Sunday, 28 December 2014

Taken at the Flood. By Agatha Christie

Taken at the Flood

Agatha Christie

William Morrow. First published 1948.

This Hercule Poirot mystery is set in London and a suburb just at the end of World War II. A 'blast', resulting from 'enemy action', at the London home of the wealthy Gordon Cloade leaves his extended and dependent family bereft of all support, and his newly wed young wife, now his widow, in possession of all his money. In fact, Mrs Cloade was already a widow when she married Gordon, and when her first husband turns up, the family is suddenly infused with new hope that the second wedding is null and void, and the money would come to them after all. The death of the putative first husband is the first of three deaths, murders or suicides, that Poirot finds himself investigating. 

Not one of her best - too many coincidences, and too many new facts and characters introduced too late into the story. An easy read though. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

No Orchids for Miss Blandish. By James Hadley Chase

No Orchids for Miss Blandish

James Hadley Chase

Mastermind Books. First Published 1939.

Chase (along with Alistair Maclean, and others of that ilk) was among my first 'adult' authors when I began to graduate from Enid Blyton and Frank Richards. I did not then realize that in many ways he was a subversive author, in the company of Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler, though the latter are much better regarded by the literati. All their books are crime novels dealing with the black underbelly of America and its essential lawlessness. The characters are mostly cowboys without horses, carrying out all their rustling and horse-thievery and other crimes in cities, with roads and cars and factories, rather than in the open range. There is a name for this type of fiction - 'noir'. But the work of Chase sometimes also falls into another category - 'pulp fiction'. In writing style, 'No Orchids...' is pulp fiction. The characters are almost all the same, everybody is a crook, the women are atrociously treated, and so on. The redeeming feature is that the story is well plotted, and races along till the rather expected, but tragic denouement.