Death on the Nile

Rating: *****
One of my favorite Christie novels: intense, emotional and moving, from start to finish, I'm involved one hundred percent in the story. I've re-read the mystery more times than I can count and yet every time I pick it up, I'm engrossed. The twists and turns, the character portrayals, the happy and unhappy endings, all go towards making this book one of Agatha Christie's best.

OK, I'm over-selling it.........that way you'll pick it up and think WTH? I thought this was supposed to be awesome! Moving on to the summary.....

Jackie's honeymoon doesn't end up as she had planned - especially since she's not even on it! Things take an unexpected turn when her fiance falls for her best friend, the young, rich and beautiful Linnet Ridgeway. Jackie is convinced that Linnet went all out for Simon and didn't give a thought to their friendship, and her revenge is simple: follow Linnet everywhere on her honeymoon. Be the thorn in the new couple's happiness. But would she commit murder? It looks like it when Linnet is found murdered - shot through the head. Simon is convinced of Jackie's innocence and it seems he is right. Jackie simply couldn't have done it. But then, who else has a grudge against the young heiress?

Simon is oblivious, but lucky for him, Poirot happens to be on the same cruise and has formed opinions of his own. Can it be that Linnet was murdered, not for love and revenge, but for her money? The suspects on the boat increase with this new motive and Poirot has his work cut out for him. Luckily he meets an old friend, Colonel Race, who is on board for a secret mission of his own. With plenty of motives to go around, the truth stays pretty well hidden.

Some thoughts
The murder was very well planned - but that wasn't what kept me interested. It's the play of all the characters involved and the emotional drama that keeps you hooked. Jackie and Linnet may hold center stage, but there are plenty of other interesting characters who manage to attract attention.

Sparkling Cyanide

Rating: ***
It has been one year since Rosemary's death. One long year in which her husband George Barton, her sister Iris, her lover Stephen Farraday and his wife Sandra, George's secretary Ruth Lessing, and finally attractive and charming Anthony Browne, have had time to obsess and hold on to their secrets and feelings towards Rosemary's suicide.

But was it suicide?! The shocking idea awakens everyone from a stupor and brings the idea of murder into the forefront. Surely there was something odd about Rosemary's suicide? Depression was too weak a motive for someone so vivacious and full of life. Iris for one, has begun to doubt once her brother-in-law and guardian shows her anonymous letters which question the suicide. George intends to recreate the fatal dinner. With the other guests skeptical, things become serious when George gives a toast to Iris's health, takes a sip of champagne, and dies choking on the table.......

With a murder committed the authorities have no choice but to look deeper into the circumstances of Rosemary's death. Secrets are bound to come out and someone might do anything to keep that from happening. At one point, it seems everyone at the table that night had a secret..but who is guilty? Iris hopes not Anthony Browne..........

Some thoughts
The characters were pretty charming. OK, I'm only thinking about Anthony Browne! The murder takes place in the fast set and the police have to sift through a lot of controversies, affairs, and jealousies. The rich and entitled it seems, are not so different from the rest of us.

In Sparkling Cyanide, also known as Remembered Death, we see one of Christie's frequently appearing characters, Colonel Race. Colonel Race mostly appears as a side detective alongside the more popular Hercule Poirot or Superintendent Battle, but in this case, he is the lead sleuth assisting the police.

The novel is slightly reminiscent of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in that all six suspects on Rosemary's death reveal their feelings, in a separate chapter, of the night of the death - only one of them is the murderer and is not revealing all the facts. The novel also has the same plot as Christie's previous short story titled Yellow Iris. The novel in itself is well written and interesting, but it has the same tricks we see in all the other novels: the preconceived idea of the murder, everybody-has-a-motive type of case, and finally the illusion to make us think that the second murder was a direct result of the first - it is all cleverly planned, but has been done so often before that a seasoned Agatha Christie reader should pick up on it at once.

The Phantom of the Opera

The opera is haunted: so learn the new owners on the eve of their becoming managers. Choosing to view it as a practical joke, Monsieurs Richard and Moncharmin refuse to take the Opera Ghost seriously. The demands of money, the reservation of Box Five - all these things seem like a way to get money out of the managers. But things reach a dangerous peak when a death occurs - orchestrated by the Phantom; or so everyone believes. Who is this mysterious phantom and how does he make his presence felt without ever being seen? Is the Opera House really haunted? or is there some mysterious figure lurking in the depths of the building?

