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.
Once again, I got cocky with my reading. I posted my review of My Sister, The Serial Killer on Monday thinking that I’d have no trouble finishing the book that I was currently reading. Cut to tonight and I’m madly trying to finish this novel so I can get this post written. I’m not sure why I picked up this book. It’s a YA crime thriller and I don’t exactly have a great history with them. I’m still haunted by One Of Us Is Lying and it’s been ages. But I found a copy of this for £3.99 and I was feeling reckless. What could go wrong? I guess it also spoke to me on a personal level. For my A-Level history coursework, I had set out to try and solve the murder of Thomas Becket. Yep, 17-year-old me had decided that I had what it took to decide who, other than the king, had organised the murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was an idiot and quickly realised that it was a stupid idea. I still wrote about it but in a much more vague and analytical way. It wasn’t my best work. I’m not a great historian. But, I at least had a connection to the main character in this book. Even though she would surely succeed where I failed.
I’ve never read anything by Ruth Ware before. If I’m being honest, the only reason that I bought this book was because of the edition of the book I found. The page edges had keys on it and I couldn’t resist. I love a sprayed or illustrated edge. I guess it also intrigued me that the title was clearly creating a connection between this book and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. A good ghost story is just the thing to be reading on cold October nights so I decided to give it a go. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t expect much from this book. I’ve read many psychological crime thrillers over the years and each one has been painfully obvious. Call me egotistical if you will but I went into this book assuming that I would have it all figured out by the end of the first chapter. I blame growing up on Agatha Christie novels and adaptations. I know I’d actually be rubbish at solving a crime but, in my head, I’m a younger Jane Marple.
I’ll be honest, when I picked this up I knew it wasn’t going to be the greatest thing I ever read. I mean, a YA detective story based on the pre-Eleven life of Detective Hopper from Stranger Things. It was an absolute cash-grab. Something that is instantly confirmed by the price. This book cost me £20 and there is nothing about it that looks worth it. It’s not got a very good cover nor does it feel like super great quality. It’s just plastered the faces of familiar characters on the front, used the Stranger Things logo, and made it an official novel. Then let the die-hard fas shell out their money without a second thought. I say that knowing full well I bought it but, in my defence, I had a book token so I don’t really count it. I didn’t spend my hard-earned cash on it. It was essentially a present. And I was a little intrigued by this. I’ve never had a great time with the novelisations of films or television shows. I want to love them but, more often than not, I just think it’s cringe. Can it ever not come across as fan fiction? Anything written as part of an expanded universe that doesn’t come first-hand from the original creators will always feel weird and desperate. Let’s not forget the curse of The Cursed Child.