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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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

Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark (Review)

Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark

Blurb

Unable to forgive herself for the death of her two-year-old son Bobby in a car accident, Menley Nichols’ marriage to Adam starts to fall apart – until the birth of their daughter Hannah. Determined to rebuild a life together around their precious baby, Menley and Adam decide to rent a house on Cape Cod for a month, confidant that the tranquility of the place will be ideal for Menley and little Hannah. But the peace they crave is disturbed when strange things start to happen – incidents which make Menley relive the horror of the accident in which she lost Bobby… incidents which make her fear for Hannah. And step by step, Menley and Adam are drawn into a dark and sinister web of events which threatens their marriage, their child and ultimately Menley’s sanity.

Review

I read my first Mary Higgins Clark book about four years ago and at the time I didn’t realise it was also her first published novel but I really enjoyed it and she turned into an author I always keep an eye out for her books. Just recently at my church someone has obviously had a clear out of Mary Higgins Clark books, leaving them at the back with the other second hand books, so I have been snapping them up whenever I see one I haven’t read. This is where Remember Me came from.

This is definitely my favourite Mary Higgins Clark book so far. I couldn’t put it down and it had me hooked with no idea what was going on or what would happen next. Menley and Adam have rented out Remember House on Cape Cod for a month where they hope to get the much needed rest together and time to relax as a family together with their baby daughter Hannah. 

Menley plans to work on her next book during this month away and so delves into research and work which is where she is happiest. It also gives her a chance to escape the past where Bobby her two year old son was killed in a car accident. However, this planned month of family bliss is not quite as quiet as they planned because Adam keeps being called away to work. This means Menley is left alone with the baby and strange things start to happen at night that start to make Menley question her sanity and fear for baby Hannah’s safety. 

There are a lot of strange events that happen in this book and I never had a clue of what to expect next. However, there were certain aspects of the story that were clearly not right and alarm bells were going off in my head that circumstances were not quite right but I couldn’t work out how these things were happening or who was responsible. I had quite a shock when it was all revealed at the end. I also loved the very last paragraph of the book and thought it linked everything up with the Remember House and Menley’s research. 

This book is very cleverly written by Clark because it keeps the reader hooked but doesn’t give much away. I also loved Clark’s descriptions especially of Remember House because I could easily picture the house in my mind. I could not put this book down and give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

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About the author

Mary Higgins Clark (1927-2020) was an American author of suspense novels. She published 51 books and each one was a United States best seller.

Etsy

The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett (Review)

The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett

Blurb

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they’re looking in the wrong place.

For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

Review

My husband read the second book from this series before realising that there was a first so we promptly bought the first one but I got to read it first. I now can’t wait to read the next one. 

I really enjoyed this book and just loved the idea of the Queen solving crimes and what a crime to solve. A guest has been found murdered in his bedroom with a rope around his neck. A murder in the Queen’s favourite residence and whilst she was in the building. I think my favourite person’s reaction to the crime is Prince Philip’s as it is such a contrast to his wife’s and very funny. 

As the story progresses it soon becomes apparent that the people investigating the murder are on completely the wrong track so the Queen decides she must solve the crime but without anybody knowing. This means she must enlist the help of her secretary Rozie. 

The Queen gets Rozie to gather the information she requires which means poor Rozie has to jump through quite a few hoops to make sure nobody knows what she is up to. Rozie also helps the Queen look after the staff who have fallen victim to the questioning. The Queen cares about her staff and wants to make sure that they are happy and safe so she enlists Rozie to make sure they know the Queen is thinking about them. 

I really enjoyed this book and loved how the Queen judges people by how her dogs react to them. The Queen has a sharp mind but a lot of the men around her believe she is a little old lady who needs to be protected from the harshness of the murder investigation but instead of putting them right she smiles and holds her tongue and bests them all without them knowing. My favourite character was definitely Prince Philip even though he wasn’t in the book much. Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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About the author

SJ Bennett was born in Yorkshire, England in 1966, and lives in London. An army child, she grew up travelling around the world. Her first novel was published when she was 42, after a varied career and lots of procrastination. She is the award-winning author of several books for children and teaches and podcasts about writing.

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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 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

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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The Tenth Man by Graham Greene (Review)

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene

Blurb

In a prison in Occupied France one in every ten men is to be shot. The prisoners draw lots among themselves—and for rich lawyer Louis Chavel it seems that his whole life has been leading up to an agonising and crucial failure of nerve. Graham Greene wrote The Tenth Man in 1944, when he was under a two-year contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the manuscript lay forgotten in MGM’s archives until 1983. It was published two years later. 

Review 

This book originated from a lost manuscript of Greene’s that turned up in an MGM sale. The person who purchased the manuscript returned it to Greene and he turned it into a novel which was published in 1985. 

This is a short book but one that really packs a punch. The book begins with a prison in occupied France and the news that every tenth man is to be shot. The prisoners are left to decide amongst themselves who will be shot, so they decide to draw lots. The rich lawyer Louis Chavel’s nerve leaves him and he gives up everything to the man who will take his place. 

Janvier is the man who takes Chavel’s place so he leaves all his new wealth to his sister and mother. When Chavel finally leaves the prison he has nothing to his name but he is still drawn to life he once had and so makes his way to his old home where he finds Janvier’s sister and mother. 

The book looks at the final years of the Second World War and how even the best of men can change in dire times. It is a story of cowardice, guilt, courage, romance and much more. Those who lie are trusted and those who tell the truth are not believed, everything is turned on its head in this book. 

I must admit the ending of the book was not what I expected and came as a big shock but it did show that miracles do happen. I will be honest as much as I love Greene’s books this book did not really enthral me that much as I just did not like the character of Chavel very much so I only give this book 3 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

Henry Graham Greene (1904-1991) was an English writer and journalist regarded as one of the leading English novelists of the20th century.

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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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