How can I possibly be three reviews behind again? I'd say, 'Answers on a postcard' but no one sends those any more...
Anyhow, without further mutterings, I'll start with my first book for the Back to the Classics challenge. I decided to start with an easy one, 'Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic' and my choice for that was The 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie.
Elspeth McGillicuddy is on her way to St. Marymead on the late afternoon train when she witnesses a murder on a train going the other way - a man strangling a woman. She reports it but the police can find no evidence of a murder and put it down to an elderly woman being woolly-minded and mistaken. Miss Marple is the only one who knows that her friend doesn't make mistakes like that and starts to look into the situation. Pinpointing where she thinks the killing took place and thus a large house that might be involved, Miss Marple engages a friend, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to help. Lucy is a Domestic Goddess type who goes around being a temporary housekeeper to those in need of assistance. A sensible, level-headed woman who gets a position at the house to see what's what. The family is called Crackenthorpe and the situation is a real can of worms with a miserly, elderly head of the household who lives with his daughter, but who also has three sons who're waiting for their father to die as they need his money. But how is all this connected to what Mrs. McGillicuddy saw on the train? Well, I'd seen the excellent Joan Hickson version of this on TV, but 'years' ago and had no memory of who'd done the deed, so the book was really completely new to me other than I did remember Lucy the up-market housekeeper and the two young boys who liven proceedings up. Not that it needs much livening up as there's heaps going on in this and it's an absolute joy to read. A gem. Lovely humour running right through and my favourite bits are always Miss Marple's observations on people being like someone in her village who did some awful thing or was dishonest in a mean-spirited way and how you never can tell 'what' people will do. There was no question of me giving this anything other than 5 stars on Goodreads. Joyous.
Next up, Future Crimes: Mysteries and Detection Through Time and Space edited by Mike Ashley. This was a free book courtesy of The British Library publishing people in exchange for a fair review.
All in all not the best of the British Library anthologies I've read but those three stories and a few others that weren't bad made it well worth a read.
Lastly, a novella recommended by other bloggers, including Sam and Tracy, All Systems Red, the first in the 'Murderbot' sci-fi series by Martha Wells.
The Murderbot, who narrates the story, is actually a security unit who is half robot, half human. These units get hired out to people exploring other planets, looking for resources or archaeology - that kind of thing - to look after security for them. Murderbot has disabled his governing system, which all sec-units have, making him basically a rogue unit, but the human party he's with don't know this. From the story we gather that humans generally regard these 'bots' as machines that you don't communicate with or consider at all really and Murderbot quite likes it that way. His way to pass the time is watching old TV shows from the archives. Things start to go pear-shaped when he saves a couple of his crew from a native man-eating animal that wasn't supposed to be there. The maps they have aren't right either. They head off to warn/consult another exploring group and... well that would be a spoiler. Suffice to say that this 155 page novella is fast-paced and exciting but most interesting for me was The Murderbot himself. I wasn't quite sure why he was so frightened of interacting with the humans, there's more to that perhaps. He can't understand why he cares about this group so much and doesn't like it one bit. All very interesting, as is the ending. Look forward to reading on in this series and discovering more about the Murderbot's explorations of the galaxy and of his own thoughts and emotions. Again, I can't say I've read anything like this before.
A few more days and January will be behind us. Unbelievable. Hope your reading month has been a good one?