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

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(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.

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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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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.

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Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins (Review)

Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins

Blurb

Since they were kids, Edie, Jake and Ryan have been the closest of friends. It’s been the three of them against the world. Edie thought the bonds between them were unbreakable. So when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan accused of the crime, her world is shattered.

Edie is alone for the first time in years, living in the remote house that she and Jake shared. She is grief-stricken and afraid – with good reason. Because someone is watching. Someone has been waiting for this moment. Now that Edie is alone, the past she tried so hard to leave behind is about to catch up with her…

Review

I do love a Quick Reads book. The series has introduced me to so many amazing authors and sometimes I just fancy a quick book that I can basically read in one sitting. 

This book centres around the character Edie. Edie is married to Jake but since she was a child she has always been best friends with Jake and Ryan. The three of them are a team, Edie believes there are no secrets between any of them but when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan is accused of the murder her world starts to unravel. 

Edie is left alone, living in a remote house that she shared with Jake. She is left with mounting bills, the debts she finds out that Jake had secretly taken out and the prospect that one day the house will fall off the cliff it is on. Edie has no job, no real friends and she is afraid. She is afraid because it soon occurs to her that someone is watching her, someone knows her every move. Edie’s past has come back to haunt her. 

I really enjoyed this story but I did find Edie very annoying. Edie was one of those people who happily ignores what is right at the end of her nose because it suits her circumstances. She is oblivious to anything other than herself or Jake and Ryan and anything outside of the trio she does not want to know. This way of thinking has been going on since childhood with damning consequences. 

I had no clue who the murderer was in this book until I got towards the end and started to have my suspicions. Considering the book was so small it kept me hooked and constantly wondering what would happen next. It was brilliantly written and I will definitely be reading more by Paula Hawkins. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragon. 

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(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

Paula Hawkins (1972) is a British author best known for the novel The Girl on the Train.

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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.

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The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins (Review)

The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins

Blurb

Wilkie Collins is rightly regarded as one of the nineteenth century’s most eminent writers. Although many Persephone readers will know The Woman in White and The Moonstone, he in fact published twenty-one other novels. The New Magdalen (1873), Persephone Book No.138, is about a ‘fallen woman’, Mercy Merrick, attempting to rehabilitate her character and her reputation; and the (often reprehensible and unkind) attitude of some of those around her.

Review

I love The Woman in White so I had high hopes for this book and I was not disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will be honest I have never rooted for someone who should be seen as the bad guy so much and disliked the good person so much. 

Mercy Merrick has had a terrible life and in the eyes of society she can’t sink any lower but Mercy has been trying to rebuild her life and make herself respectable again but society won’t let her achieve her dreams and keeps knocking her down. The story begins with Mercy working as a nurse in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. However, during this period Mercy happens to meet Grace Roseberry and they exchange stories. Grace is going to England to become the companion of a rich lady and has all the papers and evidence she needs to achieve this. However, Grace is killed by a shell and Mercy sees her chance at a different life. 

Mercy is a wonderful character, she has had a terrible childhood and adolescence but none of this was her fault. It was the fault of a society that did not look after its poor and vulnerable. Mercy tries to better herself though and refuses to go back to the life she once led. She works hard in whatever job she is in and strives to always do her best. But it isn’t just the fact she works hard it is the fact that she is good and kind and always thinking of others. Other people could have been made bitter and angry by a past like Mercy’s but this is not the case with Mercy and this is why Lady Janet and Julian Gray love her so much. 

Lady Janet is an extremely wealthy woman who is very lonely. She has no children and her marriage we are told was loveless. For all her wealth she has had no love in her life apart from the love of her nephew Julian Gray. Julian Gray is a reverend of some renown, his sermons are legendary and he is known as being rather different from his fellow clergy.  He does not judge people and will try to help anyone in need. 

Grace Roseberry and Horace Holmcroft were my least favourite characters of the book. Grace was pure evil in my eyes, she might appear the perfect lady but she was shallow, unfeeling, selfish and judgemental. Horace Holmcroft spent his life surrounded by his mother and sisters and he was very much a mommy’s boy. His character is also exactly like Grace’s but Collins does not show us his true character until later in the book. 

This book is beautifully written by Collins and so clever that I did not want to put it down. The book really shows that true love can be blinding, it can be all forgiving, it can make you completely change your opinions, true love can really conquer all. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I can’t wait to read my next Collins novel. 

