I picked up this book by chance. It was the extra book you toss in your library bag when you are running short of good selections. All the books I wanted were on reserve so my last-minute choice turned out to be a surprisingly good read. Apart from Harry Potter and LOTR, I’m not a fan of anything close to science fiction (exception being Jules Verne) or fantasy.
Written by Taichi Yamada, In Search of a Distant Voice has a grim start with foreboding overtones. The main character, an immigration enforcement official by the name of Kasama Tsuneo, has to track down some Indian “illegals” without visas in a graveyard. Subtle references are made to his dark past in Portland, Oregon which gives the impression that there is a secret to unravel which drives the plot along for a while. It is made clear that he wants to put the past behind him and be ordinary. He was an illegal in the US himself so the job he has in Japan bothers his conscience. In the course of his work, something unusual happens – he gets overtaken by a “force of erotic pleasure” while he is about to capture his quarry in the graveyard and hears a woman’s voice in his head. I must admit that took me by surprise.
It seems some sort of telepathic connection has occurred between the mystery woman and Tsuneo. Then it starts getting bizarre but Yamada does a good job of persuading the reader to stick around to find out who the woman may be. Meanwhile Tsuneo tries to figure out whether he is crazy or if this woman actually exists and how such an occurrence can happen. In description, it sounds silly and unfathomable but the handling of punchy dialogue, prose and skillful interweaving of side plots such as an arranged marriage and the revelation of the secret bothering Tsuneo intrigues a reader enough to continue to the end. The narrative voice also switches between subjects and tenses in a clever enough way to make the content of the book seem distinctive in style since it could be either one or all of the following: a story about truth, a story about repentance or in the most basic sense, a ghost story. But when we reach the end, we are as illuminated by the identity of the woman as when we began.
I’ve finished the Larsson trilogy. It was a very good reading experience as I expected. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a bit lacklustre with all its financial stuff at the beginning but my endurance for sticking it out rewarded me later on. It is compelling material that keeps you turning pages for hours. I finished Book 1 in two days because I couldn’t wait. Then I actually read the The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest because I couldn’t obtain the second instalment. I finished that in 3 days because how it started caused me some confusion at first until I realised the problem. Then in 2 days, I read The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book but it was the third one in my reading pattern. If you are wondering, I don’t sleep more than 5 hours each night and I’m a super quick reader with a highly retentive memory; I’m the sort of person who can memorise textbook answers. By then, I knew a lot of the plot because I read the sequel beforehand. Don’t worry though, I’ll review them in order for you.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
So in Sweden, we meet a do-gooder financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist of Millenium Magazine, who finds himself in strife after going to court against Hans Wennerstrom without sufficient evidence to refute the allegations of corruption he published. It dos not help either that his relationship with married Erika Berger, wife of bisexually inclined Greger and publisher and editor of Millenium, is public knowledge and subject to malicious gossip. Defeated and embarassed with the verdict, he accepts a special project in a small village town by pretending to write a memoir of the Vanger family while he undertakes an investigation for a long-lost niece called Harriet Vanger. The old man who commissions the search is searching for an answer to the mystery of having rare flowers sent to him. He suspects it is the murderer of Harriet tormenting him. When Michael investigates, he stumbles on family secrets.
He goes to Milton Security to ask for a research assistant and because of her computer related capabilities, Lisbeth, the perceived social misfit who is distrustful of all authority figures apart from her boss Dragan Armansky, is assigned to help. Lisbeth inadvertently reveals her hacking abilities and the fact she has a photographic memory but is confused about her feelings for him because she has always been subject to injustices by most men. He realises that Lisbeth is not an ordinary person but respects her needs not knowing she has been judged incompetent and is under the guardianship of Nils Bjurman, a man who takes advantage of her. Mikael, who’s nicknamed Kalle Blomkvist by author Astrid Lindgren, writer of the Pippi Longstocking books, finds himself trapped by the murderer.
