Book Review: Closed Casket

Closed CasketAs you know, I’ve been an Agatha Christie fan since my teen years. I’ve read them all at least once and am now rereading them in publication order. When I saw that Agatha Christie’s family had okayed a new set of novels with her name on them and using Hercule Poirot as the main detective, I was very skeptical. I skipped the first book in the new series, but I did read some rather complimentary reviews. So, when I had the chance to join the TLC Book Tour for this second hook, I decided to give it a try. First, let me share what the book is about and then I’ll give you my thoughts

“What I intend to say to you will come as a shock…”

With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford — one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors — springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny . . . and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live.

Among Lady Playford’s visitors†are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited — until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder.†But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer?†And why — when the crime is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it — does the identity of the victim make no sense at all? (from the publisher)

My Thoughts:

I was surprised at how good this story was. It still has the feel of a Christie novel, but somehow feels updated. The best news is that it is just as intricate a plot and is just as abundant with characters as what Dame Agatha created.

The first change that I liked is the addition of Inspector Edward Catchpool, the Scotland Yard detective who is the narrator. He’s a good friend of Hercule Poirot so that allows for dialogue about the story between the two detectives. Catchpool has fun little side comments about various things that I found humorous and insightful. He makes for a very good sidekick for Poirot – almost as good as Hastings.

In my opinion, Agatha Christie excels at “country houseparty” mysteries. However, I must admit that the new author, Sophie Hannah, also excelled. In this novel Ms. Hannah had a total of eleven houseparty guests plus servants. They could all, with two or three exceptions, have conceivably committed the murder. It made it very difficult, for at least this reader, to figure out who was guilty, how it happened and why. For mystery lovers, that’s a good thing.

One more good thing I liked about Closed Casket was the ending. Agatha Christie almost always had the final “reveal” in the drawing room with Hercule Poirot doing the honors. I loved that Ms. Hannah stayed with tradition. It was absolutely spot-on, as someone in England might say. It couldn’t have ended better.

I’m happy to recommend this book to my fellow Christie fans as well as mystery lovers everywhere. My next move is to go back and read the first book Sophie Hannah wrote for this series, The Monogram Murders.

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sophie-hannahAbout Sophie Hannah:

Sophie Hannah is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous psychological thrillers, which have been published in 27 countries and adapted for television, as well as The Monogram Murders, the first Hercule Poirot novel authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie.

Connect with Sophie Hannah through her website, or follow her on†Facebook or Twitter.

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Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: Sophie Hannah Book Tour Schedule

tlc tour host

Posted in Agatha Christie Challenge, Book Tour | Tagged , | 5 Comments

A Look At Lassen Volcanic National Park

We recently took a fantastic camping vacation. My son, his wife, the 3-year old grandson, my husband and I spent 10 days in a national park new to all of us: Lassen Volcanic National Park. The park is located in the north eastern section of California.

lassen-1Although the park is only about a four to five hour drive away from home, once we pulled off the highway, it felt as if we were far, far away. This is all wilderness with very few buildings. Above is a good view of Lassen Peak. (Do you see the moon?)

trail-head-to-lassen-peakThe park protects the natural surroundings of a volcano that last erupted back in the 1600s. The area is stunning in its beauty. There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park. The picture about is the trailhead for the Lassen Peak trail. Do you see the snow at the bottom left of the picture?

cinder-coneThe kids took advantage of the many trails. They backpacked overnight, in addition to other hikes. The picture above is of an area called Cinder Cone. Our son hiked that all-up-hill-trail all by himself while the rest of us waited by the lake below. The three-year-old has been taken on hikes since his early days so, of course, he loves hiking.

t-on-hot-rockAnd here’s our little adventurer up on a black lava rock. He thinks it’s pretty great to be high above everyone else.

That’s it for this week. I’ll share some more pictures of Lassen with you in future Saturdays. Photo credit for these lovely pictures must go to my son and his reliable iPhone. (My camera failed me on this trip-again. Okay, I’ll admit it. It was operator error.)

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I’m linking this post with others who participate at Saturday Snapshot located at West Metro Mommy Reads. For more information, visit her website.

Saturday Snapshot

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Book Review: A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

Great ReckoningThe Great Reckoning is the twelfth time I’ve been invited into Armand Gamache’s world, (not counting my rereads). Every time it has been an absolute treat. It’s very similar to is a well planned and eagerly anticipated reunion with a happy family group or good friends. These visits only happen once a year, but I find the anticipation and time spent so satisfying and enjoyable.

To begin with, there is almost always the same people present plus a few new friends (or enemies). In this visit I saw Armand and his wife Rene-Marie, their daughter Annie and her husband Jean Guy (one of my favorite friends). In their home in the peaceful village of Three Pines I still visited with Clara (artist), Myrna (bookstore owner), Olivier and Gabrie (bistro owners), and the rude old poet, Ruth Zardo. There was also a couple of Armand’s colleagues from the Sûreté du Québec Homicide division. New this year were some faculty and students, one of whom (Amelia) I hope will become a regular.

Three Pines was still the featured location of this visit but there was also an interesting new place – the Sûreté’s Academy for training new police officers. Armand has come out of retirement (we all knew he wouldn’t stay retired forever) to become the Commander of the Academy. I had a hunch this might be his new job a few years back when he noticed how corrupt many of the new graduates were. Armand has been given a chance to clean it up – both faculty and students. Unfortunately, the changes still leave some people unhappy. Tensions develop and soon there is a murder.

This murder is not easily solved. It requires technology and deep thinking to figure out the mystery. There’s also another mystery in the story, although not involving murder. A old map of Three Pines was discovered in the wall of the bistro. It is so mysterious and the curious residents try to figure it out. Armand offers the assistance of four of the Academy’s cadets. The two mysteries seem to come together when a copy of the map is found in the murder-victim’s bedside table.

This year’s visit was fun and interesting and complicated and emotional (both tears and laughter) and, I’m afraid to say, exhausting. I should not have tried to read it by staying up all night, but it was just so much fun to see these people again, plus everything that was happening was just captivating. The only way I could stop was by falling asleep. Regular readers of this series will not want to miss this one. I have only one minor compliant: Near the end I grew impatient with all the talk, the analysis of who could have committed the murder and why. That’s probably more a personal thing with just me, so don’t let it stop you.

If you have not read the Armand Gamache/Three Pines series, you really should. This is quality writing at it’s best. Everything – from the characters to the plot to the settings to the writting – is so well done that you won’t be disappointed. I would, however, recommend reading the series in order. The story, characters, etc. develop over time. If I had it to do over again, I’d read one book a month between now and next year when the 13th book comes out. Do that and then come back and thank me. You’re welcome.

For a complete list of the books in this series, on order, visit the author’s website: Louise Penny

 

Posted in A, Mysteries | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Wondrous Words #362

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

I found this word in a NY Times article:

schadenfreude: In a political campaign as relentlessly nasty as this one, it must be hard to steal a moment of peace, much less schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude (ˈSHädənˌfroidə) means pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. As you probably guessed, its a German word.

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That’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

Posted in First Paragraph | 2 Comments