The second trailer for Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express was released a few days ago. People are probably furious or something. Me, I’ve already said everythingI intend to about the movie until I actually see it and shall not be discussing it here beyond a few brief mentions, but it got me thinking some about character and plot and so this is a sort of Part Three to follow up on parts One and Two on this topic before.
Finding new authors to read is a curious mix of recommendations and speculation. I started reading Rupert Penny because he appeared on this list, but then the joy of Max Afford and Norman Berrow followed purely because they were reprinted by the same publisher, Fender Tucker’s Ramble House. Such an approach has typicallygonewell, and while the care of my choosing could be a factor here, I prefer to think that it’s because RH generally publish very good — and if not very good then at least interesting — books. Thus, picking up this book by Vivian at the end of last year was pure “Well, it’s a Ramble House reprint” speculation, and a simple hope to continue my generally good run from them.
Guys, I miss The Tuesday Night Bloggers; the passing of Agatha Christie’s 127th birthday last week really brought this home to me. For the uninitiated, the TNBs was essentially an autonomous collective of bloggers who would pick a topic each month and put up a blog post on that topic on, well, the relevant Tuesdays. It came out of the celebration of Christie’s 125th birthday — I was but a wee nascent glint in the internet’s eye at the time — and continued in various forms up until possibly March or so of this year, since when it seems to’ve been on indefinite hiatus.
The following will discuss specific details of the plot of The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot (1964), the second novel in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. I suppose you could consider such details spoilers. However, it’s a book with many flaws that I can’t believe the average reader of this blog would get much from, and the need to go into specifics is necessary in order to have a more interesting discussion. Nevertheless, I’d hate to drop spoilers on you without warning. Thus whether or not to continue reading is, as always, your choice.
The mere existence of The Guggenheim Mystery is almost a piece of mystery metafiction in itself: the title was discovered among Siobhan Dowd’s papers following her untimely death in 2007, implying its intention as the follow-up to her impossible disappearance novel for younger readers, The London Eye Mystery (2007)…but no more was known. It fell to Robin Stevens to puzzle out a plot from these waifish beginnings and so continue the adventures of Ted Spark, his sister Kat, and their cousin Salim. So here we are — a painting disappears from the eponymous art gallery, the police jump on the most likely suspect, and it falls to this intrepid trio to hunt out the truth, recover the painting, and save the day.
It is tremendously difficult to write about gender these days without appearing to be trying to sneak through some (usually unpleasant) agenda. If anything in the following causes any reader jump to such a conclusion about my intentions, I urge that hypothetical reader to take a glance through any selection of posts on this site — all written by the author of what you’re reading now — to assure themselves that this in no way features in my plans. I am simply, out of curiosity, asking a question that happens to involve gender.
And the question is this: Has Golden Age Detective fiction been subjected to a deliberate feminisation? And, if so, to what end?
First thing first: yes, I’m aware that the 2017 Collins Crime Club edition of this novel — for which I am eternally grateful, since it has enabled me to read it in the first place — has been reissued with the title Inspector French and the Sea Mystery. What can I say? I’m a stickler for origins, and so am reviewing it under the original title. My delight at having Crofts back in print is undimmed, and if building an MCU-esque awareness through uniformity in titles helps the books gain popularity and leads to even more Crofts back in print, hell, I’m all for it. And, while we’re on the subject of these new editions, the covers are exquisite — simple, direct, clean, beautifully evocative…a great job.
I don’t watch much TV. I’m not going to be pompous about it, I just don’t. Recently, however, I came into possession of the complete run — seven seasons, approximately 800 DVDs — of the US show The Mentalist and was intrigued enough to give it a look. If this is new territory to you, it stars Simons Baker as Patrick Jane, an ex-psychic who following a personal tragedy now helps the seemingly-autonomous California Bureau of Investigation with his keen insight into the crimes they are called to solve.
Immediately prior to interviewing Robin Stevens for The Men Who Explain Miracles, I discovered that she had written a short story for 2016 YA anthology Mystery & Mayhem. And then I discovered that the first three stories in the collection were impossible crimes and, well, you can guess what happened next…