Lisbeth comes to his rescue in the nick of time as she works out the truth but refuses to be involved with the police. Meanwhile Mikael realises the old man lied to him after he brings him a surprise visitor and is forced to compromise his integrity in order to acquiesce with an ardent wish to conceal the truth. But in a way, in the end we realise that Lisbeth makes sure Hans Wennerstrom receives his just deserts.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
We meet Lisbeth Salander again in The Girl Who Played with Fire, more than a million dollars richer after the suicide of financier Hans Wennerstrom. Mikael Blomkvist at Millenium leaked the truth about him on television again but with more success than the first time. This time her guardian Nils Bjurman, who still has not rescinded her incompetency declaration, decides he needs to hire some thugs to finish her off so he can remove the amateur tattoo which labels him as a pig, sadist and rapist on his stomach without fear of exposure of the rape video. It leads him to a man who absolutely hates her after she threw a Molotov cocktail at him – Lisbeth was angered about the domestic violence inflicted on her long suffering and compliant mother – her political refugee father from G.R.U. (a secret Russian military police unit): Alexander Zalachenko. He has criminal links with the illegal minor sex trade industry which she finds out through her computer hacking abilities coincidentally also the subject of an investigation at Millenium.
Lisbeth purchases an apartment but does not change her address and offers her old place rent free to her girlfriend Mimi. This inadvertently brings Mimi unwanted publicity after it is discovered her friend Lisbeth was present at the murder scene of the journalists working on the sex trade article for Millenium and her fingerprints were on a used weapon. It does not help that the attitude of some of the police force is hostile to Lisbeth before they’ve made any assessment of her themselves – they just go on the word of inaccurate reports by the psychiatrist Dr. Peter Teleborian. In this book, the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ rule does not seem to apply at all. I’m unsure if this is standard police procedure in Sweden. Lisbeth is almost attacked by a giant blonde man by the name of Lundin, who is in league with a biker gang called Svavelsjö M.C., but miraculously escapes. This is witnessed by Mikael Blomkvist, fortunately for her but neither of them report it as she does not trust authority figures and he respects her need for privacy. Meanwhile Erika Berger struggles with her feelings as she’s been offered a post as chief of Svenska Morgon Posten, Sweden’s large daily newspaper but she does not want to leave Millenium hanging because Mikael is too focused on the murder to care about the other details of the production cycle.
When a famous boxer Lisbeth used to box with sees the posters advertising she’s wanted for murder, he goes to Millenium to defend her and explains the origin of her wasp tattoo. Dragan Armansky at Milton Security also sends two of his staff to assist the police to secretly gain information without the knowledge one of them had a strong prejudice against her who releases the details of a confidential police interview to a scum journalist. Because of the address she resides in, Mimi is abducted by tank-built Lundin who has congenital analgesia. This is seen by the boxer who follows the giant kidnapper. After a boxing bout in an abandoned warehouse when the good guy was almost about to lose, some welcome help from kickboxing fanatic Mimi manages to help them to disorient Lundin in order for them to escape to the refuge of the night’s cover of darkness. Mikael is tipped off that Lisbeth is going in search of her father who has been given a name not in the public records by the Swedish secret police, S.A.P.O., after discovering her secret apartment. He decides to follow her trail which turns out to be a good decision as when he finds her she’s in danger of dying from a brain injury inflicted from a bullet shot from a .45 Colt. It ends rather abruptly so this was my least favourite book of the trilogy.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (the film adaptation of which hit cinemas back in February 2011) is basically how Stieg Larsson ties up the loose ends of his trilogy. This is essentially the sequel to The Girl Who Played with Fire rather than a novel able to stand up on its own merits. The readers are mostly treated to a picture of a bedridden Lisbeth who ends up in the same hospital as her cruel, Russian ex-spy father who unsuccessfully attempted to murder her when she tried to kill him while Mikael only starts to put the truth together about what happened during the shooting that led to Lisbeth being branded a killer. Besides this, government officials in Sapö decide certain people need to be hired to dispose of other people who are thorns in their sides and Larsson uses this to criticise the police, the courts and the public service sector because of the injustice they display to Lisbeth due to her outward, nonconformist appearance. Meanwhile Erika Berger who is being stalked realises Svenska Morgen Posten is not her kind of environment as she realises her boss is keeping big secrets through Millenium.
