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?

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Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2011
A steampunk historical mystery review

Heartlessthumb

Alexia Tarabotti faces continued assassination attempts on her person with hilarious resignation. Not so when a deranged ghost reports a plot against the queen. Alexia’s investigations lead her headlong into the Kingair plot of the past, the secrets of other women, and oh, yes-her final month of pregnancy.

Firmly back in London, and in control of husband, home, and helping, Alexia’s indomitable spunk and efficiency return this series to the light-hearted antics of Soulless. Heartless allows Alexia to upend supernatural society, even while it delves more deeply into her supporting cast. Biffy, Lyle, and Lord Maccon all hold together and even out the tone of this work so that the deep undertones begun in Blameless continue to support the world and characters of this creamier, more refreshing novel, like a tart on firm, chocolate crust. With plenty of fun and significant revelations, Heartless is an enjoyable rush to a climactic, parasol-dropping crescendo that will have you searching for the last book in Gail Carriger’s series.

Her Royal Spyness

Her Royal Spyness
By: Rhys Bowen
(http://rhysbowen.com/)
Berkley Prime Crime 2008
A Historical Mystery Comedy Review

Her Royal Spyness

Being thirty-fourth in line for the British throne proves utterly unhelpful to Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch. Nothing but royal expectations for Georgie’s future, but she is without the money, tolerable husband candidates, or conventional disposition to meet them. In this stifling situation, striking out on her own to London seems a great idea…except for the fact that she has no servants, cooking knowledge, or the ability to light a fire. Georgie’s quest to correct these oversights finds her mixing with new circles, learning scandalous secrets, and struggling with a murder investigation. Letting a dead Frenchman bring down her family name would never do, but can Georgie straighten it out while still managing to avoid deadly accidents and marriage machinations?

Lady Georgie proves a marvelous combination of Elizabeth Bennet’s good sense and sense of humor, and Anne of Green Gable’s penchant for new experiences and getting into trouble. The novel’s quick pace reflects Georgie’s quick wit and bright spirits. The supporting cast balance strong personalities with expected English types. The world of 1930s London appears with enough scope to draw everyone in, but never drags down the tone or pace. The mysteries bob and weave gracefully through the plot, buoying the reader’s enjoyment and fascination with Georgie’s world even more without proving overly suspenseful.

In short, this is a quick, delightful read with a heroine you’ll love to cheer on and a way of making one want high tea. Recommended for the society of travelers, beach-goers, and at-home readers, Her Royal Spyness introduces a world I’ll be glad to read more of.

“Soulless” (The Parasol Protectorate Series 1)

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 1)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2009

Alexia Tarabotti wields two great weapons: a custom parasol and the fact that she’s soulless. Up against mysterious incidents that frighten vampire queens and get under werewolves’ skin, will Alexia’s ability to cancel out any supernatural powers be enough? More importantly, will her spinster reputation survive her investigatory antics? And just how provoking can Queen Victoria’s werewolf agent, the Earl of Woolsey, become for this stubborn, intelligent lady when they must work together?

Gail Carriger’s novel works like an English scone smothered, or jammed, with humor. The light overall feel and humorous quirks tie the whole thing together and make Soulless good, quick travel reading. However, beneath all that fun lies a very solid and interesting world. The thoroughly thought-out details seem a bit dense at first, but the precocious characters and Carriger’s humorous jam balance it out well. The romance works well within the plot. The characters are engaging, and left with plenty of room to grow in the sequels. While not taking the most unpredictable route, the mystery unfolds with aplomb and drives a good pace. An excellent book to read over tea or when in need of a fun, supernatural escape, Soulless holds a world I would like to visit again.

The Flavor of “Reign”

So, this was the biggest surprise to me, but…I love this show! I know, I shouldn’t, I study history and it is wildly inaccurate, but here’s the thing: it’s so wildly inaccurate that it’s not even pretending to be a real history show. So long as it’s not really an imposter to history, I see no point in hating something for not being right and I believe “Reign” falls in this category for very important reasons:

Dolorous Crystal Bodychain on Adelaide Kane CW Reign

(SPOILER FREE)

