I could not resist. Although I have not read a lot of the original Agatha Christie novels, the David Suchet ‘Poirot’ films are at the top of my list of mystery favorites. Hannah has the permission of the Christie estate to revive the character and has written others in the series as well. This story begins with four different people receiving a letter supposedly from Hercule Poirot himself, each being accused of murdering a man who everyone thought had simply drowned while taking a bath. He was elderly and frail and the inquiry returned a verdict of accidental death earlier in the year. So why would someone send these letters to the recipients, all but one of whom did not know the deceased? Poirot considers the question at a cafe where he has ordered a specialty of the house, a slice of cake with layers colored like a checkerboard. He cuts each colored layer in two and then in two again, the four quarters, representing each of the accused murderers. Are they working in pairs or are they all on their own? Is one of the squares the real murderer or are all of them innocent? In which case, why send the letters in the first place? The novel is very well done and I hope to find time to read others in the series.
Lylie Vitral, the Miracle Baby who survived a plane crash in 1980
Mark Vitral, her older brother who does not believe she is really his sister
Mathilde de Carville, the matron of a wealthy family whose grand daughter was also on the plane
Malvina de Carville, the older sister of the baby killed in the crash
Credule Grand Duc, a detective hired by Mathilde to find out the truth about the crash.
This is a remarkable story about the aftermath of a plane crash which occurred just before Christmas, 1980. Everyone on board was killed when the plane travelling from Istanbul to Paris crashed into Mont Terri, except for one baby girl. Miraculously, this baby was thrown far enough away from the crash to avoid the fire but was near enough to be warmed by it until rescuers reached the crash site. However, there were two baby girls on that flight, born within two days of each other. Since both sets of parents were dead no one knew for sure whose child she was. The two families involved, one extremely wealthy and the other of modest means, both claimed that the grandchild was theirs. A judge made the final decision, giving the child, Lylie, to the Vitral family based on the clothes she was wearing and the absence of a gold bracelet which should’ve been on the wrist of the wealthy family’s granddaughter. When we arrive on the scene Lylie has just turned eighteen and has come into a sizable amount of money put aside in a bank account by Mathilde de Carville, just in case the judge had been wrong and the girl really was her grand daughter. Mathilde had also hired a detective, Credule Grand Duc, who has been investigating the case for eighteen years, following every lead, looking into every possible clue to prove once and for all whose child Lylie really is. But he has not been able to discover the truth until the night before Lylie’s eighteenth birthday. He calls Mathilde to tell her he has found the answer but needs a couple of days to make sure, and then disappears. He has given Lylie a notebook with all of the information he has dug up through the years, and after reading it herself she gives the notebook to her brother, Marc to read. Then she too disappears. Marc is worried about Lylie and in trying to track her down goes first to Credule’s house and then to the de Carville’s mansion, reading the detective’s notebook while riding the train to his destinations. Malvina, who is now almost certifiably crazy, keeps a Mauzer in her purse and isn’t afraid to use it, tries to get the notebook from Marc, pretending to aid him in his quest to find Lylie. Marc is afraid that his sister is about to do something drastic, even commit suicide. He feels he is racing against time, reading the notebook for any clues it can give, travelling across France to find her.
A very intriguing book, After the Crash keeps the pieces of the puzzle quietly snapping into place with each chapter. I won’t spoil the ending!
So we’ll go no more aroving
So late into the night,
Thought the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears it sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
This poem is at the beginning of the book which introduces us to the bosom friend of Lord Byron’s after his death. The story is told with excerpts from diaries, letters and private journals. It begins with a young barrister, Gerald Marston, who has taken a temporary job as a private detective to spy on Lord Ingersoll, a poet and contemporary of the Byron’s and the Shelley’s, who seems to be surrounded on all sides by suspicious deaths. Most recently that of his wife who was drowned after falling overboard during the night from their yacht. The weather had been rainy and somewhat windy, but not enough to cause real danger. But the inquest ruled the death was accidental. Ingersoll’s mother died by falling down the stairs at her home, breaking her neck and causing a fatal heart attack. Ingersoll, though not at home at the time, found his mother at the foot of the stairs. At the top of the stairs the carpet had been worn or possibly cut, causing her to catch her heel and tumble down. Ingersoll inherited a large sum upon her death. Most uncomfortable for Marston however, is the fact that the private detective just recently engaged in the same position which he now holds, has turned up dead as well, either from an accidental drowning or something more deliberate. Marston is spying on Ingersoll in Genoa, where Ingersoll’s illegitimate daughter, Diane Shelton, and her mother reside. Diane is to be taken by her father back to England and introduced to society so that she can find a husband with rank and title. To complicate matters more, George Marston falls head over heels in love with Diane which is rather difficult since he is spying on her father. No one knows if Ingersoll will be arrested when he returns to England due to the controversy surrounding him, yet he is willing to risk it for the sake of his daughter’s future.