In addition to this, Mikael is battling to get Lisbeth free from scrutiny by government institutions that have only treated her with hostility. Bublanski and Sonja Modig still work on her case because both believe Salander is innocent. Blomkvist and Armansky are also working together to prove her innocence. Faste, Solicitor Ekstrom, Teleborian (names you will have come across in The Girl Who Played with Fire) all work for the security police to put her behind bars. The Salander case draws the attention of Superintendent Torsten Edklinth from the Constitutional Protection unit who has to report to the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister about his findings. In the process, he becomes fast friends with Blomkvist, which puts the ball in Lisbeth’s court. You could see this is a very feminist book although a male author wrote it. The fact that Salander uses her abilities as a hacker to gain her revenge on the guardian who raped her and gain justice is the stuff of revenge fantasy. This is all played out in a court drama, which ends positively for Lisbeth Salander. She is also finally able to get even with Lundin. Meanwhile she also gets over her romantic feelings for Mikael and sees him for who he is – a friend.
Given I’ve been a long-term fan of thrilling and entertaining crime fiction, the trilogy by Stieg Larsson was up my alley. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the best of the series as is often the case with the first of titles with sequels. The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, is in my opinion, one book split into halves. From the narrative pace of the titles, you can realise this as the first has its own plot while the second and third books begin to explore inner workings of the characters and their history. But I recommend reading of the series if you are not too squeamish.
The Sign, the third book written by author Raymond Khoury, combines a tale of politics gone awry and the realities about the impact of global warming into the plot of a thriller. In the modern world depicted by the writer, the joint forces of pollution of the earth and arising political upheaval gives rise to big arguments between those who believe in evolution and those who believe in creationism. The sign which appears over Antarctica, during the collapse of an ice shelf, as a shape-shifting globe and then vanishes are claimed by the latter group as a divine sign from God. The sign itself was able to arouse my curiosity but all the squabbles regarding its “divinity” put me off. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think this a Bible-thumping book at all but which way you lean politically is likely to effect how you perceive the book. The Sign seemed too technical and science focused for me to like it at first until the thriller part came into play with scientist Danny Sherwood’s escape attempt.
This sign’s appearance is witnessed by Gracie Logan, a science reporter who’s at the right place at the right time. She is boarded on a scientific vessel to cover the breakage of the ice shelf. Deciding to follow the story of the sign and investigate what it means, she is led to Egypt after a tip-off from a priest called Brother Ameen. Her crew sees the sign drawn in a Coptic cave inhabited by a Catholic priest called Father Jerome who is widely regarded as a Saint. The catch is that these images were drawn seven months earlier before the appearance of the sign in Antarctica. In regard to Gracie and her TV crew, I feel the descriptions were just too long and the debates on creationism versus evolution were too much on the preachy side to be enjoyable. Those characters became marginally of interest only after the death of a main crew member in Egypt in shady circumstances.
Once Boston’s Matt Sherwood, reformed car thief, was added to the equation after learning about the possibility that his brother’s death was a murder from his best friend, the plot becomes more action-packed and the pace begins to accelerate significantly. The short chapters and simple to read prose keeps you turning pages more because you are interested in where the plot will lead rather than because the characters arouse your sympathies. This is a plot-driven novel which doesn’t really care much to endear the characters to you. This is all about the characters going from Point A to Point B and to Point C in pursuit of the ending. Perhaps this is because of the writer’s credentials as a screenwriter – it is a lot easier to imagine this as a blockbuster with a lot of action. This book may have the pace of an adventure written by Dan Brown but because it considers much deeper subject matter such as global warming and environmentalism in almost lecture mode, I feel it’s more of a science fiction about corruption in religion and politics rather than the plot of a religious thriller featuring religious figures from myths and legends of the past. It almost feels like you’re reading something academical when reading bits of the book not involving Matt’s physical encounters with the Bullet as he tries to find out what really happened to Danny Sherwood, his kid brother.