1)They play modern music. Anything with modern music is either not pretending to be history at all or is absolutely rotten. This show is so far from pretensions to reality that I actually enjoy the soundtrack, as it goes rather well with what the show actually IS.
2)The costumes are ridiculously off. This is the second of the main two things that all audiences are most likely to pick up on and as they often are not even vaguely accurate, this is the second big thing that lets the show off the hook. Particularly as these wildly inaccurate confections are glorious.
3)Within the first 10 minutes we are informed that ghosts will be a major part of the plot. Which brings us to-
4)What “Reign” actually is, is A GOTHIC MYSTERY ROMANCE. With not only ghosts, but a Blood Woods, and angsty music (I told you there was a reason it works for me.) Only instead of being stuck wandering around a dark, deserted manor, we get treated to the bright, lavish, scheming court when not roaming secret hallways or communing with spirits. And instead of putting up with Bronte-type heroes, we get a variety of moral centers to choose from in the male part of the cast. The revelation that a Gothic mystery romance was actually what I was watching actually managed to explain the most egregious historical crime for me, as it was relevant to the whole lifestyle and plotlines of the story as opposed to the specifics of Queen Mary: There are nowhere near enough extras. And while it is still laughable that Mary is often wandering about alone with no other living souls about, servant, guard, or otherwise, now I know why-because that’s what has to happen in a Gothic mystery romance, It all makes sense! Although occasionally they actually draw attention to the absence of guards for a plotline and it is still hilarious, but hey-what they’re actually doing is something where this lack of people is necessary, where modern music works, and where court life actually meshes with Gothic ghosts. That is Amazing and I deeply appreciate it. I think you should, too.

I should admit that it helps that I have never met a version of the actual Mary, Queen of Scots that I found particularly compelling in this period. On the other hand, if you like the actual historical Mary then knowing what would eventually happen would just make a show depressing. “Reign” not only has a heroine who appears to actually make the most sensible decisions she can in her circumstances most of the time, but as she is clearly not historical there is no need for such sadness! This one could be hypnotized into marrying her second husband! Or be switched with a body double right before her execution by the ghost! Her future is wide open! Which is how a good Gothic mystery romance should be-free to make crazy revelations at any moment. I like that. Especially when Mary’s supporting cast include a girl who’s basically an earlier Jane Bennet without a Lizzie, a girl determined to hold the sexual revolution back then, and Susan from the Narnia movies.

White Queen 1×7 “Poison and Malmsey Wine”

FINALLY, this show has joined the ranks of a proper history soap opera! The costumes are looking up, they took a moment for simply a beautiful nature shot, they left room for some mystery…it has arrived. This is definitely my favorite episode so far.

SPOILERS:

-Margaret Beaufort, turns out you just needed things to Do other than mope around about your son and Lancaster in order to enliven the screen. The baby thing in itself and as your way in was dumb, but you went for it and by golly, anything that makes you stop bellyaching and start spying and speaking with dignity is excellent. However, it would have been that much better if you’d been seen subtly scaring off the other maid before she asked the queen to leave court, so it would be clear you’re still backstabbing and scheming away.

-David Oakes, your Juan pt. 2, the English One ends as outrageously as I had hoped. From the moment I saw you stroking your dog while watching brother-sex I was worried about the relationship. I was relieved to see it ended in a superstitious death. Also, I shall go ahead and give you credit for brainwashing Isabel for that year we didn’t see-getting her so afraid of Lizzie she could have died of voodoo-inspired fear was quite the accomplishment. Still a big fan of your hissyfits, but seeing one start with you in a bull mask was a special treat. Also, choosing a colorful way to go literally gains my approval.

-Edward…I love your lion outfit. Why do you keep whoring around and pretending to go to war so much when you’re obviously way too tired to make any kind of decent decisions ever and merely bend to wife, brothers, or the letter of the law without much foresight or zest? The year has not been kind to you, has it? Perhaps you’ve already got STDs and that accounts for it.

-Anne, why does everyone else get new clothes but you remain stuck in the one plain silhouette ALWAYS? I feel like this episode had you wanting to jump ship to Revenge, wanting to destroy someone for your fallen family member, clearly not knowing everything, needing Victoria’s advice about controlling powers that be instead of just having to choose a side…yeah, you’d fit RIGHT in. And they’d liven up your wardrobe, too.

-Elizabeth, I feel for you. One snarky comment about your womb being able to beat up everyone else’s womb and suddenly court is exploding in your face. What I’d like to know is how everyone somehow realized you were responsible for the storm that killed Izzy’s firstborn-don’t think that’s ever been comprehended before and it had no realization moment. However, storming after George in front of everyone served no useful purpose except to show off your sparkly gold dress. This is a schemey political show and you’ve got witchcraft-why bother to go after him yourself? It’s the least interesting choice. Your problem here seems, in fact, to be that you are too direct and honest. You let everyone know how you feel, you’re consistent, and you try to come at problems head-on. These are not the most useful problems from a TV perspective, but you’re doing them with flair.

