Posts Tagged ‘SinC25’


Posted: September 20, 2011 in Agatha Christie, England, review

It is difficult to say anything about Agatha Christie’s 1967 novel Endless Night without revealing too much about the plot, but I will try.

Critics might say it is derivative but they would have to agree it is an astonishingly different book for a 75 year old writer to produce at the end of her career. There is no Poirot or Miss Marple, and the two main ideas behind the plot and the brilliant twist at the end derive from ideas in books she wrote over 30 and 40 years before Endless Night.  I think it can be considered a masterpiece of psychological crime fiction. 

The reader needs to remind themselves that the year 1967 was closer in time, and manner, to the world of the Golden Age of the Detective novel than it is to us today. Forty four years back from 1967 would take us back to 1923. In Endless Night Christie mixes the familiar world of old money from her pre-war books, with the thrusting new society of the 1960s. The story almost seeming ahead of its time in predicting the greedy consumer society, and the breaking down of class structures.

When people say Christie’s characters have no depth I wonder how many of her books they have read recently, because Endless Night has a cast of characters that jump of the page and are easy to visualize. I read the book again after a long gap familiar with the plot, but I still enjoyed it immensely as the tension was wound up tighter and tighter. Most of today’s readers having read, or seen so many Christies on TV, will guess what is going to happen even if they don’t know for certain, but back in 1967 when on November 10, 1967 it was reviewed in The Guardian by Francis Isles aka Anthony Berkeley Cox his reaction in a more innocent and trusting era was:

 “The old maestrina of the crime-novel (or whatever is the female of ‘maestro’) pulls yet another out of her inexhaustible bag with Endless Night, quite different in tone from her usual work. It is impossible to say much about the story without giving away vital secrets: sufficient to warn the reader that if he should think this is a romance he couldn’t be more mistaken, and the crashing, not to say horrific suspense at the end is perhaps the most devastating that this surpriseful author has ever brought off.”  

Agatha Christie’s Devon

Posted: September 15, 2011 in Agatha Christie, England, notes

This post is my contribution to the Agatha Christie special 121st birthday celebrations at Kerrie’s Mysteries in Paradise. 

Unfortunately our gas boiler breakdown, and the subsequent chaos, has prevented me attending any of the events of the Agatha Christie Festival running in  Torquay from the 11th  to 18th September. You can download a program from the festival website

But as part of my tribute to Agatha Christie I have started to read Endless Night [1967] rated by John Curran [author of Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks] as one of her ten best books. Endless Night has been variously described as ‘prodigiously exciting to read’ [Collins reader], her final triumph, and greatest achievement of her last twenty years[John Curran]. You know with Christie that the plot will be inventive, even if a variation on a theme, but in this later work will her characters be worthy of our interest, or merely shapeless outlines. 

My review of the last Christie book I read Five Little Pigs, which surprised me with the amount of social comment and depth of characterization. 

I have recycled some material from previous posts about our trips to Greenway and Torquay. 



Last month [posted 17 September 2009] we visited Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home, which was given to the National Trust in 2000 by the family, daughter Rosalind and Anthony Hicks, and Agatha’s grandson Mathew Prichard.
The house purchased by Agatha [known locally by her married name of Mrs Mallowan] and her second husband Max Mallowan [ later knighted for his services to archaeology] in 1938 for £6,000 has only been open to the public this year after a £5.4 million restoration.

The original dwelling on this site , Greenway Court, was a Tudor mansion but the present building dates from about 1780.

The house and gardens are situated on the River Dart and although you can approach by water we took our very small car, and pre-booked a parking space for a three hour stay. This is essential as they will turn you away if you come by car and have not booked and the approach roads are very narrow. The watery options were not feasible for us as we would have had to drive to Torquay, or Dartmouth or Totnes, parked and then taken the boat. Another factor is it is a steep climb of 800 yards up from the boat quay to the house. From bitter experience lanes and hills in Devon and Cornwall described as narrow and steep are very narrow and very steep.

From the car park there is a gentle down hill walk to the reception centre and house. It was a little bit tougher going back uphill weighed down with books and gifts. Those who have chosen the greener options by walking or arriving by boat are charged less for admission, but as National Trust members [a bargain for us retired folk] we get in for free.

You are given a timed ticket to enter the house and there is a short introductory talk, which among other facts mentioned that you can hire part of the house which has been arranged for self catering accommodation [sleeping ten] for about £2,500 in high season and a more manageable £750 approximately in February.

