A Challenging Season

Okay, let’s try to think happy thoughts, like maybe I will actually live to see 2018. (That’s looking pretty iffy with the incoming administration, but stranger things have happened.) So let’s take a look at the upcoming reading challenges.

The PopSugar reading challenge has become something of a staple in my life, so I will be setting up a 2017 shelf for that one. I have just now discovered the Goodreads group devoted to this one, and I am pleased to see that PopSugar has been paying attention to its discussions and suggestions. Another Goodreads challenge group I joined this year is the one for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I stand a solid chance of completing that one this year! I’m looking forward to next year’s, but as far as I know, they haven’t posted it yet. I’m also looking forward to next year’s Award-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Challenge, even though I’m still behind on the 3-month version running through the end of this year.

I am continuing my Completist Christie Challenge, of course, and I welcome people to join me. I don’t feel like administering others’ involvement, but discussion on the post is certainly fine. Likewise, I will be repeating my Personal Reading Challenge in 2017, so watch for that post. (Yes, I know, I still need to go in and do a massive update on the 2016 post.)

And now my friend Michelle Stockard Miller has created an entire Facebook group just for reading challenges, the aptly named Sleep Less – Read More. And…wow…okay, let’s see what I’m letting myself in for.

I am selecting the Mt Vancouver challenge level in the Mt TBR Reading Challenge 2017. That’s 36 books from my TBR piles. Here’s hoping I upgrade and scale even larger peaks as the year goes on! It looks like I will be joining several of the challenges posed by Bev Hankins. The Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge puts a clever spin on the game by requiring links in a “chain of evidence.” I’m going for a six-book “infraction” to start with and maybe I’ll be able to level up! Oh, and sure, let’s do the Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunts. Both of them, why the hell not! I’ve just printed off the checklists and noted the date ranges on them, and my goal is at least six checks on each list.

Jamie Ghione is running several challenges in 2017, and I think I will give the Humor Reading Challenge a shot at the Cartoonist (1 to 5 books) level.

I was considering using the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge to bridge 2016 and 2017, but I just don’t think I’m up for it this time. It starts next week, and I need to get focused on NaNoWriMo instead.

I might host a real challenge myself for 2017. I’ve been trying to make “Start Less – Finish More” my personal reading mantra, and I track my ratio. I’m not doing all that well. So the No Book Left Behind Challenge would be for encouraging me to go find all those books I have abandoned and either finish them or give up on them. It should be a nice complement to Bev’s Mt TBR challenge. And maybe I can find a Keep Them Moving challenge over on the BookCrossing forums. Oh, dear, that’s another dangerous place!

Review: The Seven Dials Mystery

The Seven Dials Mystery
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #34 for 2016
Habitica’s Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that you’ve already read at least once
Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A book that’s been on your shelf for more than five years

Ah, Bundle and Battle, together again! This made me want to go read The Secret of Chimneys again. It’s a pity Christie didn’t do more with these characters. But given how this novel ended, I guess I’m not surprised.

I was expecting this to be a quick re-read, but I was amazed at how much time I spent chasing down odd vocabulary words and trying to figure out what kind of “automatic” pistol Stevens had managed to procure for Jimmy. I’m pretty sure it was an ACP .455, which appears to me to be a semi-automatic, despite its name. I’m also pretty sure that Christie was poking fun at pulp thriller writers of the day when Jimmy made it clear that he wanted a “blue-nosed,” fully automatic pistol. And I think it’s more than a little sad that a century or so after the ACP was introduced, so many people are still using “automatic” and “semi-automatic” interchangeably.

But I digress. I was also amazed at how little of the plot I remembered. The plot twist really got me, even though I avoided some of the red herrings and, really, I ought to have known better. Some of the explanations regarding the origins of the Seven Dials Club weren’t completely satisfying, but if not examined too closely, they make for some cleverly constructed clues.

I really enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout this book. There was a distinct P.G. Wodehouse influence, and Christie’s snarky asides and gift for snappy dialogue were delightfully evident. There’s even a fun little subplot of romance, complete with a proposal scene that puts Jane Austen to shame. I’d recommend this to anybody looking for a light-hearted mystery romp set in the late 1920s.

View all my reviews

The Completist Christie Challenge

Several years ago, I signed up for the perpetual (as opposed to annual) Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. For a little while I kept track of it on a blog post on my old blog, but I was having a hard time deciding how to handle the short stories. I wanted to read them in original publication order, not the order in which the anthologies were published. If you’ve read many collections of Christie shorts, you’ve no doubt noticed that their publication was a bit chaotic, and I was determined to figure out all the details so I could read them in the proper order.

Well, thank goodness I announced this intention on Facebook, because my friend Elena Santangelo promptly pointed out that she — literally — wrote the book on Dame Agatha’s Shorts. It is entertaining and informative and has been an immensely useful tool. Between it and several other bibliographies, I am now working out the order in which I wish to read not only Christie’s mystery novels and short fiction, but also her nonfiction and her novels published as Mary Westmacott. I’m also hoping to read all of her plays as well. (I do not plan to include The Scoop, The Floating Admiral, or Behind the Screen, which she co-wrote with a number of other mystery authors.)

Below is the (still developing) list, and I am allowing myself some leeway for things originally published within the same year, as well as for the stories I already read slightly out of order. As I read my way through the list, I find myself making some adjustments to the order I would recommend to others. That’s why you now see “The House of Dreams,” which was likely the first story Christie ever wrote, at the very start of the list, even though it was not her first story to be published. I hope that this time I will be more conscientious about updating the post when I’ve finished reading an item.

  • “The House of Dreams” – read in 2016
  • (1920) The Mysterious Affair at Styles – read in 2004
  • (1922) The Secret Adversary – read in 2009
  • (1923) Murder on the Links – read in 2009
  • (1923) “The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Affair at the Victory Ball” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The King of Clubs” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Adventure of the ‘Western Star'” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Kidnapped Prime Minister” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Plymouth Express” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “While the Light Lasts” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Adventure of the Cheap Flat” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Mystery of the Hunter’s Lodge” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Million Dollar Bond Robbery” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Chocolate Box” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Actress” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Case of the Missing Will” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Veiled Lady” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Market Basing Mystery” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Adventure of Johnny Waverly – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Lost Mine” – read in 2010
  • (1923) “The Cornish Mystery” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Adventure of the Clapham Cook” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Submarine Plans” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Lemesurier Inheritance” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “The Double Clue” – read in 2016
  • (1923) “Christmas Adventure” – read in 2016
  • (1923-9) Partners in Crime – read in 2016
  • (1924) The Man in the Brown Suit – read in 2011
  • (1924-7) The Big Four – read in 2016
  • (1924) “The Girl in the Train” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “The Coming of Mr Quin” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “The Red Signal” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “The Mystery of the Blue Jar” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “Jane in Search of a Job” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “Mr Eastwood’s Adventure” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “Philomel Cottage” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “The Manhood of Edward Robinson” – read in 2016
  • (1925) “The Witness for the Prosecution” – read in 2016
  • (1925) The Secret of Chimneys – read in 2011
  • (1925) “At the Bells and Motley” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “Love Detectives” – read in 2016
  • (1925) “The Sign in the Sky” – read in 2016
  • (1924) “The Shadow on the Glass” – read in 2016
  • (1925) “Within a Wall” – read in 2016
  • (1925) “The Fourth Man” – read in 2016
  • (1925) “The Listerdale Mystery” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “The Last Seance” – read in 2016
  • (1926) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – read in 2016
  • (1926) “S.O.S.” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “Magnolia Blossom” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “Where There’s a Will” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “The Lonely God” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “Rajah’s Emerald” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “Swan Song” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “The Under Dog” – read in 2016
