Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: "Maigret's Christmas" by Georges Simenon

Short Story Wednesday is on the first day of December, so I am featuring a story by Georges Simenon with a Christmas theme.

On Christmas morning two women who live in Maigret's neighborhood come to Maigret's house to report an odd event. One woman is older, Mademoiselle Doncoeur, who does fine needlework; the other woman, Madame Martin, is younger, about 30. Madame Martin lives with her husband and his niece, who is recovering from an injury to her leg, and cannot get out of bed. The niece, about eight years old, has reported that Father Christmas visited her in the middle of the night and left a doll for her. She saw him looking for something under the floorboards of her room, and assumed he was trying to get to the room of a boy who lives in the apartment below. Mademoiselle Doncoeur had insisted that they tell Maigret about this, even though neither of them had met him before. Madame Martin was reluctant to report the incident to Maigret.

Thus starts Maigret's investigation of this case, done entirely from his home, with the help of men at the police station via phone calls. 

I have not read a lot of Maigret stories (full length or otherwise) recently, so I don't know much about Maigret's relationship with his wife. In both the stories I read recently, she features prominently, more so in this one. "Maigret's Christmas" is a lovely story. It ends on a sad note, but is not dark or depressing at all. I enjoyed getting to see more of Maigret's wife and their relationship in this story.

I read this story in Maigret's Christmas, a collection of stories by Georges Simenon. "Maigret's Christmas" is the first story in the book, and is lengthy for a short story, 60 pages in my edition. The story was first published in France in 1951. 

I have started the next story, which is also about 60 pages, "Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook". I have read two chapters out of five and will finish it soon. 

I have also read the last story in the book, "Maigret in Retirement", which was 105 pages long. I read that one about a week ago, and reviewed it here.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Novellas in November: Three French Novellas

 In November I have read three translated novellas by French authors. All were very good reads. Two of the authors were new to me, Jean-Patrick Manchette and Pascal Garnier. I have read books by Georges Simenon before, but only one in recent years. 

Three to Kill by Jean-Patrick Manchette was a very strange tale. A corporate salesman, Georges Gerfaut, married with two children, is attacked by two hit men on his way home, but they do not succeed in killing him. He suspects that they want to kill him because he saw a car crash on the side of the road and they want to shut him up. He goes into hiding and plots his revenge on the men and their boss. This story, published in 1976, sounds simple but is actually very complex. 

After Gerfaut escapes from the two men, he ends up living with an old man named Ragusa who lives in the woods simply, in a Portuguese logging camp. Ragusa has some medical experience with the military and patches Gerfaut up. Gerfaut stays with him for a few months, building up his strength. When Ragusa dies of a bad cold, Gerfaut leaves to pursue his plan of taking revenge. 

I liked that this story was different and unexpected; I had no clue how it would end. Music and reading is mentioned a lot, which I always find a plus. A lot of plot was covered in its 132 pages.

The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier was another strange and different story. One night, after returning from a visit with his father, Fabien discovers that his wife has been killed in a car crash. She was the front seat passenger, in a car with a man, who also died in the crash. Fabien and his wife did not have a loving, happy marriage at the time of her death, but Fabien had no idea she was seeing someone else. He becomes obsessed with the wife of the man who died with his wife, and begins stalking her. The plot goes in directions I never expected. 

I cannot say much more about this one without revealing too much of the story. I liked it a lot and will find more by this author, who died in March 2010 at aged sixty. It was about 130 pages and published in 1997. 

Maigret in Retirement by George Simenon was also published as Maigret Gets Angry. Per Goodreads, it was first published in 1947, and was the 26th book out of 75 in the Maigret series. I came upon this story in Maigret's Christmas and it was about 105 pages in that edition, but it has been published separately. I enjoyed this one very much also. 

Two years after Maigret's retirement, a wealthy widow requests that Maigret come to her village to investigate the death of her granddaughter, which has been assumed to be suicide. Reluctantly, Maigret does this and discovers a dysfunctional family, full of people who dislike each other. His investigation reveals deeply buried secrets that the family has been hiding, and a family that seems to be bound together more by greed than love. 

The story is beautifully written, and the depiction of the French countryside is nicely done. And I love Maigret's relationship with his wife.

Three more novellas for the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Novellas in November: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

This is a classic science fiction novella about a man who discovers how to turn himself invisible and decides to do it, thinking that his invisibility will give him an advantage over people. In reality, he discovers that it makes his life both uncomfortable and problematic.

It is difficult to describe my reaction to reading The Invisible Man. For one thing, I had seen the 1933 film adaptation at least once before, thus I had that story in my mind when reading the book. That film differs from the book significantly. Had I come to the book with no preconceived notions, that might have made a difference. Secondly, the story is very brief, about 155 pages in the edition I read. Thus I find it hard to tell about the story without revealing too much. 

Once I got about half way into the story, I realized that it was much simpler and more focused than the movie version. A stranger comes to the Coach and Horses in Iping and seeks a room and a sitting room where he can set up a lab to work in. He is bundled up in a strange way, only his nose can be seen, and he seems peculiar and cantankerous. As he has arrived in the winter when they have few guests, the husband and wife who run the place are glad of the money, until they find out how disruptive his presence can be. Even then, they put up with him for months because he continues to pay his bills. 

Eventually the stranger runs out of money and gets thrown out of his room. He resists, and in the course of an altercation he removes his clothes and they realize that he is invisible. They try to keep him there, but he escapes. And the reader begins to realize that the invisible man is not just a man in trouble, looking for a solution to his strange state, but that he has no concern for others, for their safety or their feelings. He is quite willing to endanger or harm people to get what he wants. 

The rest of the story is concerned with revealing how the invisible man got that way, how it has affected him, and his plans for his future. He serendipitously runs into an old friend from medical school and enlists his help.

Personally, I found this book to be a disappointment, but I cannot describe the things that led to that opinion without telling more than I want to reveal about the story. I was interested while reading it and I thought the writing was fine, but I wanted a more exciting or meaningful story, and it did not impress me in that way. The book is a classic and definitely worth reading but it was not a story I cared much for. However, I want to stress that many readers have enjoyed the story much more than I did.

The story is told in third person, and I think this reader might have had some sympathy for the main character it it had been in first person and told in a more personal way. 

I think this book is more about issues but somehow that did not work for me. Kate at crossexaminingcrime wrote an excellent in-depth review of the book, discussing the various ideas that can be found in this work. Please see her review.

A few days after I read the book we watched the 1933 film adaptation of The Invisible Man again. It was directed by James Whale, and Claude Rains made his American film debut as the invisible man. Gloria Stuart played the love interest, a role that does not exist in the book. I can understand why it was decided to provide more of a backstory for the invisible man in the film. The early part of the book is condensed quite a bit in the film, and that is also understandable. The filmmakers used groundbreaking special effects in making a story in which the main character is never seen. 

I read this for Classics Week in the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck.


Publisher:   Race Point Publishing, 2017 (original pub. 1897)
Length:       155 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Settings:     UK
Genre:        Science fiction
Source:       Purchased in 2020.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Stories by Andrea Camilleri

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been reading short stories from Montalbano's First Case and Other Stories by Andrea Camilleri. The first story is Montalbano's First Case, actually a novella. There are twenty other short stories in the book. The book has an excellent Preface by Camilleri, where he discusses his writing and some of the short stories in this book. 

So far I have read 

  • "Fifty Pairs of Hobnailed Boots"
  • "Fellow Traveler"
  • "Dress Rehearsal"
  • "Amore"
  • "The Artist's Touch"

All of the short stories I read were good reads, and there was variety from story to story, but the last story I read, "The Artist's Touch," is my favorite so far.

It is a story of a meticulously planned suicide. Alberto Larussa, well known for artistic jewelry pieces that he created, had been confined to a wheelchair for the last three decades. He electrocuted himself while strapped into his wheelchair. Larussa was a friend of Montalbano's but Montalbano is not involved in the investigation to prove if it is suicide or not. He begins to believe that the suicide was staged but must make his inquiries outside of normal police channels. 

All of the stories in the book are translated from Italian by Stephen Sartarelli.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Novellas in November: Montalbano's First Case by Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri’s very popular police procedural series about Inspector Salvo Montalbano is set in a fictional town on the Italian coast, called Vigàta. It consists of 28 novels, all of which were written in Italian and have been translated into English.

