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Post by Pettytyrant101 Fri Aug 27, 2021 10:20 pm

{{ I also felt the ending to They Came to Baghdad was a little disapponting Halfy, not bad, just it seemed to come about rather suddenly and more through various folk expositioning their part in things connecting the dots.But overall I loved it.

Sad to hear Victoria makes no further appearences, she is a fun character to be around.

Figg. Mystery on the Blue Train is the next one I have to read after I finish Seven Dials Mystery (I'm about halfway through it at moment). }}

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Post by halfwise Fri Aug 27, 2021 10:39 pm

Murder on the Orient Express also has a tongue in cheek humor that doesn't come across in any of the three adaptations (though the Sidney Lumet version comes closest).  I think if the actors had read the sections right before acting them some of the comic book character Christie was aiming for may have come through a bit more.  But it's a very subtle comic book feeling - she makes them caricatures because they are in fact playing contrived roles. It's clear that Poirrot feels that something is a little off.

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Post by Mrs Figg Fri Aug 27, 2021 11:13 pm

yes its true, none of the adaptations of the books have the humour and wit, I think that's why people think that Agatha Christie is just posh people being murdered in posh houses. There is way more to it than that.

I am glad that you have discovered them Petty. Very Happy

I agree that Baghdad came to an abrupt end, it seemed like Christie didn't know what to do with the characters so she neatly wound things up as quickly a possible.
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Post by halfwise Fri Aug 27, 2021 11:36 pm

A worldwide syndicate not unlike SPECTRE, but we don't even get treated to more than one interestingly evil character. Pfui.

It was totally unlike Christie in every way, who doesn't DO purely evil characters. Her largest conspiracy was 12 in Orient express.

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Post by Mrs Figg Sat Aug 28, 2021 3:20 pm

One part of Baghdad really appealed to me is because it is so reminiscent of John Buchan books like 39 steps and Greenmantle and The Island of Sheep. Carmichael is straight out of a Buchan book, his spy adventure with escape and disguise in an exotic location is pure Richard Hannay. It has the same tension and excitement, and you can imagine yourself putting on a fantastic disguise and evading enemies. The SPECTRE theme is also present strongly in Buchan books, and it is also strongly present in some other Christie books too, like 'The Big Four' that is based on a shadowy world wide crime syndicate, and also her Tommy and Tuppance mysteries like 'The Secret Adversary'.

I think this is why I love that TV show called 'Hunted' where ordinary people go on the run, trying to disguise themselves and evade capture. There is also a Celebrity version.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Aug 29, 2021 7:55 pm

{{ The Dials one Im reading has a similar conspiracy group thing going on, with the interesting and striking image that its members wear bags over their head at their meetings with on the front he face of a clock with each persons clock face at a different time, so they refer to each as '7 'o clock' or whatever their 'dial' says. }}

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Post by Mrs Figg Sun Aug 29, 2021 8:51 pm

oooh I haven't read that one. I will purchase it pronto.

You wont believe this but I actually was set to do a casting for 'Hunted' 2020, I was that keen to go on the show, but the pandemic happened and they stopped casting calls. They keep sending me emails asking me to contact them, but I cant be arsed going to the UK. Plus it would be far too exhausting legging it round the country. Laughing Don't know why but the whole concept fascinates me. I guess I am convinced I could outsmart them and know how to psychologically get the better of the situation, being an extreme loner helps because if its one thing that gets them caught is reliance on other people for support. I have found though its always the over confident who get nabbed first. Its the weirdos and outsiders who get to the finish line.
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Post by Mrs Figg Fri Sep 03, 2021 2:19 pm

So I finished Christie's 'Passenger to Frankfurt', got to say a bit miffed with it. The first half was excellent, seemed like a fascinating spy story, but the second half just lost me and it meandered weirdly from characters to characters and it was full of exposition instead of action. The ending was just bizarre. It had some really unusual characters which I would have liked to see more of considering they were the main characters. Sir Stafford Nye, Renata (Mary-Anne) and Lady Mildred were sparkling and witty, I don't understand why they had to be bogged down with expo from other characters. But anyway worth it for the first half which was great stuff imo. I would love it if some other writer comes along and untangles it, gives it a damn good edit and continues the spy story with Sir Nye. I think Christie just wated to let off some steam about fascism which considering it was written in the 60s or 70s is a bit late in the day.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sat Sep 04, 2021 7:56 pm

{{ I finished the Seven Dials Mystery. A very mixed one this for me. I enjoyed the plot and the set up, and it has a couple of characters I really enjoyed. Unfortunately they are not the main characters all of whom I didn't like much.
The main character is a rich young twenty something who drives her posh car like a maniac, has brains and an inquisitive mind, Lady Eileen Brent but she goes by the name of Bundle. Her group of friends who populate the rest of the main characters are similar in class and seeming empty headedness and pointlessness in most cases.
That they are all to one degree or the other by end revealed to be not as they seem doesn't help, as you've been stuck with the either dull stupidity, or vacuous personalities they have adopted all book long.
And the end is rather hasty and similar to your above comment Figg ends in a a lot of exposition.

