Monday, March 8, 2021

Reading in February 2021

February was another good reading month. Out of the ten books I read, nine were fiction. Eight were crime fiction, and one was general fiction, a classic of Canadian literature. I read one nonfiction book, a book about books combined with memoir, and completed my second book for the Japanese Literature challenge.

I have been reading lots of books in the Hercule Poirot series lately, and I have tried to limit myself to three a month, but in February I actually read four of them. It is getting so that the plots run together (or maybe it is the titles). It has been a lot of fun though. We have watched the Suchet adaptations of all of the Poirot books I read this month.


The End of Your Life Book Club (2012) by Will Schwalbe

I bought this book mainily because it was a book about books, including various books that the author discussed with his mother while she was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. I did learn about some books and authors I hope to try some day. It was also a very moving book about the relationship between a son and his mother, and I liked that part as much as the discussion of books.  

General Fiction

The Stone Angel (1964) by Margaret Laurence

This book is the first in a series of five books about Manawaka, a fictional town in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Hagar Shipley, a 90-year-old woman with health issues, struggles against being put in a nursing home by her son and his wife. Throughout the book, she looks back on her life, her childhood in Manawaka, and the following years as she marries and has two sons. Hagar is bitter and cranky and has been that way most of her life, but I loved this book and would gladly reread it. This was my favorite book of the month.

Crime Fiction

Appointment with Death (1938) by Agatha Christie

This was the first Agatha Christie book I read this month. Very different from the norm. A family is taking a trip to Jerusalem and Jordan, and Poirot happens to hear two members of the family talking about killing someone. The Boynton family consists of a tyrannical mother and several children, most of them adults. There are some very interesting characters in the area at the same time, especially a young female doctor attracted to Raymond Boynton and an older male psychiatrist. 

Mrs. McGinty's Dead (1952) by Agatha Christie

I found so many things to like about this book from the Hercule Poirot series. Poirot's valet, George, and the mystery author, Ariadne Oliver are included in the story. There is lots of humor. My review is here.

Third Girl (1966) by Agatha Christie

This is a later Hercule Poirot novel, published in 1966. Many reviewers don't particularly care for this story. I will admit that there is at least one plot point which requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but apart from that I found it both a good mystery and an entertaining read. And it features Mrs. Oliver, a plus. I did not guess who did it, although my suspicions were close to the actual solution.

Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie

This was the last book I read in February; it was a  reread. We had just watched the Alfred Finney version of the film for the third time, and I could not remember how closely that adaptation adhered to the book, including Finney's portrayal of Poirot. There was little humor in the film, but the novel also has a more serious tone. This time I read my facsimile edition with the original cover art. My review of the book from 2012 is here.

Murder in the Place of Anubis (1994) by Lynda S. Robinson

This is the first book in a historical mystery series set in the ancient Egypt of the boy king Tutankhamun. I will be continuing to read the series. My review is here.

Detective Stories (1998) chosen by Philip Pullman

This book of short stories was aimed at introducing younger readers (9-11 years old) to mystery stories. However, most of the stories were originally written for adult readers. I found this book a treasure trove of stories by authors I had read or heard of but had not sampled their short stories. There were a few stories I did not care for at all but that is fairly common when reading short story anthologies. After all, each of us has different tastes in stories. This post summarizes my thoughts on the book and links to some overviews of stories in the book.

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin (1931) by Georges Simenon

This is the first book by Georges Simenon that I have read in many years. I enjoyed it and am encouraged to continuing reading his books. My review of this book is here.

Malice (1996) by Keigo Higahino

This mystery is a police procedural but the structure is different from most mystery novels. The story alternates between one of the suspect's written account of his actions related to the crime, and Detective Kyoichiro Kaga's notes. It is a very complex story and a satisfying mystery. This was the second book I read for the Japanese Literature Challenge.


Rick Robinson said...

An interesting month of reading, Tracy, with variety and several Poirot novels. I’m afraid I’m not reading much, a couple of Tintin stories and a slow-going mystery.

TracyK said...