This book will bring enjoyment for a fan of quickly moving adventure thrillers if you don’t mind lectures with an agenda sneaking into your fiction. For me, this detracted from having a wholesome reading experience. If a book claims to be a thriller, I have different expectations of content rather than politics and the possible dangers to humanity through global warming. This is not a religion-bashing book either as the final solution to the corrupt plans by the state and the military who are at odds with each other seems open-minded. But while I didn’t dislike this book, I believe it could have been written a lot better.
The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez was actually an interesting book despite its tendency to go into explanations of mathematical theory using formulae that was gibberish to me. For a book that talked heaps about math, it was enjoyable. I may have worked in the past as a supermarket cashier but this algebraic equations stuff was forgotten quickly after high school. We are introduced to a young protagonist, a Spanish scholarship student who is undertaking a mathematics PhD in London. He’s lodging with an old woman, a war veteran widow, who is suffering from cancer and her pretty carer, the violinist Emily. He has barely settled in when the old woman is murdered.
He arrives at the murder scene at the same time as another famous mathematician residing in London. The two come to the conclusion the work is characteristic of a serial killer who is trying to commit “imperceptible murders” and advances this theory to the police. They too try to predict the pattern of the murders on their own by studying mathematic patterns and reading up on psychological profiles. In the middle of this is the story about Fermat’s Theorem being solved by Andrew Wiles (who actually spent 25 years on it by the way). What is funny is that I finished reading The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson recently and it also tells us the story of Fermat’s Theorem as an anecdote. This French mathematician is a popular fellow in the literary world.
To get back to the crux of it, there are three more murders but the fourth doesn’t fit the pattern. It turns out there is a connection at the hospital where his girlfriend works to a father, who’s a bus driver, waiting for his kid to receive a kidney transplant. He has been mentally affected by the necessity of Christians to have a full body for burial to preserve their souls. When our main character realises how far a parent would go for their child, he realises the truth about who the real murderer is and manages to figure out who “committed” the ensuing murders. If you are interested, there is also a movie based on the book starring Elijah Wood. I thought it was funny I read this book at the time of this Google Doodle.
I have been a little distracted as I’ve been catching up on reading a lot – think I read about eight books in the past week (look forward to more book reviews). But I did manage to find some time to watch Little Dorrit directed by Adam Smith - starring Claire Foy and Matthew MacFadyen – based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Given her timid personality, ‘Little Doormat’ could have been considered more appropriate nomenclature.
Little Dorrit was born in the Marshalsea, a debtor’s prison after her father’s business failed and he was unable to pay off his creditors. Born a gentleman, Mr. Dorrit can’t stand being so low in regard and manages to cultivate a position as the father of the Marshalsea with the aid of the head turnkey, Mr. Chivery (senior). His son, John, is in love with Little Dorrit although her real name is Amy. Her older sister, the snobbish and beautiful Fanny, has a job as a dancer at the theatre while her idle brother, Frederick, is a young wastrel who keeps on losing his positions due to gambling and laziness. Amy finds employment as a seamstress at the old dilapidated mansion called the House of Clennam, run by a cold-hearted, grumpy, paraplegic matriarch called Mrs. Clennam, despite her father’s objections that she is a lady and should not have to work. Meanwhile Mrs. Clennam’s son Arthur returns bearing a gold pocket watch and a message – Do Not Forget. His father has requested this as his final wish before his death. Perplexed Arthur asks his mother about the mystery but is cruelly turned away when he discloses that he does not wish to be involved in managing the family business. Before leaving, Arthur notices Amy and wishing to do her some kindness makes some enquiries about her present situation and what can be done for her.
