The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie 

Blurb

‘I want a change. To be in the midst of things – exciting things – even if I’m only the looker-on. You know, things don’t happen in St Mary Mead.’

When the luxurious Blue Train arrives at Nice, a guard attempts to wake Ruth Kettering from her slumbers. But she will never wake again – for a heavy blow has killed her, disfiguring her features almost beyond recognition. What is more, her precious rubies are missing.

The prime suspect is Ruth’s estranged husband, Derek. Yet Poirot is not convinced, so he stages an eerie re-enactment of the journey, complete with the murderer on board…

Review

I read quite a lot of this book sat on a very fancy train and yes I chose to read this book because I knew I would be sat on said train.

I must be honest I remembered seeing this one on TV but the TV version is nowhere near as good as the book. The TV versions just never get Poirot right or should I say Papa Poirot! 

Christie starts to set the scene with Van Aldin getting the renowned rubies and giving them to his daughter Ruth Kettering. Once Ruth gets on to the Blue train things soon take a sinister turn. Ruth is found dead in her cabin with her head so badly smashed in she is unrecognisable and the rubies are gone. Then Poirot appears on the scene to help the French police solve the crime because as he happily tells people he is possibly the greatest detective in the world. 

As the story progresses there are a lot of red herrings that the reader and Poirot have to work through and with this story Poirot doesn’t have his usual Hastings to rely on and bounce ideas off. However, Poirot does find a new sidekick to help him solve the crime. Miss Grey has been a companion most of her adult life and now she has come into a fortune she is free and wants her life to start so she leaves the quiet little village of St Mary Mead and goes on the Blue Train to start her first adventure. Poirot befriends Miss Grey and they work together to get the answers they need. 

I really enjoyed how this story developed and how Poirot worked through all the clues and also used some careful guesswork to get the answers he needed. All this builds up to the very dramatic ending which has you sitting at the edge of your seat. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Miss Grey as I really liked her character but I really enjoyed how she and Poirot interacted. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not put it down so I give it the full 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Bookshop.org | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

Etsy

The Big Four by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Big Four by Agatha Christie

Blurb

A ruthless international cartel seeks world domination…

Framed in the doorway of Poirot’s bedroom stood an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust. The man’s gaunt face stared for a moment, then he swayed and fell.

Who was he? Was he suffering from shock or just exhaustion? Above all, what was the significance of the figure 4, scribbled over and over again on a sheet of paper? Poirot finds himself plunged into a world of international intrigue, risking his life to uncover the truth about `Number Four’.

Review

I haven’t read many Agatha Christie novels this year which is bad because I am trying to read all of her novels in order of publication so this one has been on my TBR pile for a very long time. 

My first impression of this book was wow what a lot of characters! Christie is a master of juggling many plot lines and lots of characters but this book is overflowing with characters. I know Christie liked to include a lot of characters because this was perfect for creating red herrings but it seemed like every chapter there were another new load of characters to get to grips with. To be honest I struggled at times to keep up with all the characters in this book but I think I managed it. 

In this story Hastings has returned which I am very pleased about because he always makes me laugh. He is always convinced he knows more than Poirot but of course he has no idea at all. It is also very clear that Poirot has been missing his good friend Hastings. 

The story begins with a strange man somehow turning up in Poirot’s bedroom and collapsing but not before giving Poirot a vital clue which will set the scene for the rest of the book. As the story continues Poirot finds just how far the Big Four are willing to go to take control of the world. The story sees Poirot travelling all over the place and encountering any number of characters from Professors to Government officials, from Criminals to Nobility. 

The one thing I did find with this story was it didn’t flow like Christie’s usual books and it felt at times like it was pieced together. After some research I found out that this book was actually made up of 12 short stories that Christie had written and published in a magazine. This made a lot of sense for me because once I knew I realised that this was why I struggled with the pace of the book and sheer amount of characters. 

Although I felt the amount of characters was overkill and struggled with the lack of fluency with the story I still thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down. Poirot was on his usual fine form and Hastings was still his bumbling self and I loved every minute of it. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Bookshop.org | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

Etsy

A Man’s Head by Georges Simenon (Review)

A Man’s Head by Georges Simenon

Blurb

A new translation of Georges Simenon’s atmospheric novel set in the bustling streets of Paris, book nine in the new Penguin Maigret series. 

Slowly the Czech was becoming animated, but in a muted way, so typical of the man. Maigret now noticed his hands, which were long, surprisingly white and dotted with freckles. They seemed to reach out and take part in the conversation. ‘Let’s be clear that it’s not your professionalism which I question. If you understand nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, it’s because from the very start you’ve been working with facts which had been falsified.’

