, a few average stories but also quite a few really good ones which were very satisfying. I now have The British Library 'werewolf' anthology to read, Silver Bullets, selected by Eleanor Dobson. A happy bunny am I.