Rick, the more Poirot novels I read, the more I like them, even the later ones.

I am pretty sure my son has some Tintin storie I could read. I read some of them years ago but not sure which ones and don't remember much about them.

Cath said...

A good reading month for you. Isn't it great when you're enjoying a series and want to read on and on? And the Poirot books are just so much fun. The Aubrey/Maturin series is threatening that with me I think. Just finished Post Captain and I know it won't be long before I move on to HMS Surprise.

TracyK said...

Cath, yes it is wonderful to be so caught up in the Poirot books.

I am glad to hear that you liked Post Captain so much and plan to keep reading. I was thinking that I would read the third book as an e-book so it would be easy to look up terms, but I can't read e-books in the evening and that would be a limitation. Oh well, I will figure it out.

dfordoom said...

APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH is very underrated.

TracyK said...

I agree, dfordoom, but then I have liked every Poirot book I have read recently, even the later ones, which supposedly go downhill. I got a little confused with all the characters, but that was my fault I am sure.

I elected to skip THE BIG FOUR, and I seek that you recommended it. I will go back and pick it up later.

col2910 said...

Looking at all the Christie's you read, I wondered if you were working towards reading them all.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love and admire your open-heartedness toward all sort of books.

CLM said...

Nice variety and I like The Third Girl's cover! I am reading a very old fashioned historical novel set in upstate New York during the Revolutionary War and the heroine proudly brings a peacock feather from her mother's home when she gets married. All the neighbors come to admire it and speculate about peacocks; I just knew someone was going to steal it and, sure enough, one did.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you had a good reading month, Tracy! Of course, any month that includes several Christie novels is a good month in my view... It's funny... I know the plot point you mean in Third Girl. I struggled with that one just a bit. But as you say, it is a good mystery, and I've always liked it. To me, Christie at her weakest is a whole lot better than lots of people at their best...

Christine said...

I agree with Margot. It's only the books at the very end of her career that I find hard going. I always enjoy Poirot, and I wish she had written more featuring Miss Marple.

Debbie Rodgers said...

I really should reread Murder on the Orient Express soon. Last week, I watched both the Albert Finney version, which I remember LOVING at the time and in multiple rewatches, and the Kenneth Branagh version, which was also a rewatch.

This time around, I really did not like Albert Finney's Poirot. I'd like to refresh Christie's "version" while the movies are still fresh in my mind.

As for The Stone Angel - what can I say. One of the greatest books of all time. I have loved, loved, loved it during every reading I've done of it (probably 10 or 12).

TracyK said...

Col, I am trying to read most of the Hercule Poirot novels, so that we can watch all of the Poirot adaptations with David Suchet. Not something I intended to do, but it has been fun.

Right now, I think I only have 5 more Poirot novels left to read (most of them later books in the series) and then watch. There were two books in the series where I decided to watch the movie without reading the book first (The Big Four and Elephants Can Remember).

TracyK said...

Thank you, Patti. I do like to try different kinds of books and have been lucky to find that most of them are very good, rewarding reads.

I wish I could enjoy reading nonfiction books more. (And faster.) Maybe that will come with time.

TracyK said...

Constance, the cover for Third Girl was by Tom Adams. I should have mentioned that in the post. I love all the covers he did for Christie's novels.

That sounds like an interesting historical novel you are reading and I hope you review it. I have mentioned before that I would like to read more about the Revolutionary War, I am too ignorant in that area. But right now I have too many books about Tudor England and even before that, and I need to read those first.

TracyK said...

Margot, it was a great experience reading four Hercule Poirot books this month. I get immersed in the story and the reads are so fast... too fast actually. Every Poirot book I have read has something I enjoy. And Christie is such a clever writer. I look forward to getting back to some Miss Marple books later in the year.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Tracy, Congratulations on reading so many books in one month. I must pick up my reading pace. The Stone Angel is a book I have been hearing about for years and I must give it a try. Agatha Christie is always great. I have also read The End of Your Life Book Club. The author's mother was remarkable, all the humanitarian work she did throughout her life. I was also amazed that despite the terrible health news she received, was able to focus and enjoy reading books during the last two years of her life. She still enjoyed reading and some of the books she and her son read were downers but she learned from them as well and was able to separate reading from the worries she must have been experiencing.