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About the author

William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was an English novelist and playwright known especially for The Woman in White and The Moonstone.

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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

Murder in Midwinter by Various Authors (Review)

Murder in Midwinter: Ten Classic Crime Stories for Christmas by Various. 

Blurb

Midwinter. As snow falls softly outside and frost sparkles on tree branches, it’s time to curl up before a roaring fire, wrap your hands around a steaming mug of mulled wine, and forget your worries for now.

But as the temperature drops outside, malice is sharpening its claws … and murder walks abroad. In these classic stories of mystery and mayhem, let ten of the great crime writers in history surprise and delight you with twists and turns as shocking as an icicle in the heart.

Featuring stories by Dorothy L. Sayers, Cyril Hare, Anthony Berkeley, Ruth Rendell, Margery Allingham, Ellis Peters … and more.

Review

I love the books from the Murderous Christmas Stories series and tend to read one every December to help put me in the festive spirit. Although I was surprised to find that this book only actually had 3 stories set at Christmas and the rest were set in the Autumn or Winter months, but I suppose it is called Murder in Midwinter rather than Murder at Christmas.

I enjoyed all but one of the stories but my favourites were The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle and Rumpole and the Health Farm Murder by John Mortimer. Rumpole was a brilliant character and made me laugh a great deal, he is set in his ways and no matter how much his wife tries he will not change. Sherlock was up to his usual fantastic deductions in The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet. 

There was only one story in the book that I was not keen on which was the first one in the book The Queen’s Square by Sayers. I really did not get into it and found the relentless costume descriptions rather boring. However, thankfully I did not let the story put me off the rest of the book because the rest of the stories were excellent. 

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons because to be honest Rumpole and the Health Farm deserves 5 Dragons all to itself because I enjoyed it so much. 

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Purchase Links

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(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.)

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Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer (Review)

Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

Blurb

THE CLOCK IS TICKING IN THIS ROLLERCOASTER RIDE OF A THRILLER…

In London, the Metropolitan Police set up a new Unsolved Murders Unit—a cold case squad—to catch the criminals nobody else can. 

In Geneva, millionaire art collector Miles Faulkner—convicted of forgery and theft—was pronounced dead two months ago. So why is his unscrupulous lawyer still representing a dead client? 

On a luxury liner en route to New York, the battle for power at the heart of a wealthy dynasty is about to turn to murder.

And at the heart of all three investigations are Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick, rising star of the department, and ex-undercover agent Ross Hogan, brought in from the cold. 

But can they catch the killers before it’s too late?

Review

I bought this book because I was heavily influenced by the power of radio adverts. I heard the advert for this book so many times that I gave in but I will be honest I do generally enjoy books by Jeffrey Archer so that also influenced me. I haven’t read the previous books in this series but that didn’t cause any problems. 

There are quite a few storylines going on within this book but the main one is centred around Chief Inspector William Warwick and Detective inspector Ross Hogan. William and Ross work really well together because William is very analytical and observes everything while Hogan’s experience as an undercover police officer and being ex army makes him think outside the box and on his feet. Hogan is also very happy to break the rules when he thinks it will get results. 

The book opens with William and his wife Beth on a cruise to New York and on the cruise William meets a teenager called James who just so happens to be the grandson of the owner and founder of the cruise company. As the cruise goes on a crime takes place and it is up to William to solve the crime along with the help of James who wants to be an FBI agent when he is older. 

Another storyline that takes place is when William works out that Miles Faulkner is actually still alive and so the hunt begins again to catch him and bring him to justice. Amongst all of this are also the cold case crimes that the Unsolved Murder Unit are working on. The Unsolved Murder Unit all split off to try and solve the  different crimes and meet up periodically to give updates. 

I will be honest I did find this all a bit disjointed and I felt the book could have been shorter because I did lose interest at times and got a little annoyed with how stupid some of the characters were. They made silly mistakes which just left the hunt for Miles Faulkner seem never-ending. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Product Links

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(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

Jeffrey Archer was born in England in 1940, he is a former politician and author. Archer was a member of parliament from 1969-1974 but did not seek re-election due to a financial scandal that almost bankrupt him. Facing bankruptcy Archer began to write and in so doing revived his fortunes. Archer’s political career has been filled with scandal and in 2001 he was sent to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice, in 2003 he was released. All his life experiences influence his writing and make for interesting reading.

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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

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(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.

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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

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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.

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