There are two characters however stood out as a lot of fun, Bundles father Lord Caterham who you get the impression has never had to work for anything in his life and doesn't entirely grasp those who have to. Nor does he like life imposing itself upon his restful days of reading the newspaper in his armchair and going out for a few rounds of golf on his lawn caddied by his butler.
His disconnect from reality makes him quite amusing, another Woodhouse-esque type, finding a death in his house to be a terrible affair because its not polite and inconveniences him-

“Naturally I expect Brents to die here- they don't count. But I do object to strangers....Very inconsiderate. People who are likely to do that sort of thing oughtn't be asked to stay...I don't like anyone who comes and dies in my house on purpose to annoy me.”

But my favourite character by far only gets small fleeting appearances, Superintendent Battle. The thing I immediately got from him, and if you have read any of the Terry Pratchett Guards books you will spot it immediately, is a very Captain Vimes vibe. He approaches policing in the same rather down to earth manner.
We first encounter him when Bundle decides to take her suspicions of a secret society murdering folk to Scotland Yard. When Bundle asks about societies he responds-

“We've got a very good rule to go by. The more they talk, the less they'll do. You'd be surprised how well that works out.”

At Bundles insistence he provides her with a list of all the secret societies they know about in the Seven Dials area of London. Prompting Bundle to this realisation-

“You give it to me because you know it's not going to be the slightest use to me. Do you want me to leave the whole thing alone?”
“I should prefer it,” said Battle. “You see – if you go messing around all these places- well, it's going to give us a lot of trouble.”
“Looking after me, you mean?”
“Looking after you, Lady Eileen.”

This approach to policing goes into the field in a very Vimes like way to, Bundle later encounters him on duty, supposedly undercover, in a posh house where various notables are staying.
Bundles description on seeing him rather sums up the problem.

'She hardly liked to suggest to the Superintendent that his disguise was not a particularly efficient one. He seemed to have 'police officer' written all over him, and Bundle could hardly imagine the most unsuspecting criminal failing to be put on his guard.
“You think,” said the Superintendent stolidly, “that I might be recognised?”
He gave the final word a distinct capital letter.
“I did think so- yes-” admitted Bundle.
Something that might conceivably have been intended for a smile crossed the woodenness of Superintendent Battle's features.
“Put them on their guard, eh? Well, Lady Eileen, why not? We don't want any unpleasantness, do we?” he said. “Don't want to be too clever- just show any light-fingered gentry that may be about- well, just show them that there's somebody on the spot, so to speak. It's great mistake to be too clever. The great thing is not to have any unpleasantness this week-end.”

He's an instantly likeable character, his approach is oddly humorous yet very effective and I am hoping he crops up in some other of her books. I also find it hard to believe he was not an influence on Pratchett's Vimes. The slightly sardonic, incredibly sharp, honest bobby with his feet firmly on the cobbles of real life and knows how it all really works.
He displays a similar approach in understanding people and how they really work, when after an attempted theft at the posh house Bundle asks him if he didn't find it suspicious Si r Oswald had been outside at the time, to which Battle responds-

“Ah! Sir Oswald's a great man- and a great man always knows better than to explain unless an explanation is demanded. To rush into explanations and excuses is always a sign of weakness. Sir Oswald knows that as well as I do. He just stalks in and hauls me over the coals. He's a big man, Sir Oswald.”

However these are only two characters who pop up on and off throughout, and everyone else is nowhere near as engaging for me.
Bundle is not a bad character but there is just something very bland about her at the same time. She is only really involved because she is a rich kid with nothing better to do with her time. And at the end there is an odd thing do with marriage, where she gets a proposals from an unsuitable source and then accepts one from, until then a completely unlikely source. Whilst she is very intelligent, capable and sharp she is also somehow very shallow at turns. Her approach to life is summed up in her approach to driving; money and no personal effort has got her a sports car of her time and she drives it at full speed with little regard for others purely for the fun and jollies of it. Nothing she does ever seems deeper motivated than this. Including the out the blue marriage proposal and acceptance.

