#336: Highs & Lows – Agatha Christie from The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) to Hallowe’en Party (1969)

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Wow, those seems like arbitrary dates, hey?  Well, I am up to Hallowe’en Party in my reading of Christie (mostly in order, too…), and will more than likely read the final four novels she wrote — Passenger to Frankfurt (1970), Nemesis (1971), Elephants Can Remember (1972), and Postern of Fate (1973) — this year, and they’re near-universally agreed to be terrible.  So this seems a good point to do some reflecting.

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#335: Stand Not Upon the Order of Your Going – Do You Get the Most Out of an Author by Reading Them Chronologically?

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In light of my recent favourable experience with Ellery Queen’s The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934), my thoughts turn to the benefits and pitfalls of reading GAD authors’ novels in chronological order.  The old joke is that they had to write them in that order, but is there any real benefit or detriment in reading them so arrayed?

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#334: The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) by Ellery Queen

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Sure, laugh it up.  Just a few short months ago I stated my intention to read the entirety of the output of Manny Lee and/or Frederic Dannay under the Ellery Queen nom de plume, and here I am — some struggles later — jumping ahead to a more warmly-perceived title.  I’m not happy about it myself, I much prefer to do these things chronologically, but equally I want to want to read their books again.  I’ve loved some, been unaffected by others, and abominated a handful, and as such Queen remains a problem child for me.  So here I am, back on the horse in a different town, mixing metaphors with the best of ’em.  And the result…?

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#332: “From the Table of My Memory I’ll Wipe Away All Trivial Fond Records” – Recall and Opinion in GAD

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Discussing a book we’ve both read in preparation for another episode of The Men Who Explain Miracles, Dan made reference to some key event in the narrative that I simply did not remember…and this got me thinking: how much of a novel do you have to recall in order to be able to have an opinion on it?  And in a plot-heavy undertaking like GAD, should you be expected to remember more, or less?

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#331: She Who Was No More (1952) by Boileau-Narcejac [trans. Geoffrey Sainsbury 2015]

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I have no specific rule for the order in which I read the books on my TBR, but only in special cases does something immediately jump to the head of the list.  The chance to lock horns with French grand pooh-bahs Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac is one such special case: sure, their reputation in the English-speaking world might come from writing the novel that became Alfred Hitckcock’s Vertigo, but for the classic detection and locked room fan there’s plenty of excitement attached to these names through a reputation attained by other ends, too.  Separately and together, their titles precede them, and so this is an opportunity to savour.

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#330: Highs & Lows – Five Reading Highlights of 2017

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January, month of rebirth and self-recrimination.  For every resolution to improve there must be some frank assessment of what debilitated you in the first place, and so the month can take on a curiously Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect for some.  So my Tuesday posts for this month will be a mixture of what is good and bad in my reading, and where better to start than a celebration of the previous 12 months?

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#328: Sir John Magill’s Last Journey (1930) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Sir John Magill's Last JourneyThis 2017 HarperCollins reprint — under the title Inspector French and Sir John Magill’s Last Journey — is 309 pages long and took me, almost to the hour, two full weeks to read.  Ordinarily this would be the sign of a very bad book indeed, but, with the end of term and then Christmas to negotiate, had it been any less good — honestly, now — I probably wouldn’t have finished it.  The fractured, disrupted natured of such a reading experience requires the mind to keep plot details fresh while also contending with the busiest time of a busy year, and the clarity amidst complexity of Crofts’ plotting here is joy unconfined to my puzzle-fixated mind.  And with the Nativity headed back into its box, here’s why.

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