Tag Archives: murder mystery

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Amy Caudill‘s review 

Ten strangers from different walks of life meet as they embark for an island off the coast of the English shore, the invited guests and newly hired staff for the mysterious owners.  These ten people soon realize none of them have actually ever met their hosts/employers, just as a storm strands them there, with no way to communicate with the mainland.  Then, the bodies start piling up, as the unwitting residents realize a murderer walks among them.

This beloved Agatha Christie story, originally published in 1939, has also been published under the title, Ten Little Indians, and has been produced, and imitated, multiple times as movies, plays, television shows, and has served as inspiration for other author’s works.  In some versions the guests are stranded on a snowy mountain that can only be reached by cable car, but much of the plot remains the same.

Dame Christie’s plot draws on an old children’s poem, which the murderer, unknown to the end, utilizes as both inspiration and methodology.  The poem, alternately called “Ten Little Indians” or “Ten Little Soldiers,” depending on the version, details grisly ways these unfortunates decrease in number until all have met their fate.

It takes several deaths for the remaining party to realize that their numbers are dwindling, in accordance with the rhyme.  However, they still have difficulty reconciling how the killer can perform these outrageous deeds, unseen and unknown, especially on an isolated island.  Wittier guests realize that the murderer must have set things up ahead of time, but repeated searches of the island prove futile as the body count rises, and the survivors grow more and more suspicious of each other.

What the “tribunal,” presided over by Justice Wargrave, a retired judge, determines is, in accordance with a recorded message left for the party on the first night, each of the guests has participated in a wrongful death or murder, but has escaped justice in some manner.  Each victim first denies and then admits the truth, if only in their own mind, before their demise.

Still, the reader is left wondering clear to the end of the story as to the actual identity of the murderer, as several good suspects fall prey to the unseen killer.  In fact, Christie only reveals the actual murderer after the end of the story, in a document attached to the end, like an afterward, which reveals the murderer’s thoughts and actions in his/her own words.

It is not surprising that this story is one of the best-selling books of all times, and is a tribute to the author is work is so absorbing and timeless.

I give this book five stars, and recommend it to all fans of mystery, crime, and to any who have ever watched a movie or television production based on Agatha Christie’s work.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Death in the Clouds

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot, #12)by Agatha Christie
Amy Caudill‘s review 

When I did a post last week about the celebrated author Agatha Christie I had not yet had the leisure to finish reading this lesser-known entry in her vast body of work.

 To be honest, when I read the first couple of chapters, I was afraid that this would be a more modern retelling of The Murder on the Orient Express, one of my favorites, as it entails a murder committed on an airplane mid-flight in a cabin full of people.  Luckily, the superficial resemblance to that other story ended quickly, as Hercule Poirot, the private detective, is both a witness, and (to some) a possible suspect in the case!

The victim is a “money-lender” a famed character in Paris who uses blackmail material as collateral for her loans.  Who out of the passengers would benefit from her death?  The case is complicated when the victim’s staff, following her pre-stated instructions, burns all the evidence of her clients’ misdeeds.

Poirot, assisted by detectives in both France and England, interviews witnesses and seeks clues that involve passengers from numerous walks of life, with more than a couple of hints of new romance blossoming out of the tragic event on the otherwise routine flight from Paris to London.

As usual, Christie wove a tale with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, with a pace just fast enough to maintain interest but not get the reader helplessly lost. I was actually able to anticipate one or two small clues before they were revealed, but the major villain was still a complete surprise. 

The uniqueness of the methodology of the murderer was notable; as a blow-dart gun, a wasp and snake poison were, and still are, unusual elements in a murder of any sort, especially on a luxury flight.  Perhaps this is why the writers of Doctor Who chose to utilize this story, among others, when they did an episode that featured the real-life disappearance of the author among mysterious circumstances.

Overall, a very good story, and as usual, a stand-alone, so new readers to the author will not be lost.  I have to give this one five stars for originality, plot, well-developed major and secondary characters, and a slightly humorous but absorbing murder case.

A Modern Whodunit: Knives Out

Fans of classic mysteries in the tradition of the late Dame Agatha Christie, this is your movie!  Knives Out, currently showing in movie theaters, keeps audiences guessing whodunit to the very end.

The all-star cast, which includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, and Don Johnson, portray the family and staff of the late mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) as they gather first for the birthday party of their patriarch; and again after his demise, which occurs later that same night.  The family members, instead of grieving, though, are more apt to quibble and point fingers at each other as to who had more motive and means to commit murder.

Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a modern Hercule Poirot-type detective with a southern accent, who was hired by means of a secret message to investigate the death.  Blanc follows clues and shadows Marta (Ana de Armas,) the late author’s private nurse, through wild goose chases that uncover more than one suspect and enough red herrings to hide the true criminal to the very end.

Marta, the only character other than the detective who was not after Thrombey’s fortune, spends most of the movie believing she is responsible for his death.   Marta tries to hide, and fails completely in attempts to lie, about her involvement in the crime.  Her surprising motivation-a promise made to the elderly author immediately before his demise.   Why did he prompt her to lie, and what other secrets will be uncovered before the end of the movie?  Who actually is responsible for Thrombey’s death?  And who will inherit his estate?

I was both pleased and surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie.  The mystery was intriguing, the plot had as many twists as any good novel, and the action was enjoyable.  There was just enough humor included to keep the story from becoming too dark without turning the whole movie into a spoof of the genre.  Not to mention, the majority of the action takes place on an estate that contains hidden compartments, a secret door, and a horde of “props” from Thrombey’s novels, (spoilers) some of which may prove important to the plot!

Check it out at a theater near you!