The interior of the house has been arranged to be exactly as it would have been in the 1950s.
The drawing room contained furniture brought and arranged by Agatha from Ashfield, her family home, and one could imagine her sitting reading her latest manuscript to the family after dinner.
Her clothes still hang in the dressing room and in the bedroom Max Mallowan’s metal camp bed which he took on his archaeological trips is set up alongside the main bed. The effect is that you expect members of the family to come in and resume their lives at any minute.
During the autumn of 1943 Greenway was requisitioned by the Admiralty for the use of the United States Navy. Greenway became the Officers Mess for the 10th US Patrol Boat Flotilla, and their unofficial war artist Lt Marshall Lee painted a frieze around the walls of the library.

The whole interior is full of wonderful family mementos and gives a glimpse of how prosperous English gentry lived after the Second World War. We will certainly return because there is far too much to take in within one visit. In some National Trust properties furniture and books have to be brought in to fill the space, here it is all genuine Agatha and family. I was particularly interested as an old Dulwich resident that among all of her own books there was a copy of The House on Lordship Lane by A.E.W. Mason, author of The Four Feathers.

After leaving the house we had lunch, walked round a small part of the wonderful gardens and then spent far too long in the book/gift shop before happily trudging up the slope to the car park.

The superb collections of memorabilia in the house, the wonderful setting on the River Dart and the beautiful gardens made this a place we hope to return to again and again.

“We went to Greenway, and very beautiful the house and ground were. A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 90, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees-the ideal house, a dream house….”
Agatha Christie
[posted 17th September 2009]


The Princess Pier in Torquay was named after Princess Louise, the fifth of Queen Victoria’s seven children, and opened to the public in 1894.

It was one of young Agatha Miller’s favourite places and for 2d very old money she could roller skate on the pier. The photograph of Agatha Miller [and information is from Exploring Agatha Christie country by David Gerrard] shows Agatha in a feathered hat and long skirt.
Today roller skating is forbidden, but the pier is still a pleasant place to walk and sit admiring the scenery.
In the background of the modern photograph you can see the Grand Hotel, where Agatha spent a one-night honeymoon on Christmas Eve, 1914 with Archie Christie. 
You can read all the other 121st birthday celebratory posts at Kerrie’s Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival. 

Nordic women crime writers: poll result

Posted: September 12, 2011 in polls, Scandinavia

The result of the Nordic women crime writer poll was a close run thing, with Karin Alvtegen [Sweden] winning by one vote from Karin Fossum [Norway], with Asa Larsson and Maj Sjowall [both Sweden] two votes back.


Both Karin Alvtegen, and Karin Fossum, write a deeper psychological style crime fiction in which the perpetrator’s motives, and the impact of a crime on victims, relatives, accomplices and witnesses play a bigger part than the whodunnit  factor. I suppose you could compare their style with Ruth Rendell’s non-Wexford stories? Have I made the correct comparison?

Do women write this type of story better than male writers? Or is that too simplistic a view?

Do women readers prefer Karin Alvtegen, and men prefer Stieg Larsson? Do women prefer Karin Fossum, and men prefer Jo Nesbo? Do you prefer thrillers, psychological suspense, or police procedurals? What is more important to you; clever plots, character development, creating an atmosphere or the quality of the writing? The problem with this sort of  poll is that sometimes it raises more questions than it provides answers. 

My first contribution to the Sisters in Crime Book Bloggers Challenge is to have another fun poll to discover who is your favourite Nordic female crime writer. My apologies if I have forgotten your favourite, but the write in option was very popular during the last poll, when apparently I had drunk too much of my medicinal Bushmills, and forgot Ireland!

Please cast your votes before midnight on 10 September when the poll closes.

 Sisters in Crime Book Bloggers Challenge is to celebrate 25 years of Sisters in Crime, “a non-profit organization to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.” You can read all the details about the challenge at Barbara Fisters Place.

I am not one for challenges or memes, as I now want to read without any constraints or time limits, but living so close to Agatha Christie’s home at Greenway I can’t resist participating informally. 

The phrase ‘Sisters in Crime’ reminds me my mother was one of SEVEN sisters; en masse they were a formidable group, all with slightly different personalities. Sadly only one sister, well into her 90s, remains from a family of eleven children.

I also remember that in October 2006, in the early days of Crime Scraps, I was intrigued to read a post from thriller/mystery critic David J. Montgomery entitled “10 Greatest Detective Novels”. If you follow the link you will see not only were all the novels written by men, but by North American men. You don’t have to be a member of Sisters in Crime to challenge that selection process. Over the next few months I shall be posting about books by some of my favourite women crime fiction writers including:

Ruth Rendell, whose earlier Wexfords revived my interest in crime fiction, Donna Leon, whose books are always a pleasure to read, Maj Sjowall the Godmother of Swedish crime fiction and Asa Larsson one of her metaphorical daughters. 

The photo shows the front of Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home on the River Dart in Devon.