It is young Christine Daae who first discovers the lair of the Opera Ghost. Her actions and consequent disappearance causes Raoul, her childhood friend, to investigate with the help of the mysterious Persian who seems to know all that is going on.....

Weird, improbable, yet oddly fascinating - that's how I found The Phantom of the Opera. The whole concept of the entire underground system of the opera seems unreal, and yet it is actual fact! The phantom, or 'Opera Ghost' is an uncanny creature who pops up here and there keeping the workers at the opera on their toes and rules like a king. His various gifts, cultivated in the face of his hideous face, allowed him to haunt the opera. His ventriloquism, his penchant for building traps and contraptions - all aided him in his mysterious home underneath the Opera House.

Poor Erik. I was more inclined to say 'Poor Christine and Raoul'; but then I didn't know Erik's story before he took to haunting the Opera. Erik wasn't the normal hero you would feel sympathy for: he was cruel, sadistic, evil and selfish, but all the while you felt his handicap and pitied him. His psychological representation was eerie and he fluctuated between despair and intense devotion. His obsession with Christine Daae leads to his downfall and also unlocks the little good left in him.

This book is a part of my New Author Challenge 2012. The Phantom of the Opera is my first book by Gaston Leroux and was a good experience. I just might pick up other books by him.

Sleeping Murder

Murder always finds Miss Marple; even murder from a generation ago. While staying with her nephew Raymond, Miss Marple meets Gwenda Reed - a distant cousin's wife. Gwenda suffers a shock when a play stirs up dormant memories of a murder committed in her childhood.

Rating: *****

Miss Marple is intrigued by what newly married Gwenda remembers. Worried, her advice to Gwenda and her husband is to leave it alone; but the youthful pair have ideas of their own and before they know it they are in the thick of the mystery and have to face some horrible revelations. Who is this mysterious Helen Gwenda saw strangled at the foot of the stairs? Is it someone she knew? And the deadliest question of all: was her father a murderer? The murder takes her into a maze of truths which Miss Marple had foreseen, but once they begin looking into the sleeping murder, they have to end with the truth.

Some thoughts
One of my favorite Miss Marple mysteries. The characters Gwenda and Giles are endearing in their newly married happiness. The whole homey feeling of buying a new house and settling in gives a nice atmosphere to the novel - along with the mystery of the murder!

The detection in this novel was superb with the final revelation coming as a surprise and yet somehow strangely fitting. As in most Christie novels, the case begins with a supposition which the characters drag on till the end, when Christie masterfully shows us what absurd idiots we have been to believe what we are told instead of going by the evidence alone. And yet, somehow, one never learns and the whole clever trick is played successfully again!

The Moonstone

Colonel Herncastle enacts his final revenge when he leaves the Moonstone, a huge Indian diamond, to his sister's daughter, Rebecca. The Moonstone is not just any diamond; its size aside, the stone holds a curse that changes the holder's life. The diamond plays havoc with Rebecca and her family breaking them apart. A romance as well as a detective story, the diamond and its theft remains the center interest, with the reader as invested in the result as the protagonists.

There is something about Wilkie Collins that I just love. The reading is so easy and fluid that I can go on for hours without tiring of the storyline or wishing it to move quicker! The story is first picked up by one character and than another, relating the story of the diamond from its origin in India to the final result with first hand experiences related.

I liked the character portrayals of Franklin, Rachel, Godfrey and it was pleasant to read the interactions between the characters, the development of the relationship between Rachel and Franklin, its low-point and its final resolution. Although the story was plausible, I was a little let-down by the truth behind the theft of the diamond. I had been expecting an elaborate scheme, the type we find in Agatha Christie, and was looking forward to a complex and exceedingly clever plan. But although the theft itself was not what I had expected, the characters and the rest of the story involving the relationships and personalities was well written. Even the character Ezra Jennings, who appeared late in the novel, was unique and interesting.