book “review”: Midwinter Murder

I don’t believe in “must-read” book lists — or in book reviews, per se — but I do love to offer suggestions.

This suggestion for your want-to-read list is offered by our guest-post author, Thomas Mavor.

 

The challenge for the estate of Agatha Christie, as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced iconic sleuth Hercule Poirot to readers in 1920, is to keep her work relevant in an age of instant electronic and digital communication and surveillance.

 

Over the last few years, Agatha Christie Ltd. has published several volumes of short stories around a central theme. Last year there was The Last Seance, a collection of her ghost-related stories.

 

This winter saw the publication of Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery, with stories either set at Christmas or in a wintry season.

 

The draw for this work is the initial publication in the United States of the short story “Christmas Adventure,” which involves a lavish Christmas country house party, a missing jewel, and, of course, Hercule Poirot. The collection, however, is anchored by the novella-length “Three Blind Mice,” the short story that Christie famously adapted into the stage play The Mousetrap, the longest-running live theatrical production . . . ever! At least until the pandemic shut it down in 2020. The story, minus a suspect from the stage play, moves at a rapid pace and still manages to surprise. Like many of her novels, a contemporary murder is hinged on a murder from the past. For the most part, Christie’s stories pale in comparison to her novels. The Poirot, Marple, and stand-alone novels unwrap through intricate layers of red herrings and misdirections to an often very surprising final reveal. The stories, on the other hand, generally pivot on one misdirection and thus seem very predictable. However, they are short enough to read easily in one sitting, and they all contain Christie’s usual brief dialogue, quick evocation of setting, and surprising insight into human nature. So find a cozy spot and cuddle up with these tales.

 

— Thomas Mavor

Jennifer here. This book suggestion is from my friend Thomas, who's an English teacher and high school administrator in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, a small coastal town sixty miles east of New Orleans, his hometown. We've been friends since our college days at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee (where he studied English, and I studied history). After college, Thomas continued his English studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He reports that he "reads all the time, especially mystery novels and contemporary fiction." And he shares his home with Aloysius (shown above), who was a Hurricane Katrina rescue cat.

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