Crooked House

I do not have as much time to read as I used to.

Does anyone else have this problem? Life gets busy, work piles up, deadlines loom . . . and things slip through the cracks. Bills have to be paid, the car needs an oil change, and if you don’t go to work in the morning, you’re going to get fired. Taking a day off to read a new book is not as easy as it once was.

And so, things slip through the cracks. Things like reading in a hammock on a lazy summer morning. After all, in our crazy, hectic lifestyles, who actually has time for things like that?

That is why, lately, I have become such a fan of Audible.

As much as I resent not having a real, honest-to-goodness book in my hands, Audible has freed me up to get to many books I wouldn’t have time for otherwise. Suddenly, I don’t need a morning off and a hammock. I can listen to books while I’m washing dishes, while I drive, while I’m cooking freezer meals or feeding my cat. The most mundane tasks are suddenly interesting, and I can actually accomplish something while I am lost in a book.

Revolutionary.

One of the books that I have found myself listening to recently is Crooked House by Agatha Christie. I have recently acquired a taste for Ms. Christie’s novels, beginning with, you may remember, And Then There Were None. The suspense and intrigue woven into her books—coupled with her dazzling characters—have captivated me from the first, and Crooked House was no exception. In this case, the cast of characters was comprised almost exclusively of a single family—a very strange, very twisted family. The lead character, a returning serviceman named Charles Hayward, returns to England in search of his fiancé, and finds himself in the middle of a family drama that he was in no way prepared for.

Sophia, his lady love, lives in a crooked house with her large—and very strange—extended family. At the center of the drama is Aristide Leonides, a wealthy, slightly crooked businessman who has built himself an empire on less than legitimate deals. When Charles arrives in London and contacts Sophia, he finds the household in turmoil, and Aristide dead.

Worse, the old man has been murdered, and Sophia quickly delivers an ultimatum. Unless the murderer is found and the case closed, she cannot possibly agree to marry anyone.

So begins Charles’ own investigation. Helped along by the chief of police—his own father—he plunges into a miasma of intrigue, secrets, and family grudges that go so deep it seems impossible to root out the truth.

Agatha Christie is truly the Queen of Crime. This story kept me guessing until just the last moment. I made theories—and changed them—a hundred different times, and the ending was one of the most satisfying and surprising of any of her novels. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good solid mystery.

What are murderers like? Some of them have been thoroughly nice chaps.

Death on the Nile

I love rainy nights.

Nights when the wind is up, when I can listen to the thunder and smell the rain and watch the sky light up on the horizon. Colorado is, unfortunately, not known for its thunderstorms, but we do have them.

Once or twice a year.

Or every other year.

I’m thinking about moving. Any suggestions for a house in the woods, smack in the middle of the country, where thunderstorms come through regularly?

Let me know.

When we do have a rainy night, my favorite thing to do is to wrap up in a cozy blanket on my couch, brew a cup of tea, and cuddle with my kitty while I read. And what better book to have on hand for that sort of night than an Agatha Christie novel?

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I will admit right now, I have avoided anything written by Agatha Christie for years. I bought a few of her books some years back, and they gathered dust on my shelves. I’d seen one or two shows based on her Hercule Poirot novels, hadn’t found them particularly interesting and decided that whatever kind of books she’d written, they weren’t for me.

Then, last year, I read And Then There Were None.

Instantly, I was hooked.

The simple style, the almost breathtaking suspense, and, of course, the mystery in her books captured my attention immediately, and I began to devour as many of them as I could find. Including Death on the Nile.

Right off the bat, I loved reading this book. The exotic surroundings and vibrant characters made it a fascinating—and quick—read. I very quickly fell in love with Hercule Poirot and his eccentric style. As a detective, he is brilliant, subtle, and wonderfully full of himself. As a person, he is quirky and compassionate, an interesting combination for the type of work he is in.

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And yet, it really is the characters that revolve around him that made the story. The lovely heiress, Linnet Doyle, her simple and handsome husband, Simon, his former lover, and a myriad of others created a whirl of suspicion and intrigue for what was supposed to be a relaxing cruise down the Nile.

My favorite thing about Agatha Christie is the wealth of fascinating characters she has at her fingertips. Not one of her books is comprised of cardboard cutouts stuffed into the pages, but I think that the men and women in Death on the Nile may be her most brilliant set. They are charming, conniving, each with their own stories, their own issues, their own secrets. Reading this book was a pleasure, as once again I found myself almost unable to set it down. If you are a fan of mysteries—and some romance, for what is Hercule Poirot but a romantic—than I would definitely suggest you pick this book up the next time you are at a library or bookshop.

“My dear Monsieur Poirot—how can I put it? It’s like the moon when the sun comes out. You don’t know it’s there anymore. When once I’d met Linnet—Jackie didn’t exist.”