Maigret sets out to prove the innocence of a man condemned to death for a brutal murder. As his audacious plan to uncover the truth unfolds, he encounters rich American expatriates, some truly dangerous characters and their hidden motives. 

Review

This is definitely my favourite Maigret book so far although I still have a lot to read yet. I really was hooked with this book and could not put it down, I just found the story fascinating. 

The book begins with an unusual scene but we soon realise that this is Maigret trying to prove the innocence of a man because Maigret’s gut is telling him things are not right. As Maigret starts to reinvestigate he comes upon the mysterious Czech. The Czech is a strange character who seems quite contrary. Other people would be mystified by the Czech’s actions and behaviour but Maigret clearly isn’t. 

As the story goes on Maigret starts to work it all out and starts to unweave the web that has been spun around the double murder he is investigating. I really liked the character Janvier who Maigret puts on the job of tailing the Czech. Janvier is young and inexperienced but he is dedicated to the job and lives to prove himself to Maigret. 

I love the character of Maigret he is such a formidable character and very eccentric. His love of warmth is hilarious but yet again I feel sorry for his wife who he never goes home to when he is on a case. The poor woman must have the patience of a saint. 

I really enjoyed this book and could have easily read it in one sitting but sadly work had to come first. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Bookshop.org | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

Etsy

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon (Review)

The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon

Blurb

Sailors don’t talk much to other men, especially not to policemen. But after Captain Fallut’s body is found floating near his trawler, they all mention the Evil Eye when they speak of the Ocean’s voyage.

Review

This Maigret book was so good I could not put it down. I had no idea who the killer was or even the full extent of the crimes that had taken place but Maigret worked them all out. 

The start of the book had me giggling straight away. Maigret is about to go on holiday and Mrs Maigret is just finishing the packing and looking forward to spending her holiday with her family making jams and preserves. Maigret however has just received a letter which is asking for his help in solving a crime and obviously Maigret can’t resist so poor Mrs Maigret has to go along with the plan and go somewhere else for her holiday. She also knows that she will be spending her holiday mostly alone because Maigret will be busy investigating the crime. 

As soon as Maigret arrives he goes straight to where the sailors go to get drunk and sits there observing until he starts asking questions. Even though Maigret is not officially investigating the murder case he throws himself straight into the investigation and has no fear of mixing around the rough sailors. He also puts his wife to good use by getting her to look after a young woman who is connected to the case. 

The pieces of the puzzle that Maigret gathers looked completely random to me and one piece I hadn’t even noticed. However at the end Maigret explains everything and it all becomes clear. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would have loved it if had been a bit longer but sadly it  is typical Maigret length of approximately 150 pages. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

Blurb

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for the Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age…

Review

This is the first Shardlake book that I have struggled with slightly but I am glad I persevered with it as I really enjoyed the book, especially the ending. 

We find Shardlake trying to live a quiet life fighting legal cases with the help of his assistant Jack Barak. Cromwell is now dead so Shardlake has been living his life as a normal lawyer would without being sent off to do any missions for the Crown. However, that promptly changes when Shardlake is summoned before Archbishop Cranmer who then gives Shardlake a mission. 

Shardlake finds himself joining the King’s progress to the North where not only will he be assisting with the legal work of processing the petitions to the King, he will also be ensuring the welfare of an important prisoner who needs to be interrogated in London. This is the last thing that poor Shardlake wants. 

Most of the book is in York and I must admit after the discovery of the secret papers the book did drag on for me and I really did want it to move along a bit quicker because it was at times rather dull. However, once Shardlake left York and got onto the boat things moved along at a much quicker pace and the story picked back up again and then I couldn’t put the book down till I had finished it. 

I wish this book had shown more of Guy who is one of my favourite characters but sadly he was only mentioned in passing and didn’t feature at all. We did get some new characters though. Giles is the lawyer from York who helps Shardlake with the petitions. He is an old man but still upright and very sharp of mind. He also comes across as rather a cuddly character and a man who would help anyone in need. 

