“The rage is growing inside me, overtaking the shock and grief. I can feel it blossoming up behind my ribs. It’s almost a relief, how it obliterates every other feeling in its path.”
An exclusive event. An isolated location. A creepy, foreboding atmosphere.
An island off the coast of Ireland is the perfect location for the wedding of a charismatic television celebrity and an ambitious magazine publisher. The guests consist of new acquaintances and old friends. As the wedding party assembles it becomes all too clear that there are layers to every relationship and a history of deep-seated resentment. The circumstances of the unsettling events of the wedding day are gradually revealed through flashbacks to past interactions, bringing to light past secrets.
If there is one genre in which I will pick up a much-hyped book every time, it is absolutely the mystery/thriller. In recent months, The Guest List has been that book that was a must-read in new releases, and needless to say I had to give it a read. As is the case with a lot of hyped books, for me, this one fell below expectations. Having read the author’s previous mystery novel, The Hunting Party, in anticipation of the new release, I feel that the format and characters just simply doesn’t click with me. While I have absolutely no issue with unlikeable characters in stories, many characters presented here are next level unlikeable and wholly unsympathetic. This is to the point that I was less intrigued by the story unfolding and more annoyed. The use of different perspectives does work well and I had no problem keeping track of characters. However, because I found many of the characters quite awful, I did not want to spend a lot of time on their perspective. The story does really take off around 250 pages in and becomes a true page-turner. I found myself completely immersed and eager to see how everything would unfold and wrap-up. The way the twists are revealed is especially well done, and although I did see one of them coming it still had an impact. And when it is all said and done, the ending was quite satisfying. I only wish it was as exciting getting there.
“Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.”
The first novel in the Hercule Poirot series, The Mysterious Affair at Styles marks the beginning of the adventures of the famous detective. In my reading of Agatha Christie novels over the years I remember picking up this first Poirot and eventually setting it aside, unfinished. I simply could not get into the story. So, when I decided to tackle the full Poirot reading list, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was one I was not particularly excited to get to. However, upon reading it, I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it well enough. It is certainly not a favourite and I will likely not recall much of it down the line, but it was enjoyable enough to read in the moment. So, what is The Mysterious Affair at Styles?
The mysterious affair is the very mysterious death of Emily Inglethorp, a wealthy lady murdered in her locked bedroom. How did the killer enter and leave without any notice? There is no shortage of possible suspects but the circumstances are mysterious indeed. Enter Hercule Poirot, in his debut as the brilliant and oh so memorable detective.
The mystery drew me in and I was genuinely curious to see not only who committed the crime, but also how it played out. Initially, I did find it tough to keep track of the characters and who was who. There are a lot of descriptions and the way things are presented was somewhat tedious to follow. The most surprising aspect of the novel was the character of Hastings, Poirot’s sidekick, if you will. I cannot express how irritating this character is. An aspiring detective who is so beyond dense and clueless it is quite baffling. The fact that he has a desire to be a detective and believes himself to be an observant person becomes laughable at a certain point. Having read many Poirot books over the years, I don’t remember ever having an issue with this character. I am interested to follow the evolution of Hastings as I make my way through all the books in the series. While The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not a particularly memorable story, I do feel it is a solid first novel in what became an intriguing set of mysteries and brought to life the unique character of detective Poirot.
“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.
“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”
“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.