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The Mystery of Mrs. Christie – Marie Benedict

“A winning whodunit from the thrilling life story of the mistress of whodunits, Agatha Christie herself, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is a deft, fascinating page-turner replete with richly drawn character and plot twists that would stump Hercule Poirot!” – Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network.

I have had an interest in Agatha Christie since the early eighties when my daughter was old enough to attend story time at the library. While she listened to stories and socialized, I loaded up with books to read at home for the next week. I quickly read all the Agatha Christie novels, our local library had to offer. I have since read as many biographies about her as well.

This is a novelization of what might have happened those eleven days that Agatha Christie disappeared. From everything that I have read, this feels like a good explanation. Agatha was a very private person and I don’t believe anyone except Agatha knows the true story.

Marie Benedict researched this famous author and put the bits and pieces of information together to form a plausible explanation. She did it in a way that created tension, conflict, and well rounded characters. It doesn’t put a very good light on Archie Christie, her husband. It makes him appear to be unworthy of Agatha. The author has attempted to tell the story with two narrators, Archie and Agatha. Archie explains how he was so besotted of Agatha in the beginning but after childbirth and her inability to get back to her youthful figures, he strays. Of course, Archie makes it seem like the obvious solution.

Agatha shows their story from her point of view. She is in love with Archie and when she discovers his infidelity the reader connects and feels her heartbreak. If it had only been Archie it would have been difficult enough but when you add in Agatha’s mother pushing her to ignore everyone else, including their only child, Rosalind, in order to stroke Archie’s ego and ensure her husband’s attention.

There is a definite character arc for Agatha. Though she’d written several books before her disappearance, this might explain how she became the powerhouse writer throughout the rest of her writing career. If I hadn’t known that Agatha does re-marry and apparently had a happy union later, I would have been more sad for her. Archie seemed to negate her writing. Not sure if it was ignorance or jealousy because of her success. If this book is anything like the truth, I am happy to see how it ended.

If you love Agatha Christie’s novels or are an anglophile and love everything from the UK, I think you will find this an enjoyable read. I have read several of her novels but not all. I do intend to remedy that by reading them regularly.

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is also the author of The Only Woman in the Room, Lady Clementine, The Other Einstein, and Carnegies Maid. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

I hope you’ve been able to enjoy a taste of spring wherever you are. Here in the Midwest we’ve had a string of days filled with sunshine and seventies. May you find some time to get outside and to read this week.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Midwinter Murder – Agatha Christie

January did not start out so well for reading. So far this month, this is the only book I have completed and since we only have six more days, I am not holding out much hope that I will complete another.

Midwinter Murders was a cozy read for winter nights. It is a collection of short stories. Some have either Poirot or Miss Marple as protagonists and some do not have the famous characters in them at all. The one thing they have in common is that they are winter themed.

The book opens with an introduction from Agatha Christie of Christmas at Abney Hall when she was a girl. That experience I guess helped her develop her stories of Manors in the English countryside. My favorite was the last – Christmas Adventure and an older Poirot. These are stories that are read best when the snow has piled up, wind whistling through the tree branches outside your home, and a warm tea or hot chocolate.

Like most of Agatha Christie’s novels they do keep you guessing until the end but they manage to tell a tale of murder without exposing you to too much violence.

I knew I would enjoy this book because I have been a fan of Christie since my twenties when I had my first child and we spent time at the library for her story time. While she had the opportunity to practice her social skills with preschoolers, I discovered Agatha Christie. Over a short period of time, I devoured as many of her books as I could. I was a young mother and had the opportunity to stay home with our first child. Living on one salary, I learned how to entertain myself and Jenny without spending much money and the library was a very good start. So I have fond memories of Dame Agatha.

I would have read more this month but I got sucked into the craziness of our world right now. With a pandemic and an attempted coup followed by an inauguration that felt it may be under siege, I couldn’t wrap my mind around fiction.

