This was one of the most hotly anticipated debuts of 2020 and I was definitely intrigued by it. It took me a while to get a copy though because I was still under the illusion that I could keep my promise to be more restrained about buying books. Once I had the copy in my possession, it still took me a while to get round to it, which is the reason I’m trying to be restrained about my book buying. I buy books thinking that I need to read them immediately but find my desire wanes when the time comes. Still, after my month of cosy crime, I was looking for something a little different and this seemed like a great thing to get my teeth into. I love a character study with little or no plot. From the sound of it, Pizza Girl would be right up my street.
Agatha Christie and trains go together like Hercule Poirot and a well-groomed moustache. She bloody loved them. More importantly, she bloody loved to see them feature in her murder mysteries. Nowadays, train travel doesn’t have the same romantic appeal as it may once have done. Although, it’s been about 8 months since I was last on a train so there might actually be some romanticism there right now. My morning commute was nothing very interesting but, now that it’s been taken away from me, I do miss it a bit. So, I thought I’d indulge in some train travel during my Christie month. This has never been one of my favourite Christie stories so I’m never that keen to revisit it. It was definitely time for a reread.
In my review of Hallowe’en Party, I suggested that people first went into the book expecting it to be a spooky and supernatural read. There are a couple of weird moments but it’s not exactly a going to cater for your Halloween mood. So, some bright spark of a publisher decided to create this collection. It brings together her previous published stories into one scary anthology. The draw being that one of the stories was unpublished but only in America. Just imagine you can see my eyes rolling as I type that. As I’m going through an Agatha Christie moment, I decided to go through this collection. I’ve never been a huge fan of her short stories but I was ready to be converted.
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?
Yet again, I find myself without a finished book to review on a Wednesday. So, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to write instead. I was toying with a rant idea but I think I need to gather my thoughts a bit more. Instead, I decided to turn to an old favourite in the arsenal of any book blogger: the quotes post. Autumn is the perfect time for cosy crime and I am craving a good Agatha Christie session at the moment. In honour of that, I thought I’d share some of wisest words. As it was her 130th birthday last week, I picked a quotation for every decade since she was born.
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.
As we’ve already discussed, I’m a petty and stubborn person. I stayed up way too late on the 31st August to make sure that I finished this damn book before the month was over. After all, I had already included it in my August Reading Wrap-Up and I didn’t want to miss my book count of 10. Thankfully, I did manage it and I didn’t end up being too late a night. The question is, was the book worth it? I wasn’t exactly expecting a great deal from this book because I really hadn’t thought much of Vox. When I wrote my review of Christina Dalcher’s previous novel, I discussed the rise of feminist dystopia and how bored I was with it. I guess, on the plus side, Dalcher has taken a broader approach. Women don’t exactly have it easy in this one but at least it wasn’t another literary world specifically created to torture women into submission.
I have a copy of Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Girl somewhere on my bookshelves. Obviously, I haven’t read it yet but I haven’t read a lot of the books on my bookshelves. A friend gave me a copy of How To Be A Woman for Christmas one year but I haven’t read that either. It’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s just that there are so many other books in the world. Being a reader is like having the worst case of FOMO imaginable. There are so many books that have already been published and plenty still to be published. Of course, you’re always going to be wondering if the book you’re currently reading is the best one that you can get. It’s understandable that certain books and authors are going to miss out and, unfortunately, Caitlin Moran was one of them. I had thought about waiting until I’d read the book but if I did that I’d never have watched the film. It probably goes against the bookish code but it had to be done.
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.
I’ve probably said this far too many times recently but I had decided that I was never going to read this book. I’d been put off by the bright pink colour and the title. I couldn’t help but imagine romantic-comedies or YA fiction. I’m not against back protagonists but I am against anything too sentimental and lovey-dovey. I don’t really do romance. I’m too cynical for hearts and flowers. However, I’ve only heard good things about this book so I had to try it for myself. And it’s just another way to add to my anti-racist reading list. The more non-white authors and protagonists I embrace the better, right?