30 October 2022

Review: THEY CAME TO BAGHDAD, Agatha Christie

  • this edition published in 2017, by Harper Collins
  • first published 1951
  • ISBN 978-0-00-819635-6
  • 294 pages

Synopsis (agathachristie.com)

Baghdad is the chosen location for a secret summit of superpowers, concerned but not convinced, about the development of an, as yet, unidentified and undescribed secret weapon.

Only one man has the proof that can confirm the nature of this fantastic secret weapon – a British agent named Carmichael. Unfortunately the criminal organisation responsible for the weapon’s development will stop at nothing to prevent him entering Baghdad and presenting his proof to the assembled delegates. Can Carmichael enter the city against such odds?

Into this explosive situations appears Victoria Jones, a girl with a yearning for adventure who gets more than she bargains for when a wounded Carmichael dies in her arms in her hotel room.

Now, if only she could make sense of his last words ‘…Lucifer…Basrah…Lefarge…

My Take

Dedicated to "All My Friends in Baghdad", this story is based around an impending meeting, taking place after World War II, of the superpowers America and Russia.  It gave the author an opportunity to vaunt her knowledge of archaeology and of Islamic/Arabic culture.

I first reviewed it on this blog ten years ago. I am re-reading it with my U3A Agatha Christie group, and it will be our last book for this year.

I was surprised to find that it really had so many connections to PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT which we read recently and which was published 20 years later. 

Among them are

  • a nefarious organisation siphoning of funds to use for evil purposes
  • the disappearance of talented young from all walks of life (also raised in DESTINATION UNKNOWN) and their dedication to "making the world a better place"
  • the conflict between ideologies
  • the possibility of World War III
  • the cult of the young Siegfried
  • the idea that World War II concluded unsatisfactorily and really left more problems than it solved.

Trivia Quiz to try

Things I have found out

  • They Came to Baghdad was first published in the UK in eight abridged instalments in John Bull magazine from January to March 1951, and in Canada, in an abridged version in Star Weekly Complete Novel, a magazine supplement published in Toronto, in September 1951.
  • the full version was then published in March 1951 by the Collins Crime Club
  • Victoria, the heroine/detective, never appears in another Agatha Christie novel

My rating: 4.3

My list of Agatha Christie novels 

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge 

29 October 2022

Review: EXILES, Jane Harper

  • this edition published Pan Macmillan Australia 2022
  • ISBN 978-1-76078-395-2
  • 410 pages
  • #3 in the Aaron Falk series

Synopsis (publisher)

At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.

A year on, Kim Gillespie's absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems. Between Falk's closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he's drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge. 

My Take

Kim Gillespie disappeared a year earlier, on the opening night of the wine festival, and so the investigation now has a cold case feel about. However her daughter Zara is convinced her mother is still alive.

There has been some talk of whether Kim committed suicide, jumping into a local dam, an effect of some mental health issues. But those who know her best think that would be unlikely, although everybody agrees that they haven't actually seen Kim to talk to since her baby was born.

Pamphlets are distributed at the wine festival asking people to think about when they last saw Kim on the night that she disappeared. 

A second element is the death of a popular local accountant in a hit and run case six years earlier. Aaron Falk finds himself drawn into both cases.

This novel has a surprisingly gentle feel to it, and events seem to move very slowly, yet we know we will have the answer at the end. The setting is "South Australian wine country" and that has caused discussion in our group about exactly where. 

A good one for "overseas" readers. It has a truly Australian flavour about it.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.7, THE DRY- Falk #1
5.0, FORCE OF NATURE- Falk #2

Review: THE FEATHER THIEF: the Natural History Heist of the Century, Kirk Wallace Johnson

  • This edition made available as an e-book by my local library through Libby
  • Published: 4th June 2019. Random House UK
  • ISBN: 9780099510666
  • 320 pages

Synopsis (publisher

A page-turning story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man’s relentless quest for justice.

One summer evening in 2009, twenty-year-old musical prodigy Edwin Rist broke into the Natural History Museum at Tring, home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world. Once inside, Rist grabbed as many rare bird specimens as he was able to carry before escaping into the darkness.

Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist-deep in a river in New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide first told him about the heist. But what would possess a person to steal dead birds? And had Rist paid for his crime? In search of answers, Johnson embarked upon a worldwide investigation, leading him into the fiercely secretive underground community obsessed with the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying.

Was Edwin Rist a genius or narcissist? Mastermind or pawn? 

