On this very rainy Sunday morning, I’m thinking about the folks in Toronto who will be celebrating Word on the Street, and am hoping for their sake that the rain stops. But for myself, I would love the rain to continue so I could, without guilt, devote the whole day to reading. For our Word on the Street festival yesterday, we had nearly perfect weather. Unfortunately, during the time I was there, the turnout seemed to be quite low… hopefully it picked up as the day went on. Speaking of Toronto, I am enjoying a Vanilla Scone from Future Bakery that I picked up at the Kitchener Market yesterday. I may have mentioned these scones before, as they are delicious. Future Bakery is located in Toronto, but they have a stall at the market here on Saturdays, which is awesome for me! I would highly recommend these scones… not too sweet, with a subtle vanilla taste and a hint of icing drizzled over the top… yum! Note: the bakery in Toronto only makes these scones on Fridays and Saturdays, so if you try to get one during the week, you will be out of luck.
Last week I got a book from the library that I am so excited about, the latest mystery in the “Hercule Poirot” series, The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah. This novel is the first Agatha Christie family-sanctioned addition to Christie’s extensive body of work, and I think she did an excellent job. I will admit that I had my misgivings. I've read a couple of Hannah’s psychological mysteries, and while I found them gripping, I was not always so impressed with her writing skills, so when I read the news about Hannah receiving this honour, I had my doubts. Having nearly reached the end of the novel, I feel that Hannah does indeed have the skills to take o this project and to meet and exceed this reader’s expectations. In The Monogram Murders, retired Belgian ex-detective Hercule Poirot is enjoying a short holiday in a part of London where he is unlikely to run into anyone he knows, and appreciating the finest cup of coffee in the whole city (according to his opinion) at Pleasant’s Coffee House, when a woman rushes in, seemingly very agitated and distressed. She exchanges a few words with the waitress, then takes a table in the corner, where she stares out the darkened window, possiibly watching for someone. Poirot moves to her table to join her, and in the ensuing conversation, he learns that she, Jennie, is in fear of being murdered, yet she does not seem willing to avert this event from happening. Then she rushes out, leaving Poirot to ponder this encounter as he finishes his coffee and fine dinner and returns to the lodging house where he has chosen to spend his “stay-cation”. There he runs into his friend, Edward Catchpool, a policeman with Scotland Yard, and learns that three people were murdered that evening at the Bloxham Hotel. Poirot immediately feels there is a connection between his encounter with Jennie and the three murders, and insists on returning to the hotel with Catchpool to investigate. The three who were murdered, it is discovered, were originally from the same small village, where something tragic occurred nearly twenty years earlier. Could these murders be connected to the previous tragedy? Is Jennie telling the truth when she says she is going to be murdered? And how can Poirot stop this inevitable murder from taking place, and also solve the crime of the murders that have already occurred? Have no fear – using his “little grey cells”, Poirot will get to the truth and unmask the culprits, revealing the connections of the whole cast of characters, but will keep Catchpool, and the reader, guessing until the very end. I’m not quite at the very end, but I will be soon, and if I didn’t know better, I would swear that this was written by Christie herself. I haven’t read many of her books, but I have listened to quite a few, so as I’ve been reading, whenever Poirot speaks, I “hear” him as if I was listening to an audiobook, and have decided that Hannah has Poirot’s character and speech patterns dead-on. The novel is set in 1929, and she does a good job of putting the story in that period realistically without using too much description. Catchpool serves Poirot much as Hastings did in previous novels, as a sounding board and apprentice. I loved that Hannah found ways to use the word “canoodle” at least twice in the novel, and that Poirot referred many times to “the little grey cells”, giving authenticity to the story. I don’t know if there are plans for other “Hercule Poirot” novels, and if so, whether they will be written by Hannah alone, or whether the Christie family would consider giving other authors a go at this project, but I would give Hannah an A+ for her work on this novel, and I look forward to checking out future works by this author.
As I was nearing the end of The Monogram Murders, I was thinking about what I would read next. I have review books to read, and a pile of books to read for my committee, and I also have a book club meeting coming up, so I have plenty of factors that could potentially influence my reading selections (this is when reading starts to become a chore, not a pleasure…). I headed off to the library to pick up my hold, and was surprised and delighted to see that not one, but two, books were ready for me to pick up, including Ian McEwan’s latest work, The Children Act. I’m so excited, I’m very nearly shaking! I love McEwan’s works, which often present situations and explore them in the most interesting and different ways, dragging the reader into the moral and ethical dilemmas with which the characters are also grappling. I can’t wait to start this book, one that I will read entirely for the pleasure of it, a book that I will read “just for me”. Alas, the sun has come out, so it may not be a guilt-free reading day after all… darn!
Bye for now…