Like most book people, Autumn is my favourite time of year. Knitwear weather is starting but we’re still not in the potentially icy period. The leaves are starting to change, the nights are getting darker and socially acceptable to stay inside all the time. It is also the perfect time to read a whole bunch of Agatha Christie. I know people like to use the term “cosy crime” as a pejorative but it’s nothing of the sort. It is, however, cosy. There’s nothing I love more than settling down with a cup of tea and a murder mystery. I have several books that I want to get through this year but I decided to start with this one. Some may think it’s the wrong time of year for a crime thriller set in a Summer holiday resort but why not?
It’s no secret that I’m a lover of Agatha Christie and that I won’t accept people underestimating her. You may remember that I got angry when The Truants got compared to the Queen of Crime when it wasn’t even a pale imitation. I got even more annoyed when the characters were talking about the books as some twee and childish examples of literature. Christie is a fantastic writer. She understands people and their motives better than most writers. She knows what she’s talking about and she has written some of the best twists of all time. She has ruined me for contemporary crime writers because I know what to look for. I always see it coming because Agatha taught me well. Yesterday was the 130th anniversary of her birth. 2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of her first book being published. It’s a big year for Christie fans. So, as I’m still nowhere near finishing my current read, I decided to dedicate my second bookish post this week to her.
It was genuinely shocking to wake up on Saturday morning to the news that Chadwick Boseman had died after battling cancer since 2016. The actor had kept his medical struggles a secret even as he carried on working. Think about it, he’s given us 3 turns as T’Challa, a biopic about Thurgood Marshall, and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. All while battling cancer. And not just that. Boseman had already become something of an acting legend and his role as the Black Panther only cemented his importance to Black people all over the world. He will be remembered for all of the work he did to bring Black stories to the big screen and for sticking to his beliefs. You can see how much he meant to people all over the world by the outpouring of grief on social media this weekend. 43 is far too young for anyone to leave us and Boseman’s passing will be felt for a long time to come.
I know we have the same conversation every time some new contemporary author is compared to Agatha Christie but it’s the kind of thing that bears repeating. Modern readers really underestimate her skills. It seems as though all you need to do these days to be compared to her is either mention her/her books or write a small scale crime thriller. By small scale, I mean not one of these overly dark, psychological thrillers but more of a slow burner that revolves around a domestic or small setting. Here’s the thing: Agatha Christie knew what she was doing. She understood people, she understood motivation, and she understood murder. She had the ability to shock and she knew exactly what her readers wanted. Her books are light on detail and character study because they don’t need it. They do what they set out to do. She wasn’t an indulgent writer because she understood how to craft the perfect whodunnit. She didn’t need gimmicks or excess plot to distract her readers. She hid everything in plain sight. Something writers these days tend to struggle with.
Can we all come to some sort of agreement, please? That we stop comparing contemporary crime thrillers to Agatha Christie? I know that she still has a reputation as a cosy crime writer but Christie is the type of writer that very few can live up to. She has a deep understanding of human behaviour and knows how to mislead her readers convincingly. I blame her writing for the fact that I so often guess book twists. She, and to some extent Arthur Conan Doyle, has trained me to start thinking too critically about everything I read. I’m always disappointed by modern crime books. Especially those super hyped ones that everyone loves. Like The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I’ve heard so many people praising it but I was not blown away. I’d guessed who the victim was from the start and it was super obvious who had killed them. So, I hadn’t intended to read her follow-up The Guest List. Until the ebook was on offer. It might not be a great read but at least it would dull the boredom for a while.
I don’t really remember buying this audiobook on Audible but I think it was one of the Daily Deals that sounded good. Or at least sounded like something that would be interesting. And I admit that it makes me something of a hypocrite. How many times have I declared that I’m finished giving psychological thrillers another chance? Possibly thousands. Yet, I continually get sucked in by them. I’m a mug who always ends up annoyed that she’s just finished another stupid book. So, I went into this never expecting it to be good but to be something that would be an easy listen. To be fair, it was a pretty easy read. I didn’t do a great deal of reading last weekend so I wasn’t sure that I’d finish this in time. But I managed it. I regretted it horribly but I managed it.
I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted. Last week’s Oscar week was a lot and I definitely don’t think I’ll be blogging that much again for a while. I posted 12 times in the last 7 days. I’m not sure if I even managed that during my 30 Books for My 30th series. I guess I could check but I really can’t be bothered. So, I’m just going to say that it’s a Motherbooker record. But, the reverse of that is that I haven’t had a good amount of time for reading. I’ve been madly watching films and madly writing about them. Plus, I’ve actually done stuff this weekend. It’s terribly inconvenient for my schedule. Also, the reason why I attempted to write my review of I Lost My Body after I’d got home from a beer festival on Friday. It actually worked quite well but I was very repetitive. So, yeah, reading hasn’t been high on the agenda. Meaning I’m getting behind again and am still relying on audiobooks to get my numbers up. Starting with this one.
If you were to ask me which Agatha Christie novel is my favourite, I would give you one of two answers. The first answer, and the real one, would be And Then There Were None. It’s an obvious choice but it’s the right one. It is the best book she ever wrote and is one of the best-crafted thrillers ever written. The twist has to be one of the best in literary history. It still gets me no matter how many times I reread it. Not in the sense that I forget but in the sense that I can’t see it coming. Her red herrings are perfect. It makes so much sense but it almost comes out of nowhere. So, yeah, that’s my real answer. However, I might also tell you that it’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Partly because the Indie Kid in me likes to be different and pretty much everyone says And Then There Were None. The other reason? Roger Ackroyd was iconic. It was groundbreaking. It was the first novel to do what it did. The twist might be a cliche now but you have to respect the book that started the trend.
The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle was on my Most Anticipated Fiction of 2016 list. It sounded like a really interesting story and, according to reports, had a really great twist. I gave it a chance but wasn’t exactly wowed by it. I thought that the twist was pretty obvious and I just wasn’t a fan of Searle’s writing. So, you may be asking, why was I in such a rush to see the film? Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen, of course. I guess I was also interested to see how the story worked on screen. Maybe the story of an elderly con artist and his naive victim would come together in this way? Or maybe it would be just as tragic and awful as King of Thieves? Boy, cinema doesn’t really do much for older men. Don’t get me wrong, women have it way worse but old men don’t have it easy either.
After watching The Lighthouse I wanted to give Robert Pattinson more of a chance. I’ve not really seen anything that he’s been in. So, I did the only thing that I can think of and found his highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, that was The Lighthouse. What a throwback that would be. Remember last week when I watched Willam Dafoe and Robert Pattinson man a lighthouse? Ah, they were good times. Not quite the same. So, I went for the next one. Which, actually, had the same rating. Although, if Amazon reviews are anything to go by, audience reactions weren’t quite as good. So, just how good is this gritty crime thriller? It has the look of something that shouldn’t be sitting at 92% positive reviews. It looks like the kind of film you’d find playing late at night on one of those channels that have the word men in the title.