Tag: Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

Books that take you places.

TRACEE: I’ve had travel on the brain recently, which led me to think about my favorite travel based mysteries. Not mysteries set in exotic locations, but books where the premise is intertwined with travel not merely destination. Agatha Christie wrote two classics with this premise: Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. (I’ll confess that I have several non mystery favorites that rely on travel, including Larry McMurtrie’s Lonesome Dove, certainly a 1,000 mile cattle drive qualifies!)  Any favorite voyage-themed books on your list?  PAULA: I’m a sucker for pilgrimages stories of all kinds: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, to name just a few…. TRACEE: Ah yes, The Alchemist, that was a great book. And according to legend Paulo Coelho wrote in in two weeks, writing straight from the soul. I suppose that should be a novel in itself. PAULA: He made the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and wrote about it in a book about that called The Pilgrimage…loved that too.  ROBIN: Bill Bryson’s books come immediately to mind. A Walk In The Woods made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail. I read In A Sunburned Country right before my first […]

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Our first Agatha Christie

I have a very vivid memory of the first Agatha Christie I read, which was The A.B.C. Murders. At that time, I was in Mexico City, visiting my aunt. My aunt was a fabulous and yet somewhat disreputable person who was engaged in activities that bordered, or perhaps crossed, into the illegal. So when her young niece came to visit, she wanted to make sure I did not get into trouble, and so when she went out, she would lock me into her apartment. This may explain the anxiety in enclosed spaces I feel today, but anyway, she had a huge library of mysteries. Maigret. Dorothy Sayers. And Agatha Christie. So one day I picked up The A.B.C. Murders and was just blown away. Immediately I set about reading all of them and I have the fondest memories of sitting in an apartment in the middle of Mexico City and reading about these crimes in the British countryside.  So, with that in mind, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors if they could remember the first Agatha Christie they read, and this is what they said: Alexia: I know it was one of the Hercule Poirot mysteries but I don’t remember which one. […]

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In the woods with Agatha Christie

I spend a lot of time wandering around the woods in my backyard, so I was especially delighted to visit Agatha Christie’s woods, which are like something out of a fairy tale. The trees are dark and old and mysterious. But then you’ll turn a sudden bend and find yourself in a surprisingly lush and cozy spot. I was there in October so Hydrangea Walk and the Dahlia Border were not in bloom. But there was still so much to see, such as a flower called a “Red Hot Poker.”   Mainly the sense I got was of peacefulness. There were benches all over where you could sit and think. My husband and I climbed to the Top Garden, and there saw a view that I think must be one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. There were cows in front of us, the Dart River stretched below, and everything smelled fresh.  Many of the trails were quite steep. And the other thing that struck me was how many determined people, some of them with canes, one with a wheelchair, were clambering around. Almost everyone there was smiling, I believe because Agatha Christie is so beloved. You had a real sense that people made […]

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Murder at Greenway House

To get to Greenway House,  my husband and I took a 3-hour train ride southwest from London, to Totnes. Then we took half hour taxi ride to Dartmouth, and then a half hour ferry boat ride to  Greenway House. It was not as arduous as it sounds, however, because the Devon countryside is lovely, and as soon as I set foot in Dartmouth I felt myself tingle with the sense that I’d been there with Agatha Christie. So many of her stories have been set in this part of England.  I have it in my mind that poor Gladys from A Pocketful of Rye was enticed to go to Torquay, though that may be wrong. But Agatha Christie herself grew up in Torquay, and this area of the country was clearly important to her. How many of her stories are set on the seaside, on coves and beaches, with pavilions.  Just to give a few examples, one of the bodies in the A.B.C. Murders shows up in Churston, which is only two miles from Greenway. In  Five Little Pigs, a murder occurs in a house overlooking the Dart River. And in Dead Man’s Folly, the very boat house at Greenway (pictured above) is described […]

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Dining with Agatha Christie

One of my favorite rooms at Greenway House was the dining room. Here was where Agatha Christie celebrated holidays with her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, her daughter Rosalind and her grandson, Matthew.  You’ll note there’s a small pitcher in front of Agatha Christie’s seat, whereas the other settings have wine glasses.  That’s because Agatha Christie was a teetotaler. Rather than alcohol,  she preferred to drink Devonshire cream. (Just as a side note, I looked up the calorie count on  Devonshire cream and it’s 73 calories a tablespoon!) She also liked to drink a glass or two of Devonshire cream while she wrote. Perhaps this is a secret to a long career. At one end of the dining room was this intriguing little knick knack, that I assume is a raven. The whole house is awash with knick knacks and I was told that, when the National Trust was going through the house, they uncovered Agatha Christie’s Order of the British Empire medal under a pile of books. Incidentally, there is a person who has the job of being a Writer-in-Residence at Greenway House and she is leading a writing workshop in which writers will be prompted to use objects in Agatha Christie’s collection as a starting point for their […]

