December is going to be all about comfort reads. Most of them will be crime fiction and most of those will have a Christmas theme.
This week, I’m reading two Golden Age Mysteries that have been on my TBR pile forever, and a hot-off-the-press mystery that takes place at Christmas in a country house in County Wexford in Ireland in the 1950s. .
‘The Murder On The Links’ byAgatha Christie (1923)
I’m reading ‘The Murder On The Links’ as part of the GoodReads ‘Agatha Christie Centenary Celebration’ community which was set up ‘In honor of the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, we’re going to read all 66 of her full length novels, one per month, chronologically, starting in October of 2020.’
Three years ago, when I first started to read Agatha Christie, I began at the wrong end, with ‘Elephants Can Remember’ which was published in 1972, when Agatha Christie was eighty-two. It her last Poirot novel. It rambled and it felt tired. Last year, I finally read the first Poirot novel, ‘The Mysterious Affair At Styles’ and was delighted at the books energy and its playful tone.
‘The Murder On The Links’ is the second Poirot book. It was published in 1923 when Agatha Christie was thirty-three and had her relationship with Poirot was still fresh.
I’m hoping for a book that makes me smile and show me a Poirot who has not yet become smug and a Hastings who is still following him like a clumsy puppy. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Poirot in competition with the French Police. The rivalry between the two nations and the two detectives should be fun to watch.
‘Snow” by John Banville (2020)
John Banville is an Irish writer who has won the Booker Prize and the Kafka Prize and has published fifteen novels. ‘Snow’ is the first of his novels that I’ve bought. Sad to say, I bought it because I liked the cover and the hook and fancied a Christmas mystery. I had no idea who John Banville was.
Now that I do know, I’m expecting something more that a simple Christmas mystery. John Banville is known as a straight-talking man. Born in 1945, he has at least some memory of Ireland in 1957 and certainly recalls how Ireland was when the Catholic Church held it in its grip.
In that context, having a protestant Detective Inspector from Dublin investigating the death of a Catholic priest in Wexford whose body is in the library of the wealthy, Protestant, landlord is throwing petrol on the fire.
I’m looking forward to something that digs deeper than a whodunnit.
‘Strong Poison’ by Dorothy L Sayers (1930)
Last year I read ‘Gaudy Night’ and fell in love both with Dorothy Sayers’ writing and with Harriet Vane. I’d been told it was a remarkable novel but, even so, I was astonished at how good it was.
‘Gaudy Night’ was the third of four books that feature Vane and Wimsey. I wanted to go back and see how the two came to meet, so I’m reading ‘Strong Poison’. When Wimsey meets Vane she’s already been accused of murder. It’s not exactly a traditional meet-cute. I want to see how the two of them get to know one another.
I’m hoping for some sparkling prose and witty dialogue and a plot that gives me two people collaborating and building trust rather than Lord Wimsey riding to Vane’s rescue.