The secret society itself is a nicely presented idea, with all its members attending with a bag over their head on the front of which is painted a clock dial, each set to a different time, and how they refer to each other by that time as “Four 'o' clock” or whatever the hour might be, and the mystery over the elusive head of the society, “Mr 7 'o' clock's” identity is nicely played out.
I didn't guess it beforehand but unfortunately its also at its reveal the whole thing just wraps up sharply in a few pages worth of exposition.

So to sum up, good plot, some imagery and ideas that stick with you, a couple of great secondary characters, but an unlikeable or dull bunch of central characters and a hasty exposition heavy ending.
I'd love to read a Superintendent Battle story, but I hope Bundle only got this one outing. }}}

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Post by Mrs Figg Sat Sep 04, 2021 10:42 pm

Its odd isnt it, there are some real gems of characters hidden amongst the banal. Victoria, Carmichael, Inspector Battle, Lady Mildred and Sir Stafford Nye, all really unusual and charming characters which you wish would become more important to the plot and return in other books. But to be fair Christie had developed two of the most important characters in English literature Miss Marple and Poirot, so I guess she concentrated her efforts on them. Shame though, she could have added Inspector Battle to her stable of detectives.

My next re-read is The Man in the Brown Suit, which is one of my favourites.

But as regards Passenger to Frankfurt, there are some vivid scenes which I remembered long afterwards, I wont spoil them but its the way the two main characters keep meeting up, so atmospheric. I wish somebody would take the first half and just continue on that thread.
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Post by Mrs Figg Mon Sep 06, 2021 2:13 pm

This is interesting, they found fragments of the Merlin myth and 'A magical ring' Razz

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/sep/06/fragments-of-medieval-merlin-manuscript-found-in-bristol-library-reveal-chaster-story
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Nov 07, 2021 12:37 pm

{{ So I read Agatha Christie's The Mystery of the Blue train and been meaning to knock up a review of it. Its an odd one this for me as I adored half of it, the first half and disliked the second half.
Part of this is my growing annoyance and what I'm calling 'Surprise Poirot Intrusions.' You see I was trying to read Christie novels which didn't star one of the big two- Poirot or Marple. But Poirot has a very annoying habit post his retirement it seems of turning up midway through other stories.
In this case about 100 pages in the main character, Katherine Grey encounters a man with an egg shaped head in a dining car of the Blue Train and my heart sank as I realised it was about to turn into another Poirot story.

And the reason my heart sank is that Katherine Grey is another brilliant Christie character, my favourite since Victoria in They Came to Baghdad. And there are similarities, both are women who have to work for a living, though in Katherine's case she gets given a large sum in a will which sets her up,but her life working looking after a difficult old lady in the quiet of the countryside makes her a good lead, a woman now 33 who has a sharp intellect and a desire for new sights and sounds and who till now has been living a sheltered life. It provides a character with life experience and maturity of thought, but also the adventurous excitement of someone younger seeing the world for the first time.
And the initial supporting cast are all good too, we have a millionaire American and his equally strong willed daughter whose murder on the train forms the mystery being unravelled in this one. And a quite wonderfully outrageous vision of everything you were warned about French ladies who dance in night clubs in the form of dancing diva Mirelle.

But once Poirot enters the fray the whole story slowly shifts focus from these initial cast being the main cast to being a Poirot tale with them as supporting cast, and a lot of the agency of the original characters, particularly I felt Katherine, was greatly reduced or lost as a result.
She does get a pivotal part to play in the final reveal of the truth, but its set up off page and revealed in retrospect so it doesn't feel proactive for her. And for me that was the shame of this one, the mystery is solid, the characters are good,then they all get overshadowed by Poirots arrival and dominance of events. And I was enjoying far more following the others.

So its mixed on this one for me, its not like it becomes terrible or badly written once Poirot appears, but for me the story without him was the better part of it. }}

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Post by halfwise Sun Nov 07, 2021 1:48 pm

A number of Poirot stories start off without him, developing the story and characters first. You'll see it on Death on the Nile - where I wasn't upset so much by the appearance of Poirot (I knew he was coming) as by the ruination of yet another delightful and smart young lady who sank into jealousy and destruction. Though I admired Christie's ability to do such a complete turnabout with a character, I was also rather offended she had the malice to do that to someone we had come to like. Hurt worse than GRR Martin killing off a beloved character.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Nov 07, 2021 2:05 pm

{{ Problem is the editions I am reading, a complete collection, have no synopsis, either back cover or interior. So all I have to go on is the titles and I ony know the obvious contenders for stories which are Poirot ones. And I am cautious about trying to find out online for fear of spoilers to mysteries.

