Friday, 15 March 2019

Catching up on crime novels

First up, Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie. This qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the September category of 'Author's birth month'.

There are nine stories in this anthology, seven Miss Marple stories and two supernatural. Some of my favourite stories: Sanctuary, where Miss Marple and her god-daughter, Bunch Harmon, a vicar's wife, join forces to solve the mystery of a dead man in the church. The Case of the Perfect Maid where Miss Marple's maid asks her to help her friend, Gladdie, who's been dismissed from her job as a maid with two sisters. Very ingenious solution to this one. The Dressmaker's Doll, a supernatural story about a doll in a dressmaker's shop which moves of its own accord. In a Glass Darkly, another wierd tale, a man dressing in front of a mirror sees a strangling reflected in said mirror, when he turns around there's nothing there. Greenshaw's Folly is a tale of a new will, witnessed by Miss Marple's nephew, Raymond. The writer of the will is then murdered with an arrow... this is another story with an ingenious solution.

This was an all round excellent anthology. I enjoyed every story and thought the two supernatural tales were particularly good. I'm also very taken with Christie's use of humour in her books. I don't think she gets full credit for this and it certainly isn't reflected in the very latest TV adaptations. This, from The Perfect Maid made me giggle:

The dim light showed her to be a thin, indecisive-looking creature, with a good deal of greyish-yellow hair untidily wound around her head and errupting into curls, the whole thing looking like a bird's nest of which no self-respecting bird could be proud.

Wonderful. I've reserved another Miss Marple anthology, Thirteen Guests, from the library.

Next, The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin by Georges Simenon. This qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the December category of 'A book title starting with the letter D' (the 'The' doesn't count). I'm also using it as my first book for The European Reading Challenge 2019 as it is set in Belgium.

Rene Delfosse and Jean Chabot are two young lads out on the town in Liége, in Belgium. The bar they're in is known as a bit of a den of iniquity and it makes the boys feel grown-up being there. They're keeping company with a dancer, Adéle, who suddenly moves away to entertain a man who appears to be from Greece. Also present, drinking in the bar, is a heavily built Frenchman that no one has seen before. The two boys are up to no good. They have a plan to hide in the cellars after closing time, creep back up to the bar, and rob the till. Putting their plan into action it all goes smoothly, until they realise there's a dead body behind the bar. It's the Greek looking gentleman from earlier in the evening. Terrified, the boys make a run for it thinking they can just disappear and no one will be any the wiser, but they've reckoned without the heavily built Frenchman...

Not my favourite Maigret so far (Maigret in Holland, The Misty Harbour, The Judge's House, Maigret and the Flemish Shop) but enjoyable nevertheless. Nice sense of the city of Liége during the wars, it was Simenon's home city and his love for it shows. The two feckless lads, one from a rich family, the other a poorish one, are depicted as rather amoral. Simenon picked one of them to concentrate on and the boy's increasing sense of desperation as he tries to hide his crimes from his parents and steer clear of the police is very well portrayed. I gave it a 3 star rating on Goodreads, rounded down from 3.5 as they don't do halves on there. For me it was not one of his best as it lacked the atmosphere of some of the novels I mentioned previously. I must admit I do enjoy these occasional Maigret reads and what a shame ITV have seen fit to cancel their excellent series with Rowan Atkinson, I felt it had a lot of potential.



(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This post reminded my that I have 5 unread A.Christie books on my shelves that I need to get too soon. I do love her style. Hope you enjoy the upcoming weekend.

Kay said...

I love Christie's short stories and I also like reading her plays. Have you read those? Lovely. I want to reread all the stories and the plays before long. Maybe I should just try one a day.

Nan said...

I am quite sure I haven't read this collection, but Greenshaw's Folly sounds familiar. I spent a lot of time with Agatha a few years ago, and I so enjoyed all my reading. Such a good writer, and I think that she is underrated, perhaps because she is so familiar.
I keep thinking I should like Simenon, but there is a quality I don't care for in the ones I've read. I can't put my finger on what it is, though.
I so agree about the television Maigret. I thought RA was perfect, and I loved the woman who played his wife. And I loved their place!

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I've read some of Agatha Christie's short stories, but the only one of these you mention in Miss Marple's Final Cases that I've read is Greenshaw's Folly, although the other stories are also in another collection I have 'Miss Marple and Mysteries'. I find it confusing that her short stories have been published in so many different collections but am slowly working my way through them.

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin isn't my favourite Maigret either, but as you say it has a nice sense of the city of Liége during the wars. And it's such a shame that ITV have cancelled their Maigret series with Rowan Atkinson - he was very good in the role and I enjoyed the programmes - I hadn't known about that!

Cath said...

Diane: I never used to read AC at all. In fact I think I looked down on her crime novels as being too simplistic, not well written. I've had a complete epiphany over them since then and now think quite the opposite, especially since I read her autobiography which is written in the same amusing, tongue-in-cheek, way that her Poirot books are written. I now think she was utterly brilliant.

Kay: No, I haven't read her plays, don't know much about them to be honest, so thanks for bringing them to my attention, I will look into that.

Nan: I'd never heard of this collection until I spotted it in the Large Print section of my library. That part of the library is not frequented by many people so there're often little gems hidden away amongst the books.

Yes, I think AC is under-rated due to being so familiar. I've had people say, 'Oh no, you're not into *her* are you?' I then find they change the subject so quickly I don't have a chance to defend poor Agatha.

I actually do understand why you don't like the Maigret books and I wonder if it's something to do with the translations. Not sure. I am sure I loved the TV series and yes, they picked the right actress to play his wife, she was perfect.

Margaret: Yes, it took me a while to work out that the other volume of Miss Marple short stories I should read was Thirteen Guests. All the other anthologies seemed to have mainly the same stories. Possibly she didn't write all that many?

Yes, I was really quite upset about the TV series of Maigret. I only discovered it myself when I went looking for the Christmas Maigret that ITV usually air. I couldn't see it anywhere so Googled it, which was when I discovered that ITV have cancelled it. Very disappointed, felt that Rowan Atkinson had nailed the part and was just getting into his stride. All the rubbish they *could* cancel and they choose something really excellent.

Judith said...

Which of the Maigret books has been your favorite thus far, Cath?
I'm quite fond of Agatha, myself, even though I haven't picked one up in at least 15 years.
You've said in the past that March is a good reading month for you. I hope you have time to indulge for the rest of this month.

Cath said...

Judith: A few of the titles I've enjoyed - Maigret in Holland, The Misty Harbour, The Judge's House, Maigret and the Flemish Shop, Lock 44. All of these have unusual settings and a lot of atmosphere. The first two, for instance, were lonely, windswept, 'by the sea' books and Simenon did that very well. I don't always get on with the Paris based ones quite so well.

Yes, March often is a good reading month, not sure how this one will pan out but at the moment it's fairly average. We shall see.