It has been quite some time since I have posted on here. Spiralling off into fanfiction is not a new affliction of mine but for my list of books read this year to still have been sitting at a low of one at the end of June is rather shocking.
As previously mentioned on here my to read pile has reached somewhat mammoth proportions. It has perhaps even become my Everest, or my white whale (although since Moby Dick is actually in the to read pile perhaps that description is a little to on the nose).
However, sunshine, beaches, precious little balconies and flights and coach rides beckoned. Is there a better time than a holiday to get back into reading?
Since my usual aim when reading, I am rather fond of making lists, is to read at least one new book a week for the year and to read at least one hundred titles: I really needed to get my skates on (Noel Streatfield is in the to read pile and Little Women is surely due a revisit?).
I brought with me, oh damn you baggage limits, a not inconsiderable pile of 15 paperbacks and my trusty kindle.
Perhaps it was that aura of calm and relaxation that always sweeps over one when escaping from real life, however briefly. From the start my reading was firmly at least 50 years in the past and there it stayed more or less and I must admit I deliberately kept away from anything that could be considered challenging or which could dampen my holiday spirit.
My holiday reading started, as it invariably does with a Christie. Slightly more impressively The Hollow was one I actually haven’t read before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a Poirot, but one of the ones in which he doesn’t feature too heavily and I think the novel was probably the better for it. Decent characterisation and a good twist, that I only had an inkling of. The act of the denouement itself didn’t quite work for me, but that is a minor quibble. My holiday reading was practically book ended by Agatha as the second to last book was also hers, and the only re-read of my trip. They Came to Baghdad is one of her thrillers, although it still has a decent if bonkers whodunit element. I have read this book a couple of times and I always find it fascinating because outside of the completely insane plot, there is the author’s depiction of Baghdad and travelling and archaeology which are all things she had an intimate knowledge of. If there are any Christie fans who have not read Come Tell Me How You Live, her archaeological memoir, I highly recommend that and They Came to Baghdad is a very interesting novel to read as a companion and is, if nothing else, highly entertaining.
Having started my holiday with a whodunit I proceeded to binge on them for the next few days. I read my second “Death in” book by M. M. Kaye: Death in the Andamans which I actually really enjoyed. From what I understand, Kaye had actually visited all the locations of her mystery books and I think this does show in the scene she sets. There was a fascinating little author’s note at the start of my copy detailing how the novel came to be. The novel was conceived and started in the 20s but not published until much later. It is certainly a unique location and the novel really utilises this setting.
I read my first Michael Innes book too. It was a grubby green penguin I had picked up in a secondhand bookshop which made the cut for holiday reading primarily due to its small and slim size. Death at the President’s Lodgings is the first of the Inspector Appleby mysteries and I believe the best known. I was thoroughly immersed in this, enjoying the academic setting at which the author, clearly thoroughly knowledgeable, was poking gentle fun. Indeed, Michael Innes was a pseudonym for J.I.M Stewart who’s impressive academic career can be seen above. Amusingly, one of the fellows of the fictitious St. Anthony’s also writes mystery novels under a pseudonym to the derision of his peers and the elation of his students.
Disaster struck while I was reading this. I went to turn the page and suddenly leapt from p90 to p155. How this was not immediately noticeable from the binding I do not know. My bargain was clearly not as much of a bargain as I had hoped. Thank goodness for WiFi and the kindle! Fifteen minutes in a WiFi hotspot and I could resume my reading. It may be of interest, that in the UK at least, several of Innes’ books are fairly cheap on the kindle.
I certainly didn’t guess who the murderer was, and the explanations are certainly entertaining. Whether it holds ups as a credible set of events i’m not so sure. All in all Hamlet, Revenge the second Appleby adventure is on my kindle now, and I will undoubtedly read more of Innes’ work but whether he will topple any of my favourites seems unlikely.
I have had to divide this into a few posts as I have enjoyed a whole spate of books over the last two weeks. More to follow in the next few days.