The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Classic #4)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Classic #4)

Shelved: Adult fiction (mystery/crime, classic)
Series: Hercule Poirot (#4)
Published: 1926 by William Collins and Sons
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics – #4
Buy: Foyles
More: Goodreads

This is my fourth post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 450+ other people in reading one classic each month.

Roger Ackroyd was a man who knew too much. He knew the woman he loved had poisoned her first husband. He knew someone was blackmailing her – and now he knew she had taken her own life with a drug overdose.

Soon the evening post would let him know who the mystery blackmailer was. But Ackroyd was dead before he’d finished reading it – stabbed through the neck where he sat in his study…

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I received it in 2012 for Christmas. I’m not sure why I asked for this one in particular, but it’s likely that I scrolled through Goodreads to see which ones were her most popular (it’s currently her fifth most read book).

“It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.”

WHY I Chose to Read It
It was time for my annual dose of Agatha Christie! I’ve (mostly) read one a year for the classics challenge: Murder on the Orient Express (2014), Death on the Nile (2013) and And Then There Were None (2012).

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Agatha Christie is one of the most well-known and beloved crime writers. If she’s not a classic of the genre, who is? The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of her most popular mysteries, known to have a shocking twist, and apparently had a significant impact on the mystery/crime genre. It was voted by the British Crime Writers’ Association as the best crime novel ever.

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is narrated by Dr James Sheppard, who lives in the fictional village of King’s Abbot. He’s a great narrator: full of wit, light mockery and surprising vivaciousness. He’s shocked when he receives a phone call saying that his friend Roger has been found dead. Dr Sheppard knows it must have occurred shortly after Roger received a letter from someone who blackmailed the woman he adored into committing suicide – but does anyone else? He calls on as many people as he can (even his gossipy sister!) to help solve the murder. As with previous Christie novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is full of clever detail, interviews with fishy suspects, and a lot of surprises.

It was my third Hercule Poirot and I enjoyed his character a lot more than I have previously. I’ve not found him to be memorable but, this time, the Belgian detective had more of a Sherlock/Watson dynamic with Dr Sheppard – and they worked well together on solving the mystery. Even so, I can’t say I’m a Poirot fan. I’ve not yet come across a Christie that has gripped me as much as And There Were None. I’ll continue to hope I didn’t read the best one first, and try a Miss Marple next…

I’ll have to agree with Robert Barnard: “Apart — and it is an enormous “apart” — from the sensational solution, this is a fairly conventional Christie. … A classic, but there are some better Christies”. I was enjoying the first half until it all got a bit puzzling, with a lot of red herrings thrown in. Even though the ending was a little bit of a surprise (I did wonder at some point, though!), it’s still not my favourite Christie so far. Sorry, Agatha.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure Agatha Christie will continue to be loved many for years to come! Even if Poirot isn’t my favourite, I’m looking forward to seeing why Miss Marple is a much-adored detective.

“It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by someone else will rouse you to a fury of denial.”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love crime/mystery stories. People who love twists. People who are new to classics.

“The things young women read nowadays and profess to enjoy positively frighten me.”

Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to Us

Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsIt’s been an odd few weeks and I’ve been neglecting Pretty Books a little since I moved house. But I’m currently sitting in a local cafe with bookish housemate Charlie and ready to review!

Mystery & Mayhem: Twelve Delicious Intriguing Mysteries edited by Katherine Woodfine

I was excited to see Egmont publish a collection of crime short stories by some of my favourite children’s authors, such as Clementine Beauvais and Katherine Woodfine. In Mystery & Mayhem, we solve baffling crimes occurring in locked rooms, encounter a whole host of canine capers, and more; it’s a fun and varied collection of stories.