My Take

A fascinating story right outside my usual genre, although a crime is committed, and there is a mystery perhaps still unsolved.

The first section of the book gives the reader the background to founding of the Natural History Museum at Tring, originally founded by Lord Rothschild, to house an incredible ornithological collection. The man who collected the birds that formed the basis of the collection played a role in formulating the science of evolution. At the same time as he and others were collecting rare and beautiful birds, feathers became a mark of wealth in fashion, particularly on hats.

But in a bizarre twist they became much sought after by Fly-Tiers, and this is where Edwin Rist, musical prodigy and fly-tier afficionado comes into the story.

When the author learns of the Tring Heist, in which Rist stole 299 bird carcases, he has a strong feeling that justice has not been served, and the book is his account of trying to sort the wood from the trees.

My rating: 4.6

About the Author

Kirk Wallace Johnson served in Iraq with the US Agency for International Development in Baghdad and Fallujah as the Agency’s first co-ordinator for reconstruction in the war-torn city. He went on to found The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. His work on behalf of Iraqi refugees was profiled by This American Life, 60 Minutes, the Today Show, the subject of a feature-length documentary, The List, and a memoir, To Be a Friend is Fatal.

A Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and the recipient of fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Wurlitzer Foundation, his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times and the Washington Post . He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son and daughter.

22 October 2022

Review: THE CORAL BRIDE, Roxanne Bouchard

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0885YZQD6
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ ORENDA BOOKS (August 12, 2020)
  • Translated into English from French
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 356 pages
  • Detective Morales #2
  • **SHORTLISTED for Crime Writers of Canada: Best French Crime Novel**

Synopsis (Amazon)

It's not just the sea that holds secrets

When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat's missing captain, Angel Roberts a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.

When Angel's body is finally discovered, it's clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.

Exquisitely written, with Bouchard's trademark lyrical prose, The Coral Bride evokes the power of the sea on the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.

My Take

Those most affected by Angel Roberts' death want the authorities to believe that she committed suicide. But thanks to a Prologue we, the readers, are pretty sure that it is murder, but it isn't until the very end that DS Joaquin Moralès can put the scenario together, and apportion the blame.

The book's journey takes us down several paths, not only what happened to Angel, but also the personal events occurring in Morales world. Angel Roberts is a woman in a man's world, and her fight to be accepted on her own terms reflects the fight many women have had in the 21st century.

There are cultural issues too, which also reflect what has happened in our world. 

An interesting but demanding read. 

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Roxanne Bouchard she learned to sail 10 years ago, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. Her fifth novel (first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 2018 to resounding critical acclaim, sure to be followed by its sequel, The Coral Bride. She lives in Quebec. David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic, and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada—and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

15 October 2022


  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B69W5748
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Four Tails Publishing Ltd. (August 1, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 299 pages
  • #5 in the Welsh Mystery series

Synopsis (Amazon)

THE DUKE’S REPUTATION IS IN PERIL – can the women of the WISE ENQUIRIES AGENCY save the day?

Henry Devereaux Twyst, eighteenth duke of Chellingworth, is desperate to disprove murderous rumors about his ancestor before his first child is born, so he enlists the help of the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency.

However, Annie is working undercover – on a case that turns out to be more deadly than anyone had imagined, and Carol is finding it difficult to juggle her responsibilities – especially when faced with a puzzling theft in the village. Meanwhile, Christine is consumed with fears about Alexander's shady colleagues, and Mavis is trying to manage the dowager's dispute with the local vicar.

In the fifth WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery stately Chellingworth Hall, and the charming Welsh village of Anwen-by-Wye, both of which have more than their fair share of quirky inhabitants, are once again subjected to a host of problems that need to be solved…and the WISE women are ready to use their considerable skills to do so.

My Take:

The women of the WISE Enquiries Agency juggle several balls in this outing, among them an attempt to investigate the truth about the thirteenth Duke, thought to have murdered a couple of locals. 

I enjoyed the character development in this novel, and the complexity of the plot lines.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

7 October 2022


  • this edition an e-book from Amazon (Kindle)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08J6D7993
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins (March 3, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 412 pages 

Synopsis (Amazon

Unlock the mystery. Only you hold the key…

In a beautiful old apartment block, deep in the backstreets of Paris, secrets are stirring behind every resident’s door.

The lonely wife
The party animal
The curtain-twitcher
The secret lover
The watchful caretaker
The unwanted guest

There was a murder here last night.
Who holds the key to the mystery of apartment three?

