The Hercule Poirot Reading List: Death in the Clouds

BLOG“Life can be very terrible,” he said. “One needs much courage… Also to live,” said Poirot, “one needs courage.”

Within the confines of a commercial passenger plane, a woman is found dead just prior to landing. It is clear that the death did not occur naturally, and a poisoned dart is quickly discovered pointing to a murder by unusual means. How did someone manage to shoot a poisoned dart without anyone noticing? Seated in seat No. 9 is none other than Hercule Poirot who made many observations during the flight, noticing the passengers and their movements, but completely unaware of the dead body of the woman seated behind him. There is a plane full of suspects, a bizarre method of murder, and an unlikelihood of any of the passengers being able to execute it. But there must be an explanation, and there is no one more equipped to find it than the great Hercule Poirot.

“There’s nothing for anyone to be afraid of if they’re only telling the truth,” said the Scotland Yard man austerely. Poirot looked at him pityingly. “In verity, I believe that you yourself honestly believe that.”

Death in the Clouds is another solid mystery in the Hercule Poirot series, and one I particularly enjoyed. Having a murder mystery focus on the events that occurred on a passenger plane during flight was intriguing and the course of events was well explained. This included the cast of characters/suspects along with their actions leading up to the discovery of the body. The story held my attention and piqued my curiosity, never feeling confusing or convoluted in its execution. There is a fatherly side to Poirot in this novel, and as it turns out he has a romantic soul, which is a nice element of his character. He also comes across as wise and astute in his evaluation of criminal justice. An enjoyable novel with a compelling mystery that provides greater depth to the famous detective.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

BLOG“All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.”

A few days at an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands sounds like a great way to welcome the New Year. At least that is what it seemed like to a group of old college friends who had developed a tradition of getting together during that time of the year. Now that their lives have gone in different directions it has become the one time that they can all be together as a group. But fairly soon upon arrival it becomes clear that long held resentments are creeping up to the surface and that their friendship may have reached an expiry date, or maybe they were never quite friends at all.

They arrive on December 30th. Two days later, one of them is dead, and one of them is a killer.

“Some people, given just the right amount of pressure, taken out of their usual, comfortable environments, don’t need much encouragement at all to become monsters. And sometimes you just get a strong sense about people, and you can’t explain it; you simply know it, in some deeper part of yourself.”

As a fan of closed circle mysteries, the premise for The Hunting Party is one I am very much drawn to. And in anticipation of the author’s upcoming book, The Guest List, I had to give this one a go. Unfortunately it did not end up working for me at all. The story is told through multiple perspectives and jumps back and forth in time, from the moment of arrival and present day, gradually making its way to the reveal. The format itself is fine but I don’t know if it was the best choice here. There are many characters (arguably too many) but we get the point of view of five of them: two in present day, and three from two days prior to the murder. Considering it is a story about a group of friends, this felt off to me, and as a result there are many characters that feel one-dimensional and completely forgettable. I feel that having less characters and all of their points of view presented would have worked much better, adding to the suspense. Continue reading “The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley”

The Hercule Poirot Reading List: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

BLOG“No, my friend, I am not drunk. I have just been to the dentist, and need not return for another six months! Is it not the most beautiful thought?”

Poirot may be the world’s greatest detective, but he fears the dentist as much as many people do. So it is with great hesitation and plenty of nerves that he enters the offices of celebrated Dr. Morley. Following the examination he is relieved, never once imagining that he would be back at the dentist’s only hours later examining the body of Dr. Morley, apparently dead by suicide.

Having been in contact with the gentleman earlier in the day, Poirot cannot believe that the facts are exactly as they appear. Why would a celebrated dentist decide to kill himself that day? What may have occurred following Poirot’s exit from the office? A thorough investigation follows, as Poirot interviews the other patients and step by step starts to reconstruct the events of the day. But unexpected twists and turns lead to more questions and an even bigger mystery.

This was an interesting mystery that had my attention with every question posed and every unexplained occurrence. I wanted to know the why and the how and who, every step of the way. The piecing of a puzzle is always intriguing to me, and this book takes it up a level as it not only seeks answers to the original questions but also introduces a new mystery into the mix that is just as odd. It does feel like everything gets more and more complicated and at a point I stopped trying to figure things out and just went along with it. There are aspects to the story that walk the line between complex and convoluted, but I did not mind that so much. Overall a solid, cozy mystery.

The Hercule Poirot Reading List: Five Little Pigs

BLOG“What are you going to do?”
“I am going to visit these five people – and from each one I am going to get his or her own story.”
Superintendent Hale sighed with a deep melancholy.
He said: “Man, you’re nuts! None of their stories are going to agree! Don’t you grasp that elementary fact? No two people remember a thing in the same order anyway. And after all this time! Why, you’ll hear five accounts of five separate murders!
“That,” said Poirot, “is what I am counting upon. It will be very instructive.”

Anytime I have trouble focusing on reading, I grab an Agatha Christie mystery to get back in the swing of things. This time around I picked up Five Little Pigs, and it was the perfect book and the perfect time to read it. I quickly became immersed in the mystery and could not put it down until all the answers were revealed.

In Five Little Pigs, the daughter of a woman convicted of murder asks Hercule Poirot to find out the truth regarding her deceased mother’s case. It is sixteen years after the fact, and having been just a child when the crime occurred, she remembers little and wants the facts set straight as she embarks on her own future. Poirot decides to take on the case, carefully interviewing those involved, with the focus on five main suspects who bring to mind an old nursery rhyme:

Philip Blake (the stockbroker) who went to market; Meredith Blake (the amateur herbalist) who stayed at home; Elsa Greer (the three-time divorcee) who had roast beef; Cecilia Williams (the devoted governess) who had none; and Angela Warren (the sister) who cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home. Continue reading “The Hercule Poirot Reading List: Five Little Pigs”

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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“Never believe your own lies.”

When Hal receives an unexpected letter stating that she is set to receive an inheritance, she realizes very quickly that there has been a mistake. But her financial situation and current dangerous circumstances leads her to reconsider ignoring the summons. Her skills at reading people make her a person who just may pull this off, and get away with an inheritance that would change her life and provide security she hasn’t felt in a long time. All too soon she finds herself at the funeral of Mrs. Westaway, and as the supposed long lost granddaughter, she is surrounded by a cast of characters that comprise her long lost family. It becomes clear that there are deeply buried secrets and something sinister at the centre of this inheritance. Continue reading “The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware”