Partners in Crime, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence Beresford (whom I recently discovered) take over a private detective agency (under assumed names) and solve cases in the manner of many famous detectives, from Sherlock Holmes to (yes!) Hercule Poirot. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book even more if I were familiar with all the characters parodied, but it was great fun. I love the lighthearted banter, the very English characters and the tenderness between Tommy and Tuppence (though they often hide it behind witty repartee).
N or M?, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence return for a stint doing undercover work as World War II heats up. Posing as guests at a coastal inn, they begin investigating their fellow guests, trying to track down two dangerous enemy agents (known as N and M). The plot is delightfully twisty, and the historical setting makes it all the more fascinating. Tuppence is in fine form as “Mrs. Blenkensop,” and Albert, the butler-cum-assistant, saves the day at least once. My favorite of the series.
Rules of Civility, Amor Towles
It’s 1938 in New York, and Katey Kontent is determined to pull herself out of the office typing pool. When she and her best friend Eve meet Tinker, a handsome banker, their lives begin to change in ways they couldn’t have imagined. This story felt almost like a 1930s Great Gatsby, except these characters (most of them) had more pluck and tenacity. Katey and Eve seem like graceful cats who will always land on their feet, but they’re both vulnerable in ways they’d rather not admit. Towles evokes New York perfectly, its glitz and possibility and heartbreak, and his sentences are gems. (A wonderful detail: Katey reads a lot of Agatha Christie.) Lovely, poignant and thought-provoking.
By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence fall into another mystery – or rather Tuppence tracks it down “like a terrier on the trail,” as Tommy says. Visiting Tommy’s aunt at a nursing home, Tuppence overhears a mysterious remark or two and begins to investigate. Murdered children, a lonely house in the country and a vast, well-organized crime network all come into play here. Tuppence will insist on dashing off to lonely places by herself, but her instincts are usually good and so are Tommy’s. This case was rather creepy – but fascinating.
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, Robert Macfarlane
Macfarlane loves to walk. He sets out to trace a number of ancient paths, both on land and sea, in his home territory of the British Isles and also further afield (Spain, Palestine, the Himalayas). This is a lovely, meandering meditation on the history of walking, sacred space, sailing, path-making, how histories are shaped by landscape and vice versa, and how walking shapes not only our bodies but our lives. I particularly loved his thoughts on the landscapes we carry with us, the physical lands that become part of our own inner landscape. Hefty, but beautifully written and fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 11).
Postern of Fate, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence have retired to the country, but a mystery finds them even there. They spend a lot of time nosing around, trying to figure out why someone called Mary Jordan “did not die naturally” (according to a coded message Tuppence found in an old book). The premise is interesting, but the writing wanders awfully and the mystery is rather weak. Not one of Dame Agatha’s best. I did enjoy spending more time with Tommy and Tuppence, but it was a rather unsatisfying end to the series.
Lots of Dame Agatha on my shelves lately. What are you reading these days?