Saturday, 9 December 2017

Detectives Don't Get to Retire (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie)


You are not allowed to put this novel down. Not before the end. The genius of it is in the twist ending. Did I get it? Just in the nick of time. The moment I knew a certain character had lied, I knew. But a little part of me still doubted. A little part of me thought, "It can't be."

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a Poirot novel told from the perspective of Dr Sheppard, a mild-mannered country doctor who lives with his gossip-loving older sister, Caroline. Caroline knows everything, and I do mean everything, about everyone. She's a detective in her own right, though not quite as intuitive as we're led to believe. Poirot himself is delightfully eccentric.

The mystery begins when Mrs Ferrar, who poisoned her husband (not a spoiler), commits suicide. Before her death, she sent a letter to Roger Ackroyd explaining that she was being blackmailed (also not a spoiler). In the letter is the name of the blackmailer, but Roger Ackroyd never reads it. Roger Ackroyd dies first. 

In a big country house, there are a lot of suspects. Was it the butler? One of the housekeepers? An impoverished female relative? Or perhaps the victim's adopted son? It ends with all of them gathered in a room, with the detective confronting them as a group. I've always been told that many detective novels end this way, but I've never read one before. The end of chapter 23 in particular amused me - Christie has a real flair for the dramatic. Woman after my own heart.

Have you read any classic detective novels?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Let's Play Ivyclad Bingo! (2018 Reading Challenge)

After last year's had a stellar turn-out of 2 participants -

(Including you.)

Including me - I'm launching a new Ivyclad Bingo board for 2018.

The rules are simple.

1. Make a post on your blog announcing your participation -

(Or shove it on the end of a wrap-up post - we're not fussy.)

- And link back to this post. You're all welcome to use the graphic. If you don't have a blog, you can simply create a challenge shelf on Goodreads.

2. Join the link-up. 

(Yes, we actually have a link-up this year. Small miracles.)

3. Read!

Please note that, in a change from last year, you CANNOT use the same book to fill multiple squares.

This year there are sixteen challenges -
  1. Superhero
  2. Debut Author
  3. Contemporary
  4. Over 500 Pages
  5. Norse Mythology
  6. Robots
  7. Historical
  8. Wolves
  9. Black Cover
  10. Set in Space
  11. Dragons
  12. Magic
  13. Star-Crossed Lovers
  14. Witches
  15. Not Set in the USA
  16. Manga
Over the next few weeks, I'll be creating some lists of books that fit the categories to help you out. Towards the end of December, the 2018 Bingo board will appear in the navigation bar at the top.

Interested? Link-up below!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Na-November Wrap-Up (Sunday Post #14)
Run by Kimberly @ The Caffeinated Book Reviewer!

This is it. We're on the final lap. 

(And you still need to read seventeen books.)

...Yeah. I'm trying not to think about that right now.

News from the Reading Front

Since my last Sunday Post, I've read... 

The Concealed Fancies by Jane Cavendish and Elizabeth Brackley - 3 Stars

The 39 Steps by John Buchan - 3 Stars

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet - 4 Stars - Review

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers - 2 Stars
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie - 4 Stars - Review will be up on Thursday.

As it's the beginning of a new season, there's also a new bingo card from Pretty Deadly Reviews. This one lasts from the beginning of December to the end of February 2018.

Hey, Ivy, think I could use proof-reading my NaNo novel for 'death'?


News from the Writing Front

NaNo? More like Na-NO! Doing this in third year was a terrible mistake. That said...

...I'm now well into my novel. 

It's split into four different sections and, to give you an idea of how long part one is, I finished it, wrote all of part two, and started part three on the final day. I still have most of that and all of part four to go. 

One time, I wrote 10K in a day. It was awesome.

Have you survived NaNo? How was November?

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Fallen Leaves (Autumn Bingo Wrap-Up)

The end of November marks the end of autumn bingo over at Pretty Deadly Reviews.

Mental Health: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet 

A bit of an odd example as it's set in the late 19th century. The novel hinges on whether or not a triple murder committed by Roderick Macrae qualifies for an insanity defence.

Illustrations: Naruto Volume 71 by Masashi Kishimoto

(Does it count if the entire book is made up of illustrations?)

It does now.

First in a Series: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I'm so late to the party on this one.

Set in Another Country: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare 

Set in fair Verona (in Italy), of course.

Person on the Cover: The 39 Steps by John Buchan

Magic in the Real World: The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

Debatable. It's set in Sicily and Bohemia, but whether or not the ending is actually the work of magic is highly ambiguous. Personally, I don't think it does, but the majority of my seminar group did and this way I get to fill a line. All's well that ends well.

Over 500 Pages: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Do not recommend.

Co-Authored: The Concealed Fancies by Jane Cavendish and Elizabeth Brackley 

This closet drama was co-authored by two sisters whilst trapped in their family mansion during the English Civil War.  

Free: The Thrilling Adventures of Babbage and Lovelace by Sydney Padua

A collection of comic strips about the misadventures of the man who designed the first computer (not that it was ever built) and the woman who created the first computer codes.

No, seriously. And thank God it does, because I can think of nothing sadder than not being able to say you read something with witches in around Halloween.

Translated: Iphigeneia at Aulis translated by Jane Lumley 

Translated from Latin to English by a girl who may have been as young as fifteen at the time.

Horror: Dracula by Bram Stoker 

The original neck-nibbler.

Required Reading: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Required for a module I'm studying on mystery fiction.

Set at a School: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell 

I could have put this under horror or paranormal, but it's also set at a boarding school. That's the real horror of it - these girls never get to go home...

Poetry or Verse: May Masque by Rachel Fane 

This was written in Old English, so please don't hold me to this, but I believe it was in a form of verse?


How are your reading challenges going?

Thursday, 23 November 2017

What Do You Believe? (His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet)

"Those awaiting the appearance of a monster were sorely disappointed...the prisoner was no more than a boy." - Graeme Macrae Burnet, His Bloody Project, page 191

His Bloody Project is a stunning execution of the unreliable narrator. The premise is simple, Roderick Macrae has committed a triple murder. His lawyer launches an insanity defence. It's made up of a number of documents: Roderick's account of his life and crimes, autopsy reports, a run-down of the trial... It's a fiction novel that reads like true crime.

There's one more thing you should know. It's set in 1869. This means that appearance plays a massive part in the designation of criminal status. For example, there was the "science" of phrenology which was all about the shape of your head - a bump in the wrong place could brand you violent or lazy. Morality is important too, especially in terms of family. This is the era when evolution is new, and with it came a fear of devolution - were things like low morality and criminal behaviour hereditary? It also brings up some serious questions about capital punishment - Roderick is seventeen. If he's found guilty, he's dead.

Without giving too much away, I will say I believed Roderick right up until I read Flora's autopsy report. After that, I began to have serious doubts. It wasn't that I necessarily thought Roderick was in the right - you could have hours of debate over whether or not Lachlan Broad was persecuting his family or properly enforcing the law - but I could see it his way. I could understand his motive, even though I didn't agree with his actions. 

But Flora's autopsy revealed information that Roderick's account didn't.

Gender as a theme was really interesting. Our perception of the Victorians as stuffy and repressed is very much a reflection of upper class England at the time. This novel is set in the Scottish highlands and features predominantly working class characters. As a result, attitudes to courtship are, not necessarily more mordern, but certainly more relaxed. Ideas of morality? Not so much. I mean the comparison of John Macrae's response to Roderick's situation and Jetta's situation is alarming to say the least. 

If you like history, unreliable narrators, or just a good murder story, you can't give this one a miss.