This story is a bit complicated but is well told. At first it seems a sure thing that Lord Ingersoll is a very nasty piece of work, and Mr. Marston is doomed to lose his love if not his life. But as the narration proceeds many points of view come to light, not all of which are detrimental to the main character. This is a short book, just over 200 pages and is well worth the read, especially if you are a fan of Byron’s or Shelley’s.
Characters: Vera Stanhope, detective
Holly and Joe, her asssistants
Lizzie Redhead, a young offender whose parents live in the converted farmhouse near where the murders take place
Percy, a local man is driving home from the pub when he stops to answer the call of nature. Off the side of the road he finds the body of a young man, a house-sitter for the big house, Gilswick Hall, whose owners are visiting Australia where they are about to become grand-parents. Vera Stanhope arrives on the scene and then takes Percy to the home he shares with his daughter Susan. She goes into the big house once a week to clean and has a key, which Vera takes, and with Joe they head to the house itself for clues to the identity of the deceased. They let themselves in through the kitchen and explore the area, only to find the body of another, older man in the apartment where the house sitter lived. Both of these men turn out to be avid students of moths and at first the team can find no other connection between the two. The nearest inhabitants to the crime scene are some retired couples who live in an old farm house that’s been converted to modern apartments. Lizzie Redhead’s parents live in one apartment and they are anxiously awaiting her return home from prison. Lizzie had served time for attacking a young woman with a knife and her parents are understandably uneasy about having her back home with them, although they love their daughter, they don’t know how to handle her. She was locked up when the murders took place, but she may have known the killer.
This is a long story, over 700 pages, which takes place in New Zealand during the time of the gold rush. As one might imagine there’s plenty of wheeling and dealing and added to it are some tales of the opium trade, its origins in China and a few of the men, both English and Chinese, who were caught up in it there. In this story they brought the trade with them to New Zealand.
What a tangled web the lust for gold is in Catton’s story. Walter Moody, a well-educated young man from England, is newly arrived on the coast and has had a very rough crossing, one so rough he feels lucky to be alive. Still stunned by the ordeal and by a man, phantom or real, he still can’t make out, he makes his way to the smoking room at the Crown Hotel. Unbeknownst to him, a dozen local men have gathered for a meeting about the death of Crosbie Wells, a local hermit. At the same time the wealthy prospector Emory Stains has disappeared and is feared dead. On the same day Anna Wetherell, the most popular whore in town is beaten so severely she collapses and ends up in jail, which it turns out is a far better place to be than the local hospital. A fortune in gold is found Crosbie Wells’ cabin after his death, and a smaller amount of gold is found sewn into the seams of Anna’s dress. Moody learns bits and pieces of the story and gets drawn into it further by relating that he was brought to shore by a ship captained by Francis Carver, who was Emory Staines’ business partner. The characters are inviting and the story kept me looking forward to my next chapter.
Ms. Catton includes in the book illustrations and mentions of astrological signs and meanings that I admit were completely lost on me. I know that for someone who keeps up with astrology more than I do, the novel would take on a whole new depth of meaning, but I managed to enjoy the book immensely without it.
Since the publication of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, any book mentioning the Knights Templar is bound to intrigue. The story begins with the fall of Acre and the Templar’s last stand in the holy city in 1291. A band of knights escapes from the battle carrying a small chest wrapped in velvet, its contents a well-kept secret, even from all but a few of the Templars themselves. They make their way to the Falcon Temple, a galley ship waiting in the harbor.
Moving forward to the 21st century, four horsemen dressed as Templars ride out of Central Park and into, literally, the Metropolitan Museum of Art where, guns blazing, still astride their horses, they steal several of the items on display at a special showing of Treasures of the Vatican. Witnessing the theft of an unusual object from behind untouched exhibits, Tess Chaykin, is terrified. After the fact, and reunited with her daughter and mother, who had been in the ladies’ room during the commotion, Tess is intrigued. The daughter of a well-known archeologist, and a trained archeologist herself Tess begins to wonder why this particular object was taken.
Sean Reilly is the FBI agent in charge of the investigation. When he questions Tess regarding the incident he realizes that she is holding back something, but doesn’t know what. Tess calls on experts she knows in the field and discovers that the object taken from the exhibit was an encoder, an ingenious device which the Templars used to code messages making them indecipherable to anyone else, even within the Catholic Church. What she and Reilly find out later is that one of the horsemen has discovered one of these messages and needs the device to break the code. Meanwhile the other three horsemen are dropping dead like flies, presumably killed by their leader.
The story continues to flash back to the events immediately after the knight’s escape from Jerusalem in 1291, the path of a small band of knights, the sinking of the Falcon Temple during a storm, the enigmatic reason behind the Knight Templar’s rise to power and subsequent fall. Tess and Reilly, for different reasons, try to stay a step ahead of the lone horseman’s quest to unearth the mysteries of that last ill-fated journey out of the holy land.