-Richard, I am glad they let you speak up for George. On the other hand, your dealings with Anne are becoming too focused on dark looks. Your best moment really was when you got to blow up at your mom over her favoritism. Also, you at least have been paying attention to the foreshadowing. Please, let that not be played out as a self-fulfilling prophecy instead of actually your decision.

-Dear show, see how that works out for everyone when there’s not absolute clarity about a suspicious death? That’s what we’re looking for. That and more present complexities instead of filling in with repetitive foreshadowing. And more masquerades/intriguing scenery. Take note!

Ironskin

 

Ironskin

By: Tina Connolly

(http://tinaconnolly.com/)

Published by: Tor (2012)

A young adult steampunk fantasy review

 

Ironskin-cover

 

The Great War blasted Jane Eliot’s life apart, just as the fey blasted her cheek with their curse.  Now she is ironskin, forced to cover her face with an iron mask to keep others safe.  When Mr. Rochart advertises for a governess to care for a girl in a “delicate situation,” Jane knows she can help this fellow victim.  Yet, a lot more greets Jane at her new position than a difficult child.  Jane finds there are more curses than she knows, and learns about masks more burdensome than iron.

The framework of Jane Eyre brings this novel a natural sinking point for the reader to dive in and let themselves go.  We already know the basis for this romance, for these main characters’ traits, so we are free to splash through the vivid colors of the war with the fey, the steampunk world details, and the new barriers that this Jane faces right away.  Knowing the strengths to expect from this Jane could have been disastrous if she didn’t match up, but the fact that she so resoundingly does makes the story of what this Jane remembers and how she chooses that much more endearing than if she’d had no one to live up to.  Similarly, knowing we will eventually reach certain turning points in the story makes the building parts more purely intriguing rather than tense.  Jane’s charge, Dorie, plays a much larger role in this book and we learn a lot through interacting with her.  Jane’s dynamic with Mr. Rochart leans heavily on audience foreknowledge for the romance, but he allows us to see new angles of this Jane and how she sees herself.  Jane Eliot’s identity rests between visions of herself where she has various levels of opportunity, personal connections, and beauty.  Exploring the ties between these things among all her characters, Connolly pulls on chords familiar to us all while grounding her fantastic society.

The new details and mysteries swirling through this world keep the pace swift as we long to know not just what will happen next but what has already happened.  Each character in here is Connolly’s own and indelibly set within this strange world, so even those who can’t bear the thought of an impure Jane Eyre should be able to read it without flinching.  The prose engages and surrounds with firm moments and beautiful imagery.  The only issue I had was that the ending is rushed.  After such lovely delving and swooping through this gothic tale I was suddenly crashed right through the center of things, with no opportunity to get my bearings or start to breathe again.  It lacks that last chapter, where loose ends are tied up and you can feel the satisfaction of knowing how things have turned out.  I still have some questions that I doubt the sequel, from Helen’s point of view, will answer.  Basically, I needed more!  And I still do, so I’m relieved there is a sequel.  I loved reading Ironskin.

 

Questions I Still Have (BEWARE SPOILERS):

-So, where WAS all Rochart’s money going??  I mean, it’s implied that he’s paying off his ex-wife’s father, but the guy’s a village shop owner and no one is saying he’s living it up, so he can hardly be using up all of Edward’s vast fees.  What happened to the rest of it?  Is Poule sending a bundle back to her clan?

-Wait, so if the curses and things are all parts of actual fey being punished by separation, then if whoever takes charge over the fey next decides to pull their forces together or end some punishments, or time just runs out, people’s FACES could just FLY OFF??  I do not think people are concerned enough about this possibility.

-Why were blue tendrils trying to keep Rochart in the forest that time if the queen’s plan was for him to keep coming back and giving people fey faces, anyway?

-So, if Dorie can see people she cares about through walls, does that mean that all the fey can just see through anything but iron?

-If it was Edward’s fey gift that meant he could remove people’s faces, then how can he reverse the procedure now it’s gone?  Is Jane going to make Dorie do it?

-Can all fey just feel everyone’s feelings and where they are if they care about them?

-Shouldn’t it matter that Jane’s current face came from a mask with a forehead chip?  Is it just going to look like there’s a birthmark up there or what?

 

Please tell me if you’ve ideas about these!

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Similar Posts:

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/the-horns-of-ruin/

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/bitterblue/

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