I did attempt to read one other book, a romance but even though I enjoy romances, this one wasn’t my cup of tea. I had to abandon it half way through. Since I don’t like to disparage other writer’s works, I will keep the title to myself because I also know that everyone has their own tastes when it comes to what they read. I will say that it was well written but I found it difficult to find much story between the sexual interludes.

Since I have almost a week left, I will start another book and hope to finish it by the end of this month.

I hope you have been able to escape the chaos into a good book. Each day, I do feel better.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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January 2021 To Be Read

Today we are being pounded with a snow storm. Sounds like a good day to read a book. I am almost done with one of my December reads and plan to have a review posted on Thursday.

This is a fairly ambitious stack of books for next month but hey it doesn’t hurt to stretch ourselves. As always I will always feel good if I read at least four a month. Even though I am retired, I seem to have found so many things to do to keep busy. Besides starting a new writing project next month, I am also President of our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. Though we only meet monthly, and in 2020 most meetings were virtual. We will be continuing that until it is safe to meet in person. This year besides focusing on writing, we will be reading a few books and reviewing, as well.

I will post a follow-up for my December reads early in January. Did I meet my goal of at least four or did I surpass it? You will have to wait and see.

As I said, I am developing a new mystery novel to write and I am excited to start something new. After a conversation at my last Sinc meeting, it became clear most of the authors and writers swear by Hallie Ephron’s – Writing and Selling the Mystery Novel. I am basing my writing goals around using this book. Currently I am reading and filling out the worksheets to develop the story now. I will be aiming for a first draft by the end of June. I will slip a little bit about this goal into my blog posts to keep you informed, just in case you’re interested.

I am enjoying our rather one-sided conversations but it would be great if you could chime in once in a while. I would love to see how many other people out there actually read my blog and either like it or have some suggestions to make it better. I watch a lot of YouTube and the BookTubers on there. I am trying to fashion this blog after some of those. There is something comforting to hear others talk about books. My reviews are deliberately vague because I don’t want to be guilty of spoilers.

I also will be choosing my favorite book read each month and for the year. I will probably slip in more bookish content as I find it to add, as well. I do enjoy writing this blog and I do hope someone finds it interesting enough to follow.

I really would appreciate your comments and if you have a blog that you would like me to support, please comment and let me know.

Until next time, happy new year.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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December 2020 TBR

I am filling ( and feeling) my December 2020 to be read list with lots of holiday cheer. This is an ambitious list of books and doubt that I will make it through all but I will give it my best shot.

The first book that I have started is Karen White’s The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street. I actually bought this one last December and realized I needed to catch up with this series, so for the past year I started from the beginning and have now read everything in between. It is one of my favorite series, not only because it is a cozy mystery series but it also has a touch of paranormal with the old haunted houses in Charleston as the setting for these books. I will go into more detail when I actually finish this book and review later.

One is a Georgette Heyer – A Christmas Party – never read this author but I have heard good things and this was a gift from the past.

Of course I have to read a little Agatha Christie. Midwinter Murders contains short stories that would be good to read during the winter so if I don’t manage to finish this one in December it will definitely be on my January 2021 list.

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright is actually a book I started last year but didn’t finish, so will hopefully finish this year.

Yuletide Homicide by Jennifer David Hesse is another series that I have yet to finish involving a character who practices Wicca secretly. Her books tend to be set around the Wiccan holidays.

The last two – A Merry Murder and Ringing in Murder by Kate Kingsbury are from a series that I have been reading for several years and is one of my yearly holiday favorites. They are cozy mysteries set pre-world war I in England at the Pennyfoot Hotel and the main character is Cecily Sinclair Baxter who always, against her husband’s, wishes gets involved with solving a murder.

I look forward to digging into these this month with something warm to drink, a blanket, and maybe the fireplace giving a warm glow to the room as I read.

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season, however you celebrate. Stay safe and read more.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Agatha Trivia

‘A Murder is Announced’ Trivia

Just finished reading ‘A Murder is Announced’ last night and I would like to review but because it is a book my local chapter of Sisters in Crime is discussing, I don’t want to review it until those followers have read it.