In contrast, we have two side stories which connect with the above plot. One involves the Meagles family who have a beautiful, young daughter of marriageable age. She also has an adopted sister, a coloured child, named Harriet but she is called Tattycoram by the family. Their natural daughter has felt an attachment to Mr. Gowan, an artist, and despite their efforts to unite her with the good-hearted Arthur Clennam, they do not succeed. Meanwhile Harriet feels ill-treated by the family as she’s asked to fetch things, perform tasks and in frustration turns to the mysterious Miss Wade, who seems to be present every time Harriet feels anger at the way she is treated, for friendship. The Meagles do not like this as Miss Wade is widely perceived as someone with a bad influence. We realise this when it turns out she even associates with a French murderer by the name of Rigaud (played by Andy Serkis of LOTR‘s Gollum fame) who gives her some possessions to keep regarding Little Dorrit and her inheritance as well as the truth about the birth of Arthur Clennam so he can blackmail Arthur’s “mother”, Mrs. Clennam.
Rigaud escapes from his prison cell with Italian inmate, John Cavaletto. He takes the name Rainier and commits another murder, a barmaid. He makes the acquaintance of Flintwinch who has decided to disobey his mistress, Mrs. Clennam, and obtains the copies of documents stating the truth about the events of the past. Flintwich has lied to his mistress about destroying the documents but her old maid, Affrey, hears it all and when he discovers her spying, she is threatened. Meanwhile Cavaletto escapes the company of Rigaud and finds a residence at the home of a kind-hearted family who is always being squeezed for rent by Mr. Pancks but we discover someone completely different is the true manipulator.
Arthur employs Mr. Pancks as an investigator and finds that Mr. Dorrit is heir to a fortune. So the Dorrits resume a life of cultivation but ashamed of his past, Mr. Dorrit cuts his connections to the prison and wishes his children also do so. This includes the Chiveries, Arthur Clennam and Maggie, a dimwitted woman-child who likes to eat a lot. Used to being a caring, motherly person, Amy finds the adjustment to a life of leisure difficult unlike the others and keeps communicating with Arthur in secret as she knows he has done a great deal on behalf of her family. She also makes an acquaintance with the Gowans as she realises who Mrs. Gowan could have been. In any case, she’s in love with him while he is getting over Mr. Gowan getting married to the girl he loved. She is rebuked by her father constantly causing her much unhappiness as she used to be his favourite child, mostly due to the influence of Mrs. General, the formal etiquette trainer. Frederick, her father’s musician brother is regarded in the same manner as Amy due to their uncultivated mannerisms. Fanny, on the other hand, thrives and makes a union with the fool Edward Sparkler, a fool she can rule over with her iron thumb much to the irritation of her mother-in-law, Mrs. Merdle, who had scorned her when she was poor. Meanwhile Mr. Dorrit makes a trip to England to invest his capital in the bank belonging to Mr. Merdle and Mr. Clennam who has since become a partner with Mr. Doyce, an engineer who is having trouble finding investors as he is a foreigner, decides to put the company capital into the bank to gain interest on the advice given by Mr. Meagles and Mr. Pancks while Doyce goes off to Russia to develop his inventions. Mr. Dorrit returns to Italy (after giving a not so cordial reception to John Chivery who had the audacity to visit him even after his proposal had been rejected by Amy when she was poor) but his trip to England has unbalanced his mind and after returning to Italy, he embarrasses himself in public and finds peace in death. So does his brother, Frederick.
When Mr. Merdle commits suicide after borrowing a penknife from Fanny, it turns out that the bank was conducting major fraud by embezzling and shuffling the funds of different depositors. The tables turn for Fanny’s mother-in-law as she finds herself at the mercy of her daughter-in-law. Meanwhile Little Dorrit finds peace again in her poverty because she can start taking care of others again. She finds Arthur Clennam at the debtor’s prison and the roles are reversed when Rigaud entrusts her with the truth. Arthur’s mother makes a miraculous recovery to get up from her wheelchair and after telling the truth to Little Dorrit herself asks for forgiveness which she does and dies. Meanwhile the House of Clennam tumbles down taking Rigaud to his maker but Flintwich and Affrey escape. Amy explains the mystery to Arthur and when she explains that she has no fortune any more like him, the insensible fellow is happy to accept her love. But then Doyce returns bearing no ill will and best of all, good news.