The character I really couldn’t stand was Tamasin and at times Shardlake felt the same way. I really didn’t like her ways and found her far too pushy and brazen. She also had rather a big chip on her shoulder. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and even when I had guessed who the suspect was I was still hooked. If the middle of the book had moved at a quicker pace I would have given this book a higher rating but sadly it was just too much of a drag for me. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

A Crime in Holland by Georges Simenon (Review)

A Crime in Holland by Georges Simenon

Blurb

When a French professor visiting the quiet, Dutch coastal town of Delfzijl is accused of murder, Maigret is sent to investigate. The community seem happy to blame an unknown outsider, but there are people much closer to home who seem to know much more than they’re letting on: Beetje, the dissatisfied daughter of a local farmer, Any van Elst, sister-in-law of the deceased, and, of course, a notorious local crook.

Review

I will be honest, I struggled a little bit with this book and I think it was because Maigret was held at a disadvantage because the language barrier that he encountered when investigating. I did eventually get into the book and loved the storyline. 

Maigret finds himself sent to a Dutch town to investigate a murder. The reason he is investigating a murder in a foreign country is because the accused is a French professor. Poor Maigret is definitely out of his comfort zone in this book. He can’t go into a French cafe for a nice drink to help him think, the streets he walks are not the streets he knows so well and he finds himself having a go at crossing a canal by jumping on the floating logs, which would never happen on his normal beat.

As Maigret investigates the murder he soon finds out that there are a lot of potential murderers. There is the annoying Beetje, who is a terrible flirt who hates being the daughter of a farmer and feels trapped at home. Then there is Any van Elst, the sister-in-law of the victim and who Maigret keeps reminding us is not a good looking woman. There is even the wife of the deceased and of course the accused French professor. Then for good measure there is a local who is known to make his living in underhand ways but who was a good friend of the deceased. 

As Maigret tries to piece together the events of the evening that saw the murder happen he is hampered by deliberate red herrings and secrets that the locals wish to keep hidden. In the end Maigret decides to recreate the night of the murder, with himself playing the deceased, to force the murderer out. 

The descriptions of the different locations in the book and the atmosphere that Simenon creates are the things that I love most about this book. You can easily imagine Maigret who is not a small man attempting to cross a canal using floating logs as stepping stones.    Once I got into this book I did enjoy it and give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

To find my other Maigret reviews please visit Maigret Challenge.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon (Review)

The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon

Blurb

Maigret has been interrogating Carl Andersen for seventeen hours without a confession. He’s either innocent or a very good liar. So why was the body of a diamond merchant found at his isolated mansion? Why is his sister always shut away in her room? And why does everyone at Three Widows Crossroads have something to hide?

Review

I have watched the episode of this where Maigret is played by Rowan Atkinson so I found it quite a shock to see just how much extra had been added into the TV adaptation which was not in the book. Even though the storyline is more complicated in the TV adaptation I found myself much preferring the book due to the simplicity of the storyline.

The story begins with a frustrated Maigret trying to get the answers he needs from Carl Andersen. In typical Maigret fashion this involves a lot of pipe smoking and a lot of beer drinking when he isn’t interrogating. Carl Andersen does not give Maigret the answers he requires so is left back at square one in trying to solve the murder and with more questions than answers. Maigret ends up going to the scene of the crime at the Three Widows Crossroads and this reveals even more mysteries for him to find answers to and more crimes. 

The novel moves at a break neck speed with Maigret performing his usual excellent detective work but at times it did feel rushed and I just wanted a bit more detail. I will be honest I found Andersen’s sister quite annoying in the book but I only felt pity for Carl himself. The fact that everyone at the Three Widows Crossroads seems to hold a secret made me want to keep reading which meant that I read the book in one sitting. 

This was a good book with a solid storyline but it did feel rushed at times and not to the standard of some of my favourite Maigret books.  Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Borderlands by Brian McGilloway (Review)

Borderlands by Brian McGilloway

Blurb

The corpse of local teenager Angela Cashell is found on the Tyrone- Donegal border, between the North and South of Ireland, in an area known as the borderlands. Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin heads the investigation: the only clues are a gold ring placed on the girl’s finger and an old photograph, left where she died.

Then another teenager is murdered, and things become further complicated when Devlin unearths a link between the recent killings and the disappearance of a prostitute twenty-five years earlier – a case in which he believes one of his own colleagues is implicated.

As a thickening snow storm blurs the border between North and South, Devlin finds the distinction between right and wrong, vengeance and justice, and even police-officer and criminal becoming equally unclear.

Review

I received this book as one of my Willoughby Bookclub books and to be honest it just went on my never ending TBR pile but the other day I was looking for something different and I found this and decided to give it a go. I am so pleased I gave the book the chance because I loved it. 