Still I thought it might be kind of fun to do a Trivia quiz for the meeting. I am going to post the quiz here and find out just how many of our members read my blog. Granted, I am not giving the answers but anyone who reads this will have a chance to find the answers before our meeting later this month. Anyone else is welcome to play along as well. After our meeting, the third Saturday of the month, I will post the answers for anyone interested.

  1. ‘A Murder is Announced’ was Agatha’s ________ book published?
  2. Inspector ________________ worked on this case with Miss Marple’s      help.
  3. Names of the lesbian couple in this story _____________________
    and _____________________.
  4. Name of the vicarage cat ________________________________.
  5. What was the time that the murder was supposed to take place?      ____________
  6. What was the name of Bunny’s Birthday cake?      __________________________
  7. Who did Agatha model Miss Marple after?      ______________________________
  8. AT the Bochercon World Mystery Convention in May _________ she was      named Mystery Writer of the Century and the Poirot books Mystery Series of the Century.
  9. What cozy mystery convention features the Agatha award? __________________
  10. Was Agatha a cat lover or a dog lover?    _________________________________

Again, have a happy 4th and enjoy the fireworks – along with a good book.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Mystery Novels

 

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4th of July 2011

I have been counting down the days to another long weekend. It seems that there are too few of them.  I am planning to work on characters for my
current work in progress. Trying to get to the point where I can actually start writing when I have my week of vacation starting on the 9th.

When I write, I like to have a bit of an outline without filling in all the gaps. Not knowing everything seems to make the whole process more fun but I do need to have some direction. Developing characters is one way I work on developing my story. It’s more than deciding what they look like. It’s about discovering who they are and what they would do. Creating a past that will help determine the character’s present and future. It’s like meeting someone new and sitting down for a chat but this character isn’t afraid to tell me everything. The more I know, the more I can predict how this character would react if dropped into different situations.  Someone who has a fear of the dark is not going to wander off into the woods alone at night unless they have no other choice. If the reader is aware of the character’s fear it makes them want to stay with the story to find out what happens.

It’s easy to make the protagonist too much like yourself. You know what you would do in a given situation but the character is not you so you have to create someone who would react differently than you would as the writer. You have to decide what the character wants most, what they are most afraid of, what their goals are, and what motivates them. Do they have flaws and what are they? What is their background? Where do they come from? What have they done? What has happened to them to make them into the person they are now?

Because your story has to have more than one person you have to populate your book with several characters. Some are major characters, some minor, and some who just walk-on to the story. It is also easy to create a flawless character. Everyone has flaws.

No one likes a perfect person, they’re not interesting. To shake it up a little, even your good guy has to have some faults. The same can be said for
the antagonist, he can’t be all evil. He has to have something good about him; otherwise you end up working with paper doll characters. They need a little more depth. By creating fully developed characters you make them three dimensional. You make them people want to read about and spend some time with.

 

I always turn to books as references while writing. The books I am using currently to develop my characters are ‘Plot versus Character’
by Jeff Gerke and ’45 Master Characters – Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters’ by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. I plan to write a review about my reference books at another time so won’t go into detail for now. Besides the weekend is wasting away as I blog so need to get back to my project.

 

Currently I am reading ‘A Murder is Announced’ by Agatha Christy. It is a book my Sister’s in Crime group is reading to discuss at our July Meeting. Now that I am further into the book, I am enjoying immersing myself into that time period. If you haven’t read Agatha’s novels, it’s never
too late to start. Would love to hear about your writing process, I am truly interested in that aspect of writing. How do you create your characters? Do you use detailed information or do you just have them fully developed in your head?  What are you reading right now? Feel free to comment and share. There is nothing better than visiting with writers and readers.

Hope you all have a happy and safe 4th. Spend some of it outside away from your computer. As writers you can’t expect to write about life unless you experience some of it.

Virginia

 
 

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