My Take

Ben's half-sister Jess is arriving from London. She talks to Ben on the phone, but when she arrives at his very exclusive apartment building three hours later the gates are locked and he is gone.

Jess manages to find her way into the building and then into Ben's apartment which she know is on the third floor.

The story focuses on Jess's search for Ben, her quest to find out what has happened to him. There are 5 apartments, plus a concierge's cabin. Ben is a journalist and Jess suspects that he is chasing a story but when she finds his wallet and the keys to his Moped she suspects foul play. She thinks perhaps the residents of the apartments know what has happened to him, but they are blocking her efforts at discovery.

Gradually Jess begins to discover what Ben has previously found out about the residents.

As with most of Foley's other books there are a couple of twists in the tale. There are multiple narratives, and a lot of juggling of past and present, just to keep the reader on his/her toes.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

5 October 2022

Review: MARPLE: TWELVE NEW STORIES, Agatha Christie and 12 others

  • This edition an e-book from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09DNJ4ZZD
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins (September 15, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 379 pages
  • by Agatha Christie, Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse, Ruth Ware

Synopsis (publisher)

Agatha Christie’s legendary sleuth, Jane Marple, returns to solve twelve baffling cases in this brand-new collection, penned by a host of acclaimed authors skilled in the fine art of mystery and murder

One doesn't stop at one murder...

Jane Marple is an elderly lady from St Mary Mead who possesses an uncanny knack for solving even the most perplexing puzzles. Now, for the first time in 45 years, Agatha Christie’s beloved character returns to the page for a globe-trotting tour of crime and detection.

Join Marple as she travels through her sleepy English village and around the world. In St Mary Mead, a Christmas dinner is interrupted by unexpected guests; the Broadway stage in New York City is set for a dangerous improvisation; bad omens surround an untimely death aboard a cruise ship to Hong Kong; and a bestselling writer on holiday in Italy is caught in a nefarious plot. These and other crimes committed in the name of love, jealousy, blackmail, and revenge are ones that only the indomitable Jane Marple can solve.

Bringing a fresh twist to the hallmarks of a classic Agatha Christie mystery, these twelve esteemed writers have captured the sharp wit, unique voice, and droll ingenuity of the deceptively demure detective. A triumphant celebration of Christie’s legacy and essential reading for crime lovers, Marple is a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains one of the most famous detectives of all time.

This collection of twelve original short stories, all featuring Jane Marple, will introduce the character to a whole new generation. Each author reimagines Agatha Christie’s Marple through their own unique perspective while staying true to the hallmarks of a traditional mystery.
· Naomi Alderman
· Leigh Bardugo
· Alyssa Cole
· Lucy Foley
· Elly Griffiths
· Natalie Haynes
· Jean Kwok
· Val McDermid
· Karen M. McManus
· Dreda Say Mitchell
· Kate Mosse
· Ruth Ware

Miss Marple was first introduced to readers in a story Christie wrote for The Royal Magazine in 1927 and made her first appearance in a full-length novel in 1930’s The Murder at the Vicarage. It has been 45 years since Agatha Christie’s last Marple novel, Sleeping Murder, was published posthumously in 1976, and this collection of ingenious new stories by twelve Christie devotees will be a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains the most famous fictional female detective of all time.

"Each of the twelve authors captures Christie—and Marple—perfectly, while also displaying just a bit of her own unique touch. . . . This new and entertaining collection by some of our favorite writers will hook a new group of readers to the formidable Miss Marple." — Rhys Bowen, Washington Post

My Take

95 years after Miss Marple made her first appearance in 1927 in a short story called The Tuesday Night Club, here she comes to life again. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of new Miss Marple short stories. The writers were committed to producing authentic and believable stories. Readers who know their Marple mysteries will recognise characters and settings that appeared in the original novels and short stories, as well as appreciating what each of these writers has tried to do.

My rating: 4.7

Agatha Christie Short Stories

4 October 2022

Review: THE SERIAL KILLER'S WIFE, Alice Hunter

  • This edition an e-book on Amazon (Kindle)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08N5MQYJ5
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Avon (May 27, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 382 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Every marriage has its secrets…

Beth and Tom Hardcastle are the envy of their neighbourhood – they have the perfect marriage, the perfect house, the perfect family.

When the police knock on their door one evening, Beth panics. Tom should be back from work by now – what if he’s crashed his car? She fears the worst.

But the worst is beyond imagining.

As the interrogation begins, Beth will find herself questioning everything she believed about her husband.

They’re saying he’s a monster. And they’re saying she knew. 