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Welcome to Agatha Christie week

 Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Greenway House, Agatha Christie’s summer home. For anyone who loves Agatha Christie (and I’m hoping there’s no one who doesn’t), it’s a treasure. What a treat to see the rooms where she wrote, to walk the woods where she hiked, and to visit the small villages on the Dart River that inspired some of her fiction. In fact, my husband and I stayed at a hotel that had been used in a 1984 version of Ordeal by Innocence. (I think. It also supposedly was slept in by Queen Mary II, though my husband’s convinced that’s impossible. But it was a fabulous hotel and why argue?) Anyway, if you look at the picture of the Dart River below, then look up and to the left, you’ll see Greenway tucked into the woods.  Below is a closer version of Greenway.House. It looks rather austere in this version, though in fact it’s surrounding by rolling hills and there are deck chairs out front where you can sit.  Once you go inside, you’re surrounded by coziness. This is a picture of the sitting room. To the left, which you can’t see, is a piano. (Agatha Christie […]

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Warm Winter Wishes

You may have guessed from my previous posts this week that I have winter issues. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays (Easter being the other) but I’d like it just fine if Christmas came in October. During the dark, cold stretch from late November to early March, I’d just as soon take a vacation from the world, crawl into a cave, and hibernate. But, since I am not a bear, I have to bundle up, go outside, and deal with it. Mysteries help me deal with winter. Solving puzzles (or following along with a brilliant detective and wondering how I missed that oh-so-obvious clue) keeps my brain from going as numb as my fingers. Singing Christmas songs off-key at the top of my lungs along with the all-Christmas music station as I drive back and forth to work also helps but I don’t like to admit that. Drinks that give me the warm fuzzies help, too. Let’s call them comfort drinks. I’m writing this post in the Hearth Room of the Deerpath Inn, one of my favorite places on the planet. I braved the cold tonight because I wanted an Adult Red Velvet Hot Chocolate—a cinnamon and candy cane concoction I […]

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A voyage into a fictional universe. I'm in.

Lazy summer days are a time to dream. What if dreams and reading merged and it was possible to transport yourself to any fictional place? If I had a chance to literally dive into a fictional locale and spend a few days I’d pick Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels. The settings are fictional London and – more importantly – classic novels including Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.  Fforde does a fantastic job of making the well-known fictional settings come to life and at the same time allowing the reader to experience them as an outsider. The characters are trapped in the role but the reader isn’t! What fun to be there and participate in the novels from the sidelines. What fictional setting would you join?  SUSAN: This is probably not a huge surprise, but I’d go with Agatha Christie’s St. Mary Meade. I love living in a small village, and of course, I’d love to know Miss Marple. I feel like you have more room to be yourself, oddly enough, in a place where everyone knows you. People know who you are, so you don’t have to pretend to be someone else, if that makes. I drew on that in writing […]

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Poisons

Were I to murder someone, I would choose poison as a weapon. (Note to my husband: chew carefully!) There are so many benefits. First of all, it’s not bloody. It requires no physical strength. And if you plan ahead, you don’t even need to be around. Also, it’s so hard to detect.  So you can imagine the pleasure I’m having reading Kathryn Harkup’s wonderful book, A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. Harkup, who describes herself as a “chemist, author and Agatha Christie fanatic,” goes through 14 Christie novels, and explains the poisons used, the real-life cases that inspired Christie, and the occasional thing she got wrong. She also includes all sorts of weird information.  For example: Cleopatra considered poisoning herself with arsenic, but felt it would leave her corpse looking too unattractive, so she opted for the asp (though Harkup reports this would still not have been a pain-free way to die and her cadaver would have needed some cosmetic retouching.) In Sparkling Cyanide, there was a potential antidote on the dinner table in the form of sugar in champagne. She goes on to say that Rasputin (of Russian religious fanatic fame) might have survived the poisoning attempts against him because […]

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