I’m sadly not a short story convert (still!) because more often than not, the stories end just as I start getting into them. However, the young detectives are a delight. We get to solve The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls with Lil from The Clockwork Sparrow series, and help Minnie from Marsh Road Mysteries track down which dastardly character destroyed the feathery carnival costume. I might stick to full-length stories, but I’m looking forward to reading more from The Crime Club.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

One of the most beloved Aussie young adult novels, I borrowed Jellicoe Road from Daphne after seeing so many people over the years say how amazing it was. I began reading on a busy tube and quickly decided this wasn’t the way to go. Jellicoe Road is not a story to be dipped into, but one that demands your attention, and one you must devour in one go.

Taylor Markham’s home is a boarding school where disputes between teenagers – the visiting Cadets vs. the local Townies – are rife. It’s at first puzzling and confusing but this passes as we begin to uncover Taylor’s past. She’s struggling with the fact her mother left her all those years ago, and when her friend and mentor Hannah disappears, Taylor is confronted with a lot more. The leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, once again enters her world. Taylor’s story is also interwoven with memories from the past, involving a fierce group of friends: Tate, Narnie, Fitz, Jude, and Webb. Jellicoe Road takes you from bemused to clear in one fell swoop and is certainly a unique one.

London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

I’ve (almost) always lived in London and adore books set here, especially when they’re written as well as London Belongs to Us.

London Belongs to Us takes us on a fast-paced London adventure: 17-year-old Sunny receives a photo of her boyfriend kissing another girl, so she leaves Crystal Palace to find out what’s going on and ends up at Alexandra Palace 12 hours later. It’s an unpredictable, colourful journey that takes Sunny through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho and more. I’ve been to almost every place and with Sarra Manning’s help, could vividly picture Sunny on her madcap journey with French cousins, Jean Luc and Vic – and not forgetting the many other diverse characters Sunny encounters on the way.

I rarely read a book that’s so much fun as London Belongs to Us. It was such a joy to read about my home city in all its glory, not forgetting the gritty parts. As an east Londoner, I enjoyed the attitude to the (so far away) south London and the characters they meet on the way, from drag queens and rickshaw drivers to lead singers and the awfully posh. It’s a delight!

Thank you Hot Key Books and Egmont for sending me two of the above books to review!

Blog Tour: Mystery and MayhemMini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsBehold the Pretty Books! / April Book Haul

Book Reviews: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine

Book Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine


Series: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow (#1-2)
Shelved:
Children’s fiction (mystery)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I’m a big fan of middle grade mysteries, so The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow was pretty high on my TBR. I’ve always enjoyed ornate department stores. I love taking my time, carefully discovering the delights each floor has to offer (I must admit, the food hall is a firm favourite). Sinclair’s, a luxury department store in London’s Piccadilly, is the perfect setting for Sophie Taylor’s story.

Sophie is an orphan and young employee at Sinclair’s, determined to track down the violent thief who’s stolen a priceless clockwork sparrow from the store. But an even bigger mystery emerges while on her adventures, accompanied by new best friends Lillian, Billy and Joe. And The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth takes us out of the extravagance that is Sinclair’s and onto the impoverished and grimy streets of early 1900s East End of London, where danger lurks around every corner – particularly the formidable Baron’s Boys, villains we’re introduced to in the first book.

Book Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine WoodfineKatherine Woodfine’s series is an utter delight, with its intricate Edwardian setting and colourful characters. I loved devouring stories of bonbons and iced buns, beautiful dresses and hats – and even the rich, snobby customers! The incredible setting mixed with our brave and intelligent protagonists make for two marvellous stories. I loved accompanying Sophie and Lil as they cracked codes, duped debutantes, and solved conundrums, secrets and puzzles – not bad for a day’s work! And we meet many more lovable – and even odious – characters along the way.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow series is perfect for fans of Enid Blyton and Murder Most Unladylike. Stay tuned for The Mystery of the Painted Dragon – I’m looking forward to spending more time at Sinclair’s!