My Take

This story is told from the point of view of two main narrators - Beth and her husband Tom - with the occasional insert from another.

Neither of them are always truthful. The light of Beth's life is their small daughter Poppy. She will do anything for Poppy and every decision she makes is based on that premise. Tom and Beth have moved from London to the country to give Poppy a better life, even though it means quite a long commute for Tom as he still works in London. Beth has created a cafe where customers can paint ceramics while they sip coffee.

Beth is a very determined woman, and as the book progresses we learn that what Beth wants Beth gets.

In the end I was blown away by the way the story ends although there were hints of this earlier.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

After completing a psychology degree, Alice Hunter became an interventions facilitator in a prison. There, she was part of a team offering rehabilitation programmes to men serving sentences for a wide range of offences, often working with prisoners who'd committed serious violent crimes. Previously, Alice had been a nurse, working in the NHS. She now puts her experiences to good use in fiction. THE SERIAL KILLER'S WIFE draws heavily on her knowledge of psychology and the criminal mind.

2 October 2022

Review: THE RISING TIDE, Ann Cleeves

  • This edition provided as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Publisher Pan Macmillan
  • ISBN: 9781761261565
  • Format: eBook
  • Pub Date: 09/08/2022

Synopsis (publisher)

Vera Stanhope, star of ITV's Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves' acclaimed series.

Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.

Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .

But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

My Take

This is an incredibly complex plot, and Ann Cleeves rises to the occasion - among her very best.

When Rick Kelsall is discovered hanged from the rafters of his small bedroom on the Holy Island, Vera is convinced that it is not suicide. And, as usual with Vera, she is convinced the clue to this murder lies in the past not necessarily in the most immediate events in everybody's lives.

As Vera and her small team peel back the layers events emerge. Some people lie about where they have been, obscuring the truth, but nothing daunts Vera.

An enthralling read.


My rating: 5.0

I've read

Fantastic Fiction listing

Vera Stanhope
   1. The Crow Trap (1999)
   2. Telling Tales (2005)
   3. Hidden Depths (2007)
   4. Silent Voices (2011)
   5. The Glass Room (2012)
   6. Harbour Street (2014)
   7. The Moth Catcher (2015)
   8. The Seagull (2017)
   8.5. Frozen (2020)
   9. The Darkest Evening (2020)
   9.5. The Woman on the Island (2022)
   10. The Rising Tide (2022)


1 October 2022

Review: DEATH COMES AS THE END, Agatha Christie

  • this edition accessed through my local library as a large print edition
  • first published 1944
  • ISBN 978-0-06-287971-4
  • 321 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

It is Egypt, 2000 BC, where death gives meaning to life. At the foot of a cliff lies the broken, twisted body of Nofret, concubine to a Ka-priest. Young, beautiful and venomous, most agree that she deserved to die like a snake. 

Yet Renisenb, the priest’s daughter, believes that the woman’s death was not fate, but murder. Increasingly, she becomes convinced that the source of evil lurks within her own father’s household. 

As the wife of an eminent archaeologist, Agatha Christie took part in several expeditions to the Middle East. Drawing upon this experience and exhaustive research, she wrote this serial killer mystery laid in Egypt 4000 years ago.  

My Take

This is not the first time I've read this novel - I am re-reading it with my U3A Agatha Christie Reading Group. See my previous review.

When Imhotep, the Ka-priest, returns to his family, he brings with him an unwelcome surprise, a concubine from the North, who is in fact younger than his recently widowed daughter. None of his household like the concubine, and she plainly does not like them. She tries to turn the family against their father and seems determined to stir up trouble.

But what Nofret, the concubine, does, as one of the family remarks, is reveals where trouble and evil already are present.

In the introductory Author's Note Agatha Christie points out that the fact that the action of the book takes place on the West bank of the Nile at Thebes in Egypt about 2000 BC is actually incidental to the story. It is a story that could have been played out against any setting. It is a story of jealousy, a father who dominates too much, and children who are chafing against the bit. The murder of the concubine is just the first in a series of incidents, and the author holds various characters up for us to scrutinise.

We see the action mainly through the eyes of Imhotep's daughter Renisenb, who is not always the most reliable judge if character, and she is bewildered as various members of the household are killed, and she is not sure who to trust.

The author puts her knowledge of Egyptian funerary rites and procedures to good use in providing the reader with an authentic background for a solid murder mystery. In all there are 5 murders, enough to overwhelm even the most vigilant family.

My rating: 4.4

Agatha Christie novels I've read


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