Meanwhile Pancks has his revenge on the man who posed as a figure of benevolence while being crafty in secret, the father of Arthur Clennam’s childhood sweetheart, Flora. The Meagles family tell Henry Gowan’s mother what they really think of her son and Tattycoram returns with the documents that were in the possession of Miss Wade after discovering them. So we have a happy ending for ‘Little Doormat’, sorry I meant Little Dorrit.
When I was a little girl of about eight, I found a set of abridged books that had once belonged to my mother when she was a child. They included Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne, a set of three macabre tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and my favourite, a set of three Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This book included these following stories: The Red-Headed League, The Speckled Band and The Copper Beeches.
This post is about The Adventure of the Copper Beeches – namely the television version. It belongs to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes story collection. We are introduced to Holmes while he is having an ardent discussion with Watson regarding the chronicling of his cases. Then afterwards he produces a letter in which a red-haired young lady, Violet Hunter, asks him advice on whether she should accept a position as a governess in the Rucastle household in the countryside. She is offered an overly generous salary, only one six-year-old male child is under her charge and the offer of pay is increased when she rejects the offer after learning that cutting her tresses is a necessary condition of her employment. After some deliberation, she thinks her rejection is hasty and accepts the position when Mr. Rucastle writes to her. But she does consult Sherlock Holmes before she leaves and he warns her to take care and to send him a telegram if she would need his assistance.
Violet finds the situation she is in very odd. The estate is very large and she is told that there is a mastiff that is only fed every two days to keep him perpetually hungry if intruders break in to the premises. Her discovery of a set of tresses similar of colour to that she cut off from her own head puzzles her. The two servants, Mr. and Mrs. Toller seem like an unsavoury pair. She is sometimes told to wear an electric blue dress (electric blue came into vogue in 1890 – two years before the publication of the story in Strand magazine) and with her back to the window, she is told a series of funny stories by Mr. Rucastle which makes her laugh. Mrs. Rucastle sits in on these sessions but does not ever laugh and when Violet sneaks a glance in a mirror hidden in her handkerchief, she notices a bearded man behind the bars of the gates. She is most frightened when she wanders into the mystery wing with the shuttered turret and then Mr. Rucastle discovers her intrusion as she wanders out. He first makes a pretense of soothing her fears but when he threatens her with the dog, she decides its high time Holmes became involved in the affair.
Holmes and Watson arrive at the Rucastle estate when the master and mistress are away. They decide to break into the tower but finds the room empty but obviously someone had been kept shut up there. Mr. Rucastle returns and with the thought the trio had helped his daughter to escape with her lover goes to release the mastiff. Unfortunately he is mauled by the dog as it turns on him because Mr. Toller had not fed the hound for two days. Watson shoots the dog with his revolver. It turns out Miss Hunter had been hired for the express purpose of impersonation due to a matter of inheritance.
Mr. Rucastle (played by Joss Ackland) comes across as a bit of a creep from the start owing to his tone of voice. I think the sinister veneer this bestowed on him made it rather obvious he was the villain of the piece but you rather expect him to be more dastardly in his actions. Violet Hunter (played by Natasha Richardson) is incredibly beautiful and was a wonderful actress until her life was tragically cut short. The fact the TV version is highly faithful to the original is a credit to its producers as you feel it would have met with distinct appreciation by its original author.
The Sherlock Holmes series in which Jeremy Brett plays Sherlock is quite addictive. It is a little more sombre in character than Poirot or Marple – the latter two have touches of modern influence in the set lighting. The story I will focus on today is called The Adventure of the Priory School. Part of this story is said to pay tribute to this Greek myth.
