Thursday, June 6, 2013

eBook Review: The Agatha Christie Book Club

When Alicia Finlay walks out on her boring old book club and decides to start a new one—one devoted to her favorite mystery writer Agatha Christie—little does she know her new club is about to stumble into a mystery of their own. It's a mystery so baffling it would leave even the Queen of Crime scratching her head...

After gathering seven crime buffs together—including young librarian Missy (as ditzy as Miss Marple and as sharp), fashionista Claire, paleontologist Perry (both stylish and fastidious like Poirot), dashing Dr Anders, a poisons expert, and socialite Barbara Parlour—Alicia grows suspicious when one of them fails to show for the next book club.

Barbara has disappeared from the face of the earth and her arrogant husband, Arthur, seems coldly unconcerned. The group suspects him of foul play until he suddenly shows up dead. With two baffling mysteries and time fast running out, the book club decides to do as the meddling Miss Marple would do and investigate!

So begins the first exciting installment of the Agatha Christie Book Club (ACBC), a motley collection of amateur sleuths who use Christie as their guide to help solve a range of mysteries that fall into their lap. Following in the footsteps of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, the group must sort the clues from the red herrings to solve the murder of Arthur Parlour and determine what happened to his missing wife. Has she been brutally murdered or is she somehow, somewhere still alive?

Like Poirot before them, the ACBC uncover a stream of shifty suspects along the way including flirtatious housekeeper Rosa, sleazy tennis coach Jake, traitorous BFF Wanda, and impoverished brother Niles. They must also face each other because, as Alicia discovers, each of the book club members is hiding a secret of their own. Their secrets could jeopardize the case, or crack it wide open.

Returning to Agatha Christie's books time and again for inspiration and advice, the ACBC quickly unravel a baffling mystery that will leave readers guessing right until the end.

Guys that summary is longer then my review I think o.o Anyhow, I love Agatha Christie--mostly her Poirot novels, but And Then There Were None is possibly one of my all time favorite novels. So when I saw this on Amazon I figured--why not?  How cute right?  Also its set in Australia, which I read so few books set in contemporary Australia that I wanted to see how it was.  Though sometimes rambling further abroad then I thought it should (its not just Missy that has problems reigning in her digressions) this was a genuinely intriguing book.

At the very least it certainly took many of the staples from Christie's fiction that it pays homage to without being ridiculous. (at least not overly so)  As one character remarks about halfway through everything seems to follow the Christie formula quite well.  Jittery, fretful wife who disappears, obnoxious shady family, nosy neighbors, two-faced friends, secrets galore...this is very much in line with the Queen of Mystery herself.

This is both a good thing and a distracting thing.  Larmer spends a lot of time inserting inside Christie jokes and homages, while spending relatively little time building her own sense of style and tone. While the ACBC is nowhere near the same level as Poirot or Marple, Larmer spends time trying to make the reader feel like they are.  The ending twist is perhaps not that big a twist in hindsight.  I was far more interested in what happened in the secondary case the ACBC becomes embroiled in because that had more potential.  I just didn't care about Barbara and nothing that was uncovered about her made me like her.

The actual lives of the characters are given broad strokes for the most part.  Snatches of backstory that sounded intriguing (Claire is very interesting for instance), but were really just filler for when the Club wasn't discussing Barbara or Agatha Christie.  Several characters' find themselves at loose ends by the end of the book, but Larmer didn't seem particularly worried once the mystery is solved.  A throw away line here or there and then we hit the end.

So in this Larmer emulated the Queen of Mystery quite well.

In the end this was an entertaining and engaging read.  Larmer does a good job keeping the book's pace from dragging, though it veered into the melodramatic more than once unnecessarily (so many red herrings!) and unraveling what happened keeps the reader guessing for the most part.  Not really a hardcore mystery novel, but definitely a good beach or summer read.