Published: June 2015 & February 2016
Publisher: Egmont

Behold the Pretty Books! / January & February Book Haul (Part 2)Book Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow & The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester


Series:
The Curiosity House (#1)
Shelved:
Children’s fiction (fantasy, mystery)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #4

I’ve enjoyed two of Lauren Oliver’s middle grade novels before – Liesl & Po and The Spindlersso I was quite excited to see that she had written another. It’s the first in The Curiosity House series and was perfect to add to my Halloween TBR. However, I did make the mistake of picking it up straight after reading The Diviners. Both feature an intriguing museum, mysterious murders and characters with unusual abilities. This similarity meant that I was often mixing the two up! But my favourite thing about The Shrunken Head is the wonderful child characters and the message that just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you need to be ashamed.

The Shrunken Head features four extraordinary children: Philippa the powerful mentalist (she can guess what’s in your pockets!); Sam the world’s strongest boy; Max the knife-thrower; and Thomas, who can squeeze himself into a tiny spaces. They adore working at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, and are extremely proud of their abilities. That is, until their prized show-stopper – an Amazonian shrunken head – is stolen from the museum. After a string of brutal murders, the press start spreading lies about the children. Everyone believes it’s the curse of the shrunken head and the child ‘freaks’, so it’s up to Philippa, Sam, Max and Thomas to discover the real culprit!

The Shrunken Head is a delightful and dark children’s mystery from Lauren Oliver and H.G. Chester. I’d have loved even more illustrations – one of my favourite things about children’s books! – from Benjamin Lacombe. They were enchanting and brought the story to life. As with The Diviners, I would have preferred the story to be a little shorter – I like my mysteries shorty and snappy! Nonetheless, it’s a story well worth reading for it’s incredible, feisty protagonists!

We get to see the exciting adventure from each of the children’s points of view. They’re all very unique and talented, even if they’re coming together for one cause. Max is possibly my favourite of them all. She’s so incredibly blunt and has an amazing sense of humour, and is extremely loyal and trustworthy! All of the children were wonderful and yet are often treated as outcasts, but the message of The Shrunken Head is a powerful one: it’s okay to be different.

Published: September 2015 (US) October 2015 (UK)
Publisher: HarperCollins (US) Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Pages: 368
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Books On My TBR / Halloween

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray


Series:
The Diviners (#1)
Shelved:
Young adult fiction (fantasy, historical, mystery, horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #3

I’ve owned The Diviners for over 3 years and I finally picked it up as part of this year’s Halloween reads. Hurrah! I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this 1920s murder mystery. Evie O’Neill’s secret ability has led her from small-town Ohio to sparkling New York City, full of speakeasies and Ziegfield girls. She’s living with Uncle ‘Unc’ Will at the Museum of Creepy Crawlies when she befriends a whole host of alluring characters: Sam, Jericho, Mabel and Theta, all with their own credible histories and drawn by beautiful writing. Together they attempt to solve the murders before it’s too late.

The mystery of creepy Naughty John was certainly an experience. Libba Bray has an impressive ability to make it as eerie as possible – from our opening chapter, where we’re introduced to something terrible being unleashed, to the chilling points of view of the victims before they’re murdered. She presents New York as somewhere dark and dangerous, but also intriguing.  Although I’ve never been a superfan of 1920s America, it was difficult to resist. It was compelling and magical and sinister, with scary things lurking in the shadows. I couldn’t help but be drawn to it – by both the glamour and the grittiness.

The Diviners is wonderfully crafted, with incredible detail. We’re told so much about the time, the characters, and the mystery. The reader accompanies Evie and friends on their investigation into the gruesome, brutal murders occurring across the city, with links to religion and the occult. If I had any reservations at all, it would be that I’d have preferred the story to be ~200 pages shorter to tighten it up and make it a little more fast-paced, which appeals to me as a slow reader. But this extra time did mean that we got to delve into the characters’ complicated pasts. It enabled Libba Bray to bring 1920s New York City to life.

The Diviners is a stunning mystery that takes us back to the Roaring Twenties and the supernatural horrors found there. I’m looking forward to meeting new Diviners and a new mystery in Lair of Dreams.

Published: September 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (US) Atom (UK)
Pages: 592

Books On My TBR / HalloweenBooks On My TBR / Halloween