TracyK said...

Christine, I can say that the last book I read in the Poirot series, Cat Among the Pigeons, written in 1959, was not as good as some I have read recently. I loved the girls school setting, but the espionage story was a bit too unrealistic and with too many coincidences. Poirot doesn't show up until very late in the story, which works fine with the mystery plot but I still missed him.

When I started rereading Christie's novels, I was surprised to see how few Miss Marple mysteries there were, especially compared with the Poirot series. I think I have read 6 of the 12 Marple novels.

Mary R. said...

I agree that Cat Among the Pigeons is not one of the best Poirot stories, but the David Suchet Myster of that story is a very good one. The Mystery episode about Appointment with Death was (imo) a bit too over-the-top. I think Tim Curry pushed it into farce.

dfordoom said...

THE BIG FOUR was Christie doing Edgar Wallace. I thought she did it quite well. But it definitely helps if you enjoy Edgar Wallace thrillers.

FictionFan said...

Looks like you had a great month of reading! I love Appointment with Death - Mrs Boynton is one of Christie's greatest creations, I think, and I love the central clue that slaps you in the face and yet still you don't see it! Well, I didn't, anyway... 😄

TracyK said...

Debbie, I enjoyed rereading Murder on the Orient Express. I have forgotten that it was such an early Poirot book and there was less humor and the tone was more serious. And all of the film adaptations that I have seen do reflect this. When we rewatched the Albert Finney version this time, I did not like Finney's portrayal as well as before, and that was probably because I was comparing it to David Suchet's performance in general (which we only started watching in the last six months). But I liked most other aspects of the film.

I have recently read your excellent review of Stone Angel. Reactions to the book seem very mixed but I loved it also. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I was hooked.

TracyK said...

dfordoom, thanks for the additional comment re THE BIG FOUR. I have not read any novels by Edgar Wallace, but I have read two of his short stories that I liked a lot.

TracyK said...

Kathy, Ten books in a month is a good number for me, although it largely depends on the length of the books I read. I see other bloggers reading 15-20 books a month and I cannot imagine attaining that number.

I definitely recommend Stone Angel. Even if you don't like it as much as I did, it is worth giving a try. I was also impressed with Will Schwalbe's mother in The End of Your Life Book Club. So energetic, unstoppable, and had a good attitude about life. I do hope if I am ever that ill for an extended period that I am able to read and enjoy it.

TracyK said...

Mary, I enjoy all of the Poirot adaptations with David Suchet, usually even when they change the story quite a bit. As they did in Appointment with Death. It was still fun and my husband and son both enjoyed it, but the addition of that major character was too much for me.

Conversely, sometimes the Poirot episodes improve on a book that wasn't (comparatively) as good. And I think they did that with Cat Among the Pigeons. We watched that within the last week.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, I did not get the clues to the culprit in Appointment with Death, but as soon as the solution was revealed, it was obvious that I should have. I found Mrs Boynton chilling and very convincing. That story had a higher level of tension for me than most of her novels.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

I won't add on to the Christies because you've pretty much covered all my thoughts on those books/ movie versions. But Stone Angel and Malice both look super interesting.

I didn't know you're participating in the Japanese Lit challenge too! I've been sticking to more of the Japanese folklore/ mythology bits, but I know they have some really good detective fiction. Might look at Malice for that reason, thank you!

~ Lex (

TracyK said...

Lex, Stone Angel was very good, although with a very hard to like protagonist. I am sure it is not for everyone, but I loved the writing, how the story was told. Very emotional at the end.

I have liked every book I read by Keigo Higashino, and each is different. Malice was half as long as the the other book I read, Under the Midnight Sun. Shorter is better for me but both books were very good.

I wanted to read another book for the Japanese Literature Challenge, sigh. But I am switching to Ireland for this month and I just can't review that many books that I read.