‘From the way she spoke I got the impression — it’s only an impression, mark you — that the man she was speaking of was at least her social equal. Of course, I may be wrong.’Murder is Easy, Agatha Christie
‘You’re probably quite right! Those nuances of conversation can’t be put down in black and white, but they’re the sort of things one doesn’t really make mistakes about.’
Murder is Easy has a very strong opening. I love Luke, seeing Miss Pinkerton as an old aunt of his, listening to her describe the string of murders that has happened in her hometown. It’s quite similar to the opening of By the Pricking of My Thumbs in that Luke, Tuppence and Miss Pinkerton are all a bit vague about what exactly is happening and where. I think I prefer that to Poirot’s being called in on cases in a fairly official manner. I particularly love the quotation above, where Luke describes something he sensed from Miss Pinkerton without her putting it into words. I absolutely believe that this kind of thing is possible, and I find it fascinating. My go-to example is that native English speakers inherently know the correct order of adjectives when describing something without ever being taught this as a rule. Our brains can follow rules and infer things without us being able to point to exactly how it’s done, and that’s really cool!
The opening is not the only thing Murder is Easy has in common with By the Pricking of My Thumbs. The murderers also have things in common, though I won’t say what in the hopes that I don’t spoil the books for anyone. The murderer in Murder is Easy is one of my favourites in the Christie-verse, though I have to say they didn’t strike me quite as delightfully as they usually do this time around.
‘Liking is more important than loving. It lasts. I want what is between us to last, Luke. I don’t want us just to love each other and marry and get tired of each other and then want to marry some one else.’Murder is Easy, Agatha Christie
‘Oh! my dear Love, I know. You want reality. So do I. What’s between us will last forever because it’s founded on reality.’
Last time I read Murder is Easy, I found the romance between Luke and Bridget utterly charming. This time, it felt as though it came out of nowhere and I didn’t particularly appreciate it. It’s amazing how differently things can strike you at different times. This was also the first time I felt a little uneasy about Luke, on very little actual evidence, breaking into the house of one of the people he suspected. I do still like the end, with its focus on a foundation of liking each other rather than a storm of passion.
As far as I’m concerned, you can rarely go wrong with an Agatha Christie. This might not be one of my favourites now, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable, and I still enjoy the solution to the mystery very much! I was also impressed with the neat transparency of Agatha Christie’s prose.
Previous in the series: Feeling Sorry for Celia.
I love Finding Cassie Crazy for a lot of the same reasons I love Saving Francesca — the friendship between the main female characters, and the love stories that unfold. Jaclyn Moriarty does a really great job of balancing these two elements so that neither one overshadows the other. There’s always something to keep me turning the pages, and while I don’t find the humour as side-splitting as I did the first few times, the letters/diaries are still charming and easy to read.
I once had an appointment with her to Gaze into the Girl’s Eyes, which she went and cancelled on me, and I’ve been waiting all term for a chance to Kiss the Girl. Finding Cassie Crazy, Jaclyn Moriarty
Previously, I think I would have identified the romances as my favourite part, but this time around, it was Cassie. I identify with her so strongly, especially her urge to invite someone to keep hurting her over and over. When I was a teenager, I had an anonymous troll who’d belittle me and my life in cyberspace, but I never wanted to ban anonymous comments. It sounds ‘crazy’, but, though Cassie’s reasons are different than mine, I find them totally believable.
Sometimes, bits of craziness escape into the outside me. Like, I get addicted to writing a letter to a boy who hates my guts.Finding Cassie Crazy, Jaclyn Moriarty
For me, this is definitely a step up from Feeling Sorry for Celia: there’s more going on, more interwoven stories, but the same warmth and heart to keep the reader engaged. I can’t remember enough about Becoming Bindy Mackenzie right now to state a preference between the second two books in the series. I suppose I’ll have to read it again to find out!
Next in the series: Becoming Bindy Mackenzie.
The Atrocity Archives is my second experience of the crossover between fantasy and spy fiction. Charles Stross’s prose worked a lot better for me than Hannu Rajaniemi‘s — though, I’m not sure I can accurately say that I really understood all of the more maths-heavy sections. They didn’t sound stilted, but the technical terms also didn’t really mean anything to me. My favourite parts of The Atrocity Archive were when Bob was explaining things to Mo, because that was more at a level I could actually understand.
A more engaged reader would have got a lot more out of The Atrocity Archive than I think I did. The horror section when Bob and his team are exploring another dimension was good, but I think it would have hit harder if I’d spotted the signs of what was happening a little earlier.
I’m not a person who creates vivid mental images as I’m reading, and I wonder if that might be why action-heavy books don’t work for me as well as they do for other people. I’m just reading the words, hearing them in my head, so while it’s still exciting because I want to know what’s going to happen to the characters, it doesn’t hook me.
We remain convinced that this is the best defensive posture to adopt in order to minimise casualties when the Great Old Ones return from beyond the stars to eat our brains.Concrete Jungle, Charles Stross
My copy of The Atrocity Archives included Concrete Jungle, which I enjoyed more. There was more myth, and less maths, and that suited me far better. I liked seeing Charles Stross’s take on Medusa. I still had the same problem with the action sequences: I preferred the build-up to the climax of the story for that reason.
These were definitely well-written stories, with lots of interesting ideas, but just not quite the right fit for me.
This must be at least my third time reading Adam Bede and yet, I always expect it to be more difficult than it is. It’s hard to say whether that’s because it gets easier every time, or just that I’ve somehow stored an incorrect impression. Admittedly, some of the accents in the dialogue take a little getting used to, but even that hardly drew me out of the story this time around.
“It ‘ud have been a good deal better for her if she’d been uglier and had more conduct,” said the landlady, who on any charitable construction must have been supposed to have more ‘conduct’ than beauty.Adam Bede, George Eliot
Though they’re not the kind of people I meet in real life, Adam Bede‘s characters are great. Hetty and Arthur are especially sympathetic, even as they’re behaving in ways you wish they wouldn’t. You can see the consequences of their actions coming a mile off, which makes the plot feel grounded and realistic. The only character I had a slight problem with was Dinah, whose religious fervour is a little less appealing in 2021 than it may have been in 1799. I particularly disliked the moment when she made Bessy Cranage feel bad for liking pretty earrings. Even so, by the end, I was rooting for Dinah’s happiness as much as anyone else.
She was not preaching as she heard others preach, but speaking directly from her own emotions and under the inspiration of her own simple faith.Adam Bede, George Eliot
George Eliot indulges in a few metafictional digressions, one of which I really enjoyed on this particular read. At the same time, a couple of the detailed descriptions of the countryside or farm life came at highly suspenseful moments when I really just wanted to experience the next stage of the plot and was cursing Eliot for not getting there as quickly as I’d like.
The climax of the story I thought was very well done. Despite having read it before, I’d forgotten enough of the plot details that I was briefly concerned I might be expected to think a purely religious ending was satisfying. George Eliot pulled through and actually delivered as happy a resolution at that moment as could be realistic. The actual ending of Adam Bede doesn’t feel rushed exactly, I was pleased with how much time it was given to develop, but it does feel just a little bit tacked on.
Even so, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this reread. It’s definitely one I’ll keep coming back to.