The ten-year-old Lord Saltire, son of the Duke of Holdernesse, is kidnapped from his preparatory school. Not only the boy missing because it seems the school’s German teacher, Master Heidigger and his bicycle have also gone. The principal, Thorneycroft Huxtable, employs the services of Sherlock Holmes. The Duke is offering a princely sum to those who can inform him about the whereabouts of his missing son and the kidnappers involved. Holmes accompanies the principal and investigates the school and the residence of the Duke. He finds out the boy used to cry at night and disappeared on a day that he received a letter. James Wilder, the personal secretary of the Duke lets slip the information that the Duke is divorced from the boy’s mother who lives in Italy. But the Duke insists that his ex-wife is not involved, no ransom note comes forward and the Duke’s letter to his son which was posted by James Wilder has been taken so nobody can find out its contents.
Holmes and Watson scour the moor for clues and stumble upon some bicycle tracks. It turns out the tyres don’t match with Heidigger’s bike. Eventually the body of the poor German master is discovered with his head smashed in. There are only cow hoofprints near the scene but it seems to Holmes that the cow had walked, cantered and galloped – highly improbable behaviour for such a placid animal. After Watson expresses a desire to dine after the walk in the desolate moors, they find an establishment with a man who has a scar imprint upon his cheek. The food is terrible . In the stable, there is a horse and Holmes examines its hooves – it has been recently adorned with new nails on its old horseshoes. Watson tells Holmes that he has an instinctive feeling the gruff man, who uses the name of Hayes, knows all about the missing boy.
When a cyclist arrives from the direction of the Duke’s residence, Holmes and Watson hide and observe it is James Wilder. After Holmes examines the bicycle tyres, he knows he has found his culprit. The episode culminates in a chase scene where James Wilder takes the boy as his hostage into an underground cavern while Holmes follows closely behind. Unfortunately, things take an unexpected turn for both the villain and the detective but the Duke is reunited with his missing son. It turns out James was jealous of the boy because he was an illegitimate son and wanted manoeuvring power to force the Duke to change his current will. This ending is not similar to that of the book although three-fourths of the storyline subscribes to the original plot.
Poirot visits a Cornish seaside resort and meets Nick, a young girl attached to a crumbling and dilapidated house by the seaside with a mortgage. So when she informs Poirot that she had several near escapes, his detective streak comes into play. There are a few potential suspects but it seems unlikely any of them would profit from the paltry inheritance Nick would leave in her will after her death. The suspects are Freddie Rice, a habitual cocaine user; Commander Challenger, who seems to be in love with Nick; Jim Lazarus, an art dealer in love with Freddie and also Freddie’s husband who refuses to grant her a divorce. Then there is also Charles Wyse, Nick’s appointed solicitor. In addition, there are two lodgers using the garden cottage at End House, Mr. and Mrs. Croft, who say they are Australians.
So Poirot suggests Nick call her cousin, Maggie Buckley, for protection. But an unfortunate incident involving the exchanging of coats leads to Maggie’s death because she was wearing a black dress. This baffles Poirot until he assumes the murder was due to the coat exchange. When he goes to interview Nick – whose true name is Magdala – she says to his puzzlement after a telephone call, that she has nothing to live for left. He then puts two and two together to figure out she had been secretly engaged to Arthur Streeton, a pilot who has been missing for some time and she had received news of his death. He sends her to a nursing home for protection while he investigates End House.
The Crofts arouse his suspicion and so does the love letters written to Magdala. But he is then informed that Nick has almost died of poisoning by chocolates, purported to have been sent by him. He calls in Miss Lemon for assistance. Using the help of Nick to stage a séance to talk with the dead through a medium during an arranged early reading of the will, something very odd comes to light. Her will leaves her inheritance to an unexpected party. But the fun doesn’t end there. Hercule Poirot reveals a charade has been going on under his nose the whole time and points out the true murderer of the Magdala Buckley that was engaged to Arthur Streeton who had a considerable fortune left to him by his uncle. He says he was inspired by the conversation on nicknames between Miss Lemon and Captain Hastings to reverse his original thought process.
