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Mordecai Richler
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Paul Mendelson
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Reading progress update: I've read 193 out of 271 pages.

The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

much as I enjoyed most of the Freeman Wills Crofts Mysteries I have read so far, the last two, disappointing and draggy, ones I sampled - The Hog’s Back Mystery, and The Pit-Prop Syndicate - really needed an Emily Trefusis to show up and take over from the Inspector plodding along. on that note, let me say that Pit-Prop worked well in the first half because well-meaning amateurs worked on the case, until the cops stepped in and, uh, kinda dulled things up. but even those well-meaning amateurs, in addition to bowing out early and leaving the reader in the lurch, weren’t as much fun as the Trefusis Typhoon. when is a typhoon not a typhoon?: when she’s more of a giant breath of fresh air.


it’ll be a shame if the alleged “cheat” at the end of the novel sinks the whole thing, ruins it beyond everything that has worked so well up to now. all it means so far is that I’m trying even less than I usually do to solve the thing. why bother. let Trefusis deal with it. as for putting a negative spin on the whole affair by not caring for the victim because he was a woman-hater...well, he has been about as nullified and offset as a grumpy old misogynist can get, because he started the book dying, or dead, “offtstage” which means I never did have to listen to any of his ridiculous claptrap right from the horse’s-ass’s mouth, and so in terms of actual effect on the feel of the novel, it’s no contest compared to Emily’s influence on the mood of things. most people speaking of the deceased jerk are passing him off as simply “shy”, or tarnished in his outlook due to one bad romance. and the spirit-world left the issue alone, at the seance. I suppose, though, I shall assume he was at least somewhat the sexist cretin that’s been hinted at, since people don’t like to speak I’ll of the brutally murdered. unless they do, which makes them top suspects. anyway, the misogynist was dead by the time things were rolling, so he hasn’t spoiled the book for me.


other notes: ummm, how do I put this?...um, no one seems to be hung up overly much over the fact that a seance - or table-turning as it’s called in the novel - involving several participants predicted the murder, and who would be found dead. I’m not saying it doesn’t come up as a point of discussion every now and then...but really, no one seems to be that impressed by it. more like...befuddled. I mean, if you’re the cops, and you don’t necessarily believe in spirits making the rounds of seances - or maybe you do, or you have an open mind - it is not a big, and telling, deal that a seance, if faked, relates directly to a murder?? how you don’t swoop down on anyone who was at the seance and pick the damn thing apart to see what went on while the so-called paranormal activity was linking itself to a guy murdered at about the same time, I don’t know. yeah, sure, no one at the seance was able to be six miles away wielding a lethal sandbag, but - except for the Trefusis F-of-N - everyone seems to feel that the seance is just some weird thing that happened, and is too befuddling to ponder for very long. even Emily doesn’t seem to want to go there much, or with firmness. and she’s very firm about the stuff she’s firm about. I like her, like her a lot. she’s a bit sneaky and manipulative for me to want in my real life, but that’s not going to happen, and her lying, tricks and manipulations are for a good cause here...uh, solving the murder of a pig. alleged pig...maybe he was just shy, with a broken heart. and maybe if he’d been more generous with his money, he’d be shy, misunderstood, and less of a selfish skinflint, and alive.


putting aside rumors of a “cheat”, I still don’t feel like the snow, and weather conditions, actually play a part in the murder - solving it, that is, or being part of the clues, or causing something significant to happen that wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t lots of snow. there’s no tantalizing footprint “that couldn’t possibly be there before such and such a time, because it snowed at precisely blah, implicating Mr. Blah, but that’s too blahhing obvious, so we must instead look to this icicle, where there should be no icicle, brrrrr, blah...”. no, it’s the seance that seems relevant to the murder (though everyone else doesn’t want to wrestle with that notion directly, “too befuddling, don’t wanna deal, thank you.”).


some books I recommend if you liked The Sittaford Mystery:


hey, Red Threads, by Rex Stout, almost counts as a stand-alone, but not quite; no Nero Wolfe working the case, but Inspector Cramer gets lifted from the Nero Wolfe books, and makes a better showing here than when getting out-shone by Stout’s Great Detective. but the truth is, you can consider the Crime at least co-solved by the efforts of a determined young woman poking at the case. Cramer shares the investigation with someone not quite matching the Trefusis Incandescence, but a plucky young lady who maybe should get most of the credit for solving a very bizarre murder. I would even argue...okay, not a “cheat” in Red Threads, but in comparison to that, clues placed rather late in Red Threads; what truly implicates the killer is a sequence of events that come near the end of the book. and honestly, I think the book is fresh for this approach, because it’s as clever as any early set of clues, and it all still makes sense in the end, how the culprit accidentally fingers himself, with the plucky heroine helping it all go in that direction.


there’s also In At The Death, by Francis Duncan, which just reminds me of what I’m reading now in terms of some of the trappings, and the feel.


I think I’ll leave the rest of the book for tomorrow. or maybe not!