It took me a little bit of time to get used to McGilloway’s writing style but once I had there was no going back. The opening scene immediately hooked me in and I wanted to know more. The corpse of a teenage girl has been found on the border between North and South of Ireland so first the decision must be made of who has jurisdiction of the crime but eventually it is decided it is the Garda and so Inspector Devlin is put in charge. 

Devlin is an average man, working in a police station that is very lacking in facilities, which leaves Devlin and his team working out of a store cupboard. Devlin is married with two children and a dog but he also has a past that interferes with his marriage at times and I must admit that when this happens in the book it does show that Devlin at times can be a rather weak character. 

As the story progresses another murder takes place with seemingly no link to the previous murder and this adds to Devlin’s workload. At the same time he must protect his family from attack and work out what the mysterious wild cat that is supposedly attacking local sheep actually is. 

As things start to develop Devlin has some difficult decisions ahead and he is unsure of who he can and can’t trust. I loved this book and have bought the following two books in the series which I hope are just as good. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Brian McGilloway is an author hailing from Derry, Northern Ireland. He studied English at Queens University Belfast, where he was very active in student theatre, winning a prestigious national Irish Student Drama Association award for theatrical lighting design in 1996. He is currently Head of English at St. Columb’s College, Derry. McGilloway’s debut novel was a crime thriller called Borderlands. Borderlands was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger award for a debut novel.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Blurb

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with an apparent drug overdose.

However, the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information, but before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death. Luckily one of Roger’s friends and the newest resident to retire to this normally quiet village takes over—none other than Monsieur Hercule Poirot . . .

Review

Is there anything better than reading a book where the great detective Hercule Poirot is first introduced on the scene by him hurling a marrow over his garden fence? In my humble opinion no and I burst out laughing when it happened. I just love how eccentric Poirot is in the books which they never capture in the TV series, he is far too serious on TV in my opinion. 

The book is narrated not by the usual Hastings but by Doctor Sheppard. The good doctor lives with his sister Caroline who is a spinster who lives to find out all the gossip of their tiny village. This leaves the poor doctor rather exasperated and you can tell his life with his sister is one that he would happily like to escape at times. This means that the doctor jumps at the chance to be the sidekick of Poirot as Poirot investigates the murder of Roger Ackroyd. 

Roger Ackroyd is a very wealthy man with a step son who always needs money and a sister in law and a niece who are now in his care and also want his money. But Roger Ackroyd is very tight with his money, he also knows too much. So when Roger Ackroyd is found murdered his friend Poirot is asked to investigate. 

Poirot has apparently retired from his detective work and is now growing marrows in the country. However, you can tell that he relishes the chance to investigate the crime and leave his marrows to themselves. Poirot is on fine form in this book and I just love how quite often the inspector and Dr Sheppard think that Poirot has lost the plot and is not what he used to be. But in true Poirot fashion that is exactly what he wants people to think. 

Christie throws so many red herrings at you in this book that I spent all my time thinking it’s him! it’s her! I have no clue anymore! I definitely did not see the ending and even now I’m still not sure that the ending is all as it seems. Is Christie still holding something back? I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

Blurb

What is The Secret of Chimneys? A young drifter finds out when a favour for a friend pulls him into the heart of a deadly conspiracy in this captivating classic from Agatha Christie.

Little did Anthony Cade suspect that an errand for a friend would place him at the centre of a deadly conspiracy. Drawn into a web of intrigue, he begins to realise that the simple favour has placed him in serious danger.

As events unfold, the combined forces of Scotland Yard and the French Sûreté gradually converge on Chimneys, the great country estate that hides an amazing secret. . . . 

Review

This was the next book in my Christie challenge and I think it is probably my favourite so far. I really could not put this book down and just loved all the red herrings that Christie throws at you. 

Now I will be honest there is an element of the ridiculous in this story and usually that annoys me but this time I just found it added to the story. Anthony Cade is doing a favour for a friend because the money is good and because he likes an outrageous adventure and he thinks that this favour will throw him into some interesting circumstances and he is not disappointed. 

As the story moves on Cade is drawn to the house Chimneys which is the setting of a house party for political reasons. Virginia Revel is also at this house party and she is definitely the star of the show. Virginia is a woman that men find themselves drawn to and she knows how to use this to her advantage. She is also a woman who likes a weird experience or adventure and because of this she finds herself dealing with the mysterious events at Chimneys. 

This is essentially a political thriller with a few surprises and some fun characters. The book is fast paced like Bundle’s driving, who I also think was my favourite character. I must admit I did not see the ending at all which was really good because I hate a predictable book. I happily give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you