The TV episode of Poirot doesn’t change the plot much because there was only one major change: the attempted assassination in front of Poirot did not happen in a lonely garden in the back of the hotel but a crowded spot near the swimming pool.
This work originally appeared under the title Murder with Mirrors. It starts out with Ruth Van Rydock conferring with Miss Marple about her sister, Carrie-Louise, who runs a sort of rehabilitation home for former delinquents. Ruth does not approve of this scheme and thinks it rather hare-brained, as she believes it might end up being harmful to her sister. So she persuades Miss Marple who is an old school friend of theirs to visit Carrie-Louise to keep a watchful eye on her. True to form, there is a murder and it comes to light when the police investigate the murdered party was trying to warn them of an impending attempt of a poisoning.
The thing with this plot is it involves a family cast of several relatives who have some connection to Carrie Louise through her three marriages. She was once widowed and once divorced. Her third husband Lewis Serracold assists her to run her reform home by having the misfits involved in theatrical production and other productive pursuits. Carrie has two daughters: one biological born to her first husband called Mildred and one adopted called Pippa, who died after she gave birth to Gina.
When we are introduced to Gina, she is a recent returnee to Stonygate after having married an American husband called Walter. In addition to these people, Jolley is the caretaker who has a trusted position. Stephen and Alex Restarick, the sons of Carrie Louise from her second marriage, are frequent visitors. Also the secretary of Lewis Serracold, Edgar Lawson, resides with them although he seems to be on edge and mentally disturbed most of the time as he claims to be the illegitimate son of some famous man.
The murder happens after a visit from the son she had during her first marriage, Christian Goulbrandsen. But the puzzle is everyone present at the time has an alibi – they were trapped inside a room except for Alex Restarick. But when he is disposed of, Miss Marple uses her wits to figure out who is behind the murders and what the motive is to enlighten everyone.
The TV adaptation starring Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple follows some of this storyline but infuses it with additional subplots involving possible guilt of Gina’s husband, the second husband of Carrie Louise being still enamoured with her, a love affair between Gina (here she is only the adopted daughter that is lavished with more affection while the biological daughter is neglected) and stepbrother Stephen. But to say the least, it is still entertaining and worth watching if you don’t mind it strays into entirely different territory. Look out for Joan Collins as Ruth Van Rydock not to mention the cast playing the roles Walter Hudd, Edgar Lawson and Stephen Restarick are eye candy!
Colin Lamb, who walks around in the guise of a marine biologist, is paying a visit to Wilbraham Crescent when Miss Sheila Webb runs screaming out of a house straight into his arms. She tells him there is a corpse inside the house. When he goes in to check, her hysteric tale is confirmed. There is a dead body in the house and what is more mysterious is that four clocks in the room are frozen at 4:13 even though the actual time is 3:13. The house turns out be the residence of an elderly blind lady, Mrs. Pebmarsh. To the astonishment and consternation of everyone involved, she states she did not call the Cavendish Secretarial Bureau to specifically inquire for the typing services of Sheila Webb. Is Miss Webb the target of a conspiracy or is she actually hiding something?
When Colin Lamb gets Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective concocted by the queen of crime writing, involved in the case from his armchair no less, he enquires as to why Colin was found at Wilberham Crescent. Apparently he was investigating another case that pointed him towards this address. Unfortunately here the main role doesn’t fall to the detective but when murder rate spikes higher, Poirot uses his grey cells to figure out this case doesn’t follow the one plot but two which intertwine with each other.
As the mystery unravels, you finally figure out the motive for the murder of that unidentified man, why the girl with broken high heel was prevented from giving evidence, the significance of 4:13 and who is committing treason by passing information to the enemy. This one is littered with red herrings so it is almost impossible to figure the case out by reasoning.
Below is the television adaptation based on the novel. Please note the story is mostly true to type but there are some modifications made such as the time in which it was set.