#712: The Thursday Murder Club (2020) by Richard Osman

Thursday Murder Clubstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
I really should not have enjoyed The Thursday Murder Club (2020) as much as I did. I’m an avowed devotee of the rigour of Freeman Wills Crofts and I have a nerdy podcast where we get far too serious about the minutiae of classic era detective fiction, for pity’s sake — a lightly comedic crime novel in which a group of septuagenarians inveigle their way into a murder investigation while worrying about the quality of supermarket own-brand biscuits should not raise from me even a curious eyebrow. And yet, honestly, I loved it. I don’t think I’ve been this charmed in years, and I haven’t laughed so much and so helplessly since reading Catch-22 (1961) when I was about 17.

Continue reading

#670: Sleeping Murder (1976) by Agatha Christie

Sleeping Murderstar filledstar filledstar filledstarsstars
Agatha Christie famously wrote the final novels to feature her two biggest sleuths well ahead of their publication, and where Hercule Poirot’s swansong Curtain (1975) was a joyous return to the heights for a character she had grown weary of, Sleeping Murder (1976) — the last hurrah for Miss Jane Marple, a character you can’t help but feel Christie had a growing respect for as she aged — is…fine.  Yes, it had a cogency and precision that At Bertram’s Hotel (1965) and Nemesis (1971) sorely needed, but in all honesty the sound and fury on display here signifies something that doesn’t even add up to a hill o’ beans, if you’ll forgive my mixing of classics.

Continue reading

#441: The Criminous Alphabet – A is for…Amateur

A is for

So here’s a new thing: I am going to use Tuesday posts (at indeterminate intervals) to talk about some (usually unconnected) ideas within Golden Age Detection (GAD) that can be grouped approximately by initial.  I’m calling it The Criminous Alphabet — rejected titles included The A to Z Murders, You Alpha-Bet Your Life, and GAD-Handing — and this month will see five posts based around the letter A, starting with the Amateur Detective.  Next time out will be B, the month after that C…you get the idea?  You get the idea.

Continue reading

#436: “I am in my own way an emissary of justice” – A Long Goodbye to Aunt Jane in Nemesis (1971) by Agatha Christie


After 41 years, 12 novels, and 20 short stories, Nemesis (1971) represents the end of the road for Agatha Christie and her spinster detective Miss Jane Marple.  Marple herself would survive her creator in the posthumously-published Sleeping Murder (1976), but since that was written decades prior — and the collection Miss Marple’s Final Cases (1979) consists of uncollected stories from much earlier in Christie’s career — this the final time they would have together.

Continue reading

#83: “One gets to remembering things in a place like this…” – a meta-analysis of Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel (1965)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that as Agatha Christie approached the twilight years of her career the quality of her output dipped somewhat.  And yet, as I’ve said elsewhere, what these novels appear to lack in merit from a plot perspective they arguably make up for in a kind of critical self-analysis of her own position in the firmament of crime fiction.  And At Bertram’s Hotel, the tenth Miss Marple novel, provides yet more opportunity to potentially read too much into her writing from this perspective.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s no Douglas Hofstadter, but who’s to say this is a completely bad turn of events*?

meta Continue reading

#74: “Old people know how valuable life is, and how interesting…”, portrayals of age in Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery (1964)

Agatha Christie was 74 years old when she published her ninth Miss Marple novel, A Caribbean Mystery, by which time – as I said in my review of The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side – she would have known a lot about the procedures of ageing.  There were still 13 books to come from her pen (well, 11 really, since the final Marple and Poirot books had famously been written some years previously) and this belief in her own abilities is echoed in the treatment of her beloved elderly spinster as, in spite of the infirmities she suffers and the attitude others take towards her, she continues to outfox murders left, right, and centre.

Christie, of course, had less to prove by now than she would have done in her younger days and so this isn’t a “We’ve Still Got It” Oldies v. Whippersnappers cage match – the Clint Eastwood movie Space Cowboys comes to mind, and can thankfully be dismissed – but is instead a moderately elegiac reflection on old age, youth, and the folly of both (contrast it with the far earlier Partners in Crime, where Bright Young Things Tommy and Tuppence prove their worth at a range of investigative styles).  And since I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk for a few weeks now (which I promise I’ll not mention again) I thought I’d try a bit of a textual analysis on this theme to see if it got me anything interesting.

Continue reading