The Little Grey Lists

I have just finished watching the last season of Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” mysteries starring the brilliant David Suchet.  I wanted this week’s list to be a tribute to this ending, but how to do it?  By the Poirot books?  I went through these many years ago and most have blurred together.  All Christie books?  Some of my favorites were not Poirot, although he was by far my favorite.  By the “Poirot” series?  All Poirot adaptations?  In the end, I couldn’t choose.

Top Agatha Christie Mysteries:

1. Five Little Pigs

-This one was by far my favorite.  With the crime in the past there was nothing to get in the way of the psychological study.

2. And Then There Were None

-This is the first Christie book I read and one of the few books ever that I kindof wish had been withheld from me til I was a few years older…it still plays vividly in my mind, compelling, brilliant, and incredibly creepy.

3. Crooked House

-The tone and ending of this book just stay with you.

4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

-Seeing the crime through the villain’s notebook while still not knowing who it is….thrilling.  The adaptation of this was one of my only true letdowns-no cinema can do it properly.

5. The Man in the Brown Suit

-This is a novel where I actually remember the characters more fondly than the mystery-it’s great fun and my favorite of Christie’s matchmaking moves.

6. Dead Man’s Mirror

-Another Poirot mystery I found particularly clever and memorable.

Top Suchet “Poirot” adaptations:

1. Five Little Pigs

-I was surprised at how faithful they managed to keep it.  Love it!

2. Evil Under the Sun

-They managed to add humor and suspects with more depth without losing the tone of the original.

3. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor

4. The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge

5. The Chocolate Box

-All of these are just delightful to watch….I’m sure this list will change often, but David Suchet’s Poirot just shines.

Top non-Suchet Cinema Adaptations:

1. Thirteen for Dinner

-This Peter Ustinov one just has more time to flesh out the characters and what I found to be a more believable Lady Edgeware.  Plus, Suchet does appear…as Japp!

2. Witness for the Prosecution

-This Hitchcock film feels like a real Agatha Christie, and is well acted!

3. Death on the Nile

-This one I include because, although I feel the Ustinov version and the Suchet version are both excellent shows, I prefer the Ustinov one simply because it has more time to develop various motives and has a memorable montage showing how practically everyone could have committed the crime…On the other hand, I prefer Suchet’s Poirot here, as usual, and find his portrayal much closer to the books.  Still, whichever way you go, I recommend it.

Poirot would hate these mini-lists for being uneven and a hodgepodge of preferences rather than one, orderly list…I know, shall blame it on my need for gastronomic nurturing and plead that I have not yet eaten.  What about you, mes amis, which novels, episodes, or crimes do your little grey cells prefer?

The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil

By: Soman Chainani

HarperCollins 2014

A young adult fantasy fairy tale

SchoolforGood-pb-c

Agatha never believed the stories that the two children who go missing from her village every four years were kidnapped to attend the schools for fairy tale characters.  She certainly doesn’t think she belongs in some school for witches and villains, as everyone else in Gavaldon says.  Sophie not only believes, she yearns to reach the School for Good and emerge as the princess she was born to embody.  Plus, she will be lucky enough to have her best friend Agatha with her, only in the School for Evil.  When Agatha lands at the School for Good and Sophie is delivered to the side of Evil, fate, fairy tales, and friendship are thrown into consternation.  Will the girls realize their true fairy tale?  Will they live through it?  More importantly, will they end up still together or will their opposing roles drive them apart?

Chainani’s setting and characters usher readers into his fairy tale world with an intrigue mixed with an unusual directness and defiance.  Switching perspectives between the desperately seeking Sophie and the focused, loyal Agatha keeps the world and its questions spinning, the action has more urgency and the plot more suspense when balanced so well between two characters instead of centering on one focal point.  Thematically, this novel gets off to a slow start, but just when I despaired that the only theme would be appearances, the dark undercurrents of deeper chills and issues emerged.  These deeper subjects grow fast, and Chainani’s world of shifting-perspectives show them off brilliantly.  What starts as a stroll past a sunlit river, discussing the fallacy of looks quickly melds into a twisting chasm roaring with rapids that push Agatha and Sophie towards love, home, betrayal, riddles, success, hopes, and friendship, all while questioning which paths are truly good and which lead towards evil.  The fast pace of the action, the ever-building stakes, and the constant determination of both heroines kept me hooked and, by the end, reeling.  The School for Good and Evil climaxes in a wave that crashes down rather abruptly, but the fullness of that wave is beautiful and satisfying and, while sudden, the ending left me feeling splashed and wishing for more.

The School for Good and Evil reads like a true fairy tale, where each link in the chain feels inevitably bound to the others until the ending feels like a truth.  As a fairy tale enthusiast, that is the highest recommendation I can give to a new fairy tale work.  I will also say that the setting was vivid, all the characters continued to grow on me, as well as in the tale, and I loved the themes-they were fantastically done.  If you like fairy tales, detailed fantasy worlds, complex heroines, Ever After High, or quick-paced action tales, this is a book for you.  Go read it.