So I never know if a fussy bald Belgian is about to turn up midway through. Its particularly annoying when as here I feel it detracts from the other characters. Thing with Katherine is she was a new character, I was getting to know her as things progressed. With Poirot soon as he apears I already know what to expect from his character, his mannerisms, his fussy nature and demenour. There are no suprises with how Poirot will persue things and act, only in what he uncovers. And thats less interesting for me than Katherine was as a means of experiencing the story through her reactions to events. Katherine, being unknown, is the more intriguing and likeable character.}}

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Post by halfwise Sun Nov 07, 2021 2:08 pm

Time for you to stop reading and go see Dune, then.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Nov 07, 2021 2:15 pm

{{ There was an unfortunate incident involving some buckie  drunken  an angry cat  cat a barrel, some stolen fish and a very angry fisherman  Extremely Crabbit who was surpisingly good at casting and had a wide array of hooks.  affraid The subsequent trip to Accident and  Emergency delayed my watching of Dune (I havent been able to sit down for three days No ) but it shall be viewed and crabbitly reviewed, soon...ish.  Nod But probably not before tonights Doctor Who review youll be very happy to know  Nod }}

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Post by Mrs Figg Sun Nov 07, 2021 2:31 pm

I agree with you Petty, Katherine is a more mature and quietly sardonic version of Victoria, maybe Victoria at 35 if she had been a governess instead of a bad typist. I adored Katherine, and its true Poirot did steal her thunder a bit, but I never get a sinking feeling with him because I quite like him. I do prefer Marple though. Katherine does get to have an adventure so its not too shabby. btw the Blue Train really existed and it went from Paris to the Riviera, by all accounts Churchill spent a lot of time on it. because it was for the rich the French invented a Red Train for the populace to take their holidays.
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Post by halfwise Sun Nov 07, 2021 3:38 pm

Ooo....Petty has an untold story to tell!

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Post by halfwise Sun Nov 07, 2021 3:46 pm

Just read Figgy's Merlin link:

...they discovered differences to other versions of the Merlin legend – for example, the Bristol fragments show a “slightly toned-down” account of Merlin’s sexual encounter with the enchantress Viviane, also known as the Lady of the Lake.

Shocked I forgot that there was a sexual encounter - what's the toned down version?

“And the girl [Viviane] made Merlin lie down in her lap, and she started to ask him questions. She moved around him, and seduced him again and again until he was sick with love for her,” runs the passage. “And then she asked him to teach her how to put a man to sleep. And he knew very well what she was planning, but nevertheless, he could not prevent himself from teaching her this skill, and many others as well, because Our Lord God wanted it this way. And he taught her three names, which she inscribed on a ring every time that she had to speak to him. These words were so powerful that when they were imprinted on her, they prevented anyone from speaking to her. She put all of this down in writing, and from then on, she manipulated Merlin every time that he came to talk to her, so that he had no power over her. And that is why the proverbs say that women have one more trick than the devil.”

If that's the toned down version, what's the spicy version? I know there's the words tattooed on her groin, but is there anything else? And why is the seduction of Merlin never presented in modern tellings of the tale? Is it because we prefer an old bearded Merlin these days?

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Post by Forest Shepherd Mon Dec 20, 2021 3:43 am

Just started The Three Musketeers. My copy has an interesting biography of Dumas at the start. Quite the rockstar. Or perhaps we should say that rockstars are quite the novelists?

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Post by halfwise Mon Dec 20, 2021 1:16 pm

First time with the Three Musketeers! I was quite surprised at what a sprightly read it is. There's a dark moment at the end that I wish he had left out, but otherwise it's quite the treasure which remains undimmed to this day.

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Post by Mrs Figg Mon Dec 20, 2021 4:00 pm

yep Dumas was quite a guy.
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Post by Forest Shepherd Wed Dec 22, 2021 5:16 am

I like dark moments. Unless it is purely included for edginess, like a G.R.R.M book.

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"The earth was rushing past like a river or a sea below him. Trees and water, and green grass, hurried away beneath. A great roar of wild animals rose as they rushed over the Zoological Gardens, mixed with a chattering of monkeys and a screaming of birds; but it died away in a moment behind them. And now there was nothing but the roofs of houses, sweeping along like a great torrent of stones and rocks. Chimney-pots fell, and tiles flew from the roofs..."
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Post by halfwise Wed Dec 22, 2021 1:03 pm

I must protest. I think he included it for reality. You don't know until late in the series who has plot armor, and then you're still not sure.

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Post by Mrs Figg Wed Dec 22, 2021 1:22 pm

I am thinking of reading The Count of Montecristo, I must have read it but I cant remember much about it.
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