At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie

9th May 2021.

In the eleventh outing for Miss Marple, she’s staying at Bertram’s Hotel, a place she once visited many, many years before. Priding itself on its traditional décor, service and values, the hotel seems too good to be true for the cynical Miss Marple.

There are train robberies, curious affairs of the heart and personal vendettas all mixed up in a complex investigation led by a Scotland Yard detective, nicknamed Father for his calm, but effective technique. Like Miss Marple, he misses nothing and soon seconds her to his investigation.

Not for the first time, Miss Marple isn’t at the heart of the story. This may be due to the scale of the crimes under investigation. That said, she contributes a good deal to the investigation and deduction. As always, the main characters are sharply observed, though the author’s customary social comments and humour are not as prevalent in this story.

It’s still a complex and baffling puzzle that takes some unravelling, but it’s a much grander affair than the usual local village murder Miss Marple normally solves. Perhaps this is why she is more of an assistant to the police than the main sleuth.

Description

An old-fashioned London Hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out…

When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer.

Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day…

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

23rd April 2021.

In her tenth outing, Miss Marple finds herself on a Caribbean Island with little to do, thanks to her generous nephew, Raymond. She sits in the sun with her knitting, observing the other guests at the hotel and occasionally conversing with them.

Major Palgrave has plenty of stories to tell and has foisted himself on many of the guests before he treats Miss Marple to his tales. She half listens, nodding in all the right places as he talks about his time in Africa and Asia, finally settling on a tale of a murderer he once saw. He’s about to show her a photograph of this murder, when he spots some people over her shoulder and clams up.

When he’s found dead in his room the following day, a victim of high blood pressure, it looks like no more than old age and over indulgence. But Miss Marple senses there’s more to it and wishes she’d paid more attention to the story he told her.

From this innocuous beginning, the story develops into a classic whodunit, as Miss Marple digs around, uncovering all manner of motives and suspects as she talks to guests, the hoteliers and the local doctor, slowly piecing together the motive for the murder and its consequences.

As with the other Miss Marple books, the investigation is as complex as it is baffling until she makes sense of it all. The characters are sharply drawn and observed, the narrative laced with humour and social comment, and though the pace is gentle, the mystery and questions arising draw you in, refusing to let you go until the crime is solved.

In many ways, the books are more intriguing than the many TV dramas depicting Miss Marple. She’s not the fluffy, gossipy old lady you might imagine, as many a killer and detective would testify, but she’s a delight to follow when she’s on the trail.

Description

An exotic holiday for Miss Marple is ruined when a retired major is killed…

As Jane Marple sat basking in the Caribbean sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened.

Eventually, her interest was aroused by an old soldier’s yarn about a strange coincidence. Infuriatingly, just as he was about to show her an astonishing photograph, the Major’s attention wandered. He never did finish the story…

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

The Death on the Downs by Simon Brett

22nd April 2021.

Having enjoyed the first book in the Fethering village mysteries series, I was keen to see what neighbours Carole and Jude would get up to in this second outing. United by curiosity and sleuthing, this unlikely duo once again joins forces after Carole discovers a bag of human bones in a barn while sheltering from a storm.

Attention focuses on the nearby village of Weldisham, where the locals have plenty of secrets and animosities to hide. It doesn’t take long for both Jude and Carole to investigate different strands of the murder, arriving at the same conclusion in a deadly climax.

This is cosy mystery writing at its best. The characters are beautifully drawn and realised, each providing their own unique view of the world they inhabit. Though very different in nature, Carole and Jude work well together. The author never misses an opportunity to poke fun at the many conventions and traditions that go with village life and dictate behaviour. The dry, gentle humour pervades the whole story, helping to lighten the darker moments.

There’s no rush or car chases, none of the traumatised detectives who seem to populate most crime fiction these days, and no excessive violence or swearing. This is a gentle, funny and endearing murder mystery that’s as much about the characters and idiosyncrasies of village life as it is about solving a complex murder.

If you enjoy a cosy mystery, this is about as warm, entertaining and beautifully written as it gets.

Description

It wasn’t the rain that upset Fethering resident Carole Seddon during her walk on the Downs, or the dilapidated barn in which she was forced to seek shelter. No, what upset her was the human skeleton she discovered there, neatly packed into two blue fertiliser bags . . .

Amateur sleuths Carole and Jude go to the small hamlet of Weldisham where gossips quickly identify the corpse as Tamsin Lutteridge, a young woman who disappeared from the village months before. But why is Tamsin’s mother so certain that her daughter is still alive? As Jude sets out to discover what really happened to Tamsin, Carole digs deeper into Weldisham’s history and the bitter relationships simmering beneath the village’s gentle facade.

Death on the Downs by Simon Brett

The Country Inn Mystery by Faith Martin

30th December 2020.

I’m not a big fan of the traditional cosy mystery set in a small rural village, but the writing and character of Jenny Starling captured my imagination from the first page and took me along on an interesting and enjoyable ride.

Relief chef, Jenny, is working at the Spindlewood Inn in the village of Caulcott Deeping in the Cotswolds. The village is putting on a Regency extravaganza, which includes performances of a local historical event by the amateur dramatic society. And while they may be amateurs, the battle of egos is just as sharp.

The story ambles along with Jenny observing the varied characters who are there for the weekend. It soon becomes apparent that some of these people have other agendas, especially where the main actor, Rachel Norman, is concerned. It’s only a matter of time before she winds up dead, but how she was killed is a baffling mystery in the Agatha Christie tradition.

While the police try to piece it all together, Jenny’s observational skills and ability to connect the sometimes obscure clues ensures she solves the murder with skill and aplomb.

The author’s produced an entertaining and enjoyable read, filled with suspects, motives and red herrings and a liberal sprinkling of humour and wry observation, which lift it above the average cosy mystery.

Description

Jenny Starling is working at The Spindlewood Inn for the weekend. It’s hosting a Regency Extravaganza, involving historical costume, amateur dramatics and food.

Leading actress of the amateur dramatic society and reputed man-eater Rachel Norman portrays a doomed noblewoman. But when she turns up actually drowned in the pond, there’s suddenly a murder to investigate.

There’s been plenty of trouble at the idyllic country inn. The performers weren’t a happy troupe, and Jenny discovers a simmering romantic tension.

Who wanted Rachel dead and why? Jenny Starling is going to need all her wits to crack this complex case.

The Country Inn mystery by Faith Martin