  • (1926) ” The Soul of the Croupier” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “The World’s End” – read in 2016
  • (1926) “The Voice in the Dark” – read in 2016
  • (1927) “The Edge” – read in 2016
  • (1927) “Harlequin’s Lane”  – read in 2016
  • (1927) “The Tuesday Night Club” – read in 2016
  • (1928) “The Idol House of Astarte” – read in 2016
  • (1928) “Ingots of Gold” – read in 2016
  • (1928) “The Blood-Stained Pavement” – read in 2016
  • (1928) “Motive v. Opportunity” – read in 2016
  • (1928) “The Thumb Mark of St. Peter” – read in 2016
  • (1928) “Wasp’s Nest” – read in 2016
  • (1928) The Mystery of the Blue Train – read in 2016
  • (1929) “Accident” – read in 2016
  • (1929) “Next to a Dog” – read in 2016
  • (1929) “Third Floor Flat” – read in 2016
  • (1929) “Double Sin” – read in 2016
  • (1929) The Seven Dials Mystery – read in 2016
  • (1929) “Blue Geranium” – read in 2016
  • (1932) “The Companion” – read in 2016
  • (1930) “The Four Suspects” – read in 2016
  • (1930) “A Christmas Tragedy” – read in 2016
  • (1928) “The Herb of Death” – read in 2016
  • (1932) “The Affair at the Bungalow” – read in 2016
  • (1930) “The Face of Helen” – read in 2016
  • (1930) “The Dead Harlequin” – read in 2016
  • (1930) “Bird with a Broken Wing” – read in 2016
  • (1930) “The Man from the Sea” – read in 2016
  • (1930) Murder at the Vicarage – read in 2016
  • (1930) “Manx Gold” – read in 2016
  • (1930) MW: Giant’s Bread – read in 2017
  • (1930) Play: Black Coffee – read in 2017
  • (1931) Murder at Hazelmoor
  • (1932) “The Mystery of the Bagdad Chest”
  • (1932) “The Second Gong”
  • (1932) Peril at End House
  • (1932) “Death by Drowning”
  • (1933) Thirteen at Dinner
  • (1933) “The Hound of Death”
  • (1933) “The Gipsy”
  • (1933) “The Lamp”
  • (1933) “The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael”
  • (1933) “The Call of Wings”
  • (1934) “Sing a Song of Sixpence”
  • (1934) “The Golden Ball”
  • (1934) “A Fruitful Sunday”
  • (1934) Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
  • (1934) MW: Unfinished Portrait
  • (1934) Murder on the Orient Express
  • (1934) Mr Parker Pyne, Detective
  • (1935) Murder in Three Acts
  • (1935) “How Does Your Garden Grow?”
  • (1935) Death in the Air
  • (1935) “Problem at Sea”
  • (1935) The ABC Murders
  • (1936) “Problem at Pollensa Bay”
  • (1936) “Regatta Mystery”
  • (1936) Murder in Mesopotamia
  • (1936) “Triangle at Rhodes”
  • (1936) Cards on the Table
  • (1937) Dumb Witness
  • (1937) Death on the Nile
  • (1937) “Murder in the Mews”
  • (1937) “Dead Man’s Mirror”
  • (1937) “The Incredible Theft”
  • (1937) “Yellow Iris”
  • (1937) “The Dream”
  • (1938) Appointment with Death
  • (1938) Murder for Christmas
  • (1939) “Miss Marple Tells a Story”
  • (1939) “In a Glass Darkly”
  • (1939) Easy to Kill
  • (1939) And Then There Were None
  • (1940) Sad Cypress
  • (1940) The Patriotic Murders
  • (1940) “Four and Twenty Blackbirds”
  • (1941) Evil Under the Sun
  • (1941) N or M?
  • (1942) “Tape-Measure Murder”
  • (1942) “Case of the Perfect Maid”
  • (1942) The Body in the Library
  • (1942) The Moving Finger
  • (1943) Murder in Retrospect
  • (1944) Towards Zero
  • (1944) MW: Absent in the Spring
  • (1945) Death Comes as the End
  • (1945) Sparkling Cyanide
  • (1946) Murder After Hours
  • (1946) NF: Come, Tell Me How You Live
  • (1947) The Labors of Hercules
  • (1947) MW: The Rose and the Yew Tree
  • (1948) There Is a Tide
  • (1949) Crooked House
  • (1950) “Case of the Caretaker”
  • (1950) “Strange Jest”
  • (1950) “Three Blind Mice”
  • (1950) A Murder Is Announced
  • (1951) They Came to Baghdad
  • (1952) Mrs McGinty’s Dead
  • (1952) Murder with Mirrors
  • (1952) MW: A Daughter’s a Daughter
  • (1953) A Pocket Full of Rye
  • (1953) Funerals Are Fatal
  • (1954) Play: Spider’s Web
  • (1954) So Many Steps to Death
  • (1954) “Sanctuary”
  • (1955) Hickory Dickory Death
  • (1956) Dead Man’s Folly
  • (1956) MW: The Burden
  • (1957) What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw!
  • (1958) “The Dressmaker’s Doll”
  • (1958) Play: Unexpected Guest
  • (1958) Ordeal by Innocence
  • (1958) Play: Verdict
  • (1959) Cat Among the Pigeons
  • (1960) “The Mystery of the Spanish Chest”
  • (1960) “The Theft of the Royal Ruby”
  • (1960) “Greenshaw’s Folly”
  • (1961) The Pale Horse
  • (1962) The Mirror Crack’d
  • (1962) Play: Rule of Three
  • (1963) The Clocks
  • (1964) A Caribbean Mystery
  • (1965) At Bertram’s Hotel
  • (1966) Third Girl
  • (1967) Endless Night
  • (1968) By the Pricking of My Thumbs
  • (1969) Hallowe’en Party
  • (1970) Passenger to Frankfurt
  • (1971) “The Harlequin Tea Set”
  • (1971) Nemesis
  • (1972) Elephants Can Remember
  • (1973) Play: Akhnaton
  • (1974) Postern of Fate
  • (1975) Curtain
  • (1976) Sleeping Murder
  • (1977) NF: Agatha Christie: An Autobiography