Montalbano's First Case is a prequel to the Inspector Montalbano series. In this short novel, Montalbano gets his first assignment in Vigàta, after spending his time in an apprenticeship as a deputy inspector in Mascalippa. 

The story begins with Montalbano's concerns about being stuck in Mascalippa for his new assignment. He just doesn't like the mountainous area he is living in. His boss realizes this and facilitates his assignment to Vigàta, which is a seaside town, the type of terrain that Montalbano wants to live in. Montalbano then goes in advance to check out the town in advance, not announcing himself as the new Chief Inspector. But the word gets around. He finds a good restaurant immediately.

The first case Montalbano takes on is not a murder case, but more of a case of attempted murder. He sees a very young girl hiding a gun in her handbag and takes her in for questioning. He follows up on what she was planning to do with the gun and her motivation. During the investigation, the reader learns more about Montalbano's views on crime and punishment.

I have only read the first two books in the series, but this one seemed to have a much slower pace than the full-length novels. But that was a good thing, I enjoyed it a lot. It also seemed less serious, with more humor. This novella was an introduction to some of Montalbano's quirks and characteristics, that might not be so obvious in the full length novels. I usually don't like prequels to mystery series but this one was very good. 

I read this novella in a book of short stories, titled Montalbano's First Case and Other Stories. I have now read a few of the shorter stories and I highly recommend that book. All of the stories in the book are translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

This is the third novella I have reviewed for the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. It fits in the "Literature in Translation" theme. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck

Friday, November 19, 2021

Novellas in November: Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli

Carte Blanche is a novella by Carlo Lucarelli, translated from Italian, the first in a trilogy. The setting is April 1945 in Italy. 

The story starts shortly before the end of World War II, in the final days of the Fascist regime in Italy. The protagonist is a policeman in the regular police, Commissario De Luca, who only recently transferred from another police group that worked under the direction of Mussolini. He just wants to solve crimes without having political interference, but that seems impossible in Italy during the war.

De Luca's first assignment in the regular police is to find who is responsible for the murder of a member of the Fascist party, Vittorio Rehinard. This investigation brings him into the world of the rich and privileged. After a day or two of investigation, De Luca begins to understand that no one in a position of power in the police or the government cares whether the killer is caught. He cares, though, and he continues to pursue the investigation.

From the description on the Europa edition that I read:

Carte Blanche, the first installment in Carlo Lucarelli's "De Luca Trilogy," is much more than a first-rate crime story. It is also an investigation into the workings of justice in a state that is crumbling under the weight of profound historic change.


My thoughts:

  • The Preface by the author is fantastic, explaining his inspiration for writing the story. He followed this story up with two more short novels featuring Comissario De Luca, The Damned Season and Via Delle Oche.
  • I nearly always enjoy crime fiction set around the time of World War II, but I have not read many books set in Italy during that time. Thus I learned about new aspects of World War II.
  • The story is fast-paced and never boring. The tension is maintained throughout. De Luca is  sometimes perplexed and concerned about his future and the future of the country, but he isn't going to give up on the investigation. 
  • At times I was a bit confused about the different factions in Italy, and the many characters and whose side they were on, but that was a minor distraction.

I read this for the "Literature in Translation" Week in the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. The event celebrates the short novel, or novella. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck


Publisher:    Europa Editions, 2006 (orig. pub. 1990)
Translator:  Michael Reynolds
Length:       93 pages
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:        De Luca Trilogy, #1
Setting:       Italy
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       Purchased at Planned Parenthood book sale, 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Novellas in November: My Reading So Far


This month I have been participating in the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. The event celebrates the short novel, or novella. For this event the idea is to aim for 150 pages or under, with a firm upper limit of 200 pages.

The event started on November 1 and continues through November  28th. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck. Each week has a theme but anyone who participates can read and review any type of novella at anytime in the month.

These are the themes:

  • 1–7 November: Contemporary fiction (1980 to present)
  • 8–14 November: Short nonfiction 
  • 15–21 November: Literature in translation 
  • 22–28 November: Short classics 

I have reviewed one novella so far: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

These are the other novellas I have read in November 2021:

  • Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli  (contemporary fiction, historical crime fiction, literature in translation, 94 pages)
  • Montalbano's First Case by Andrea Camilleri (contemporary fiction, crime fiction, literature in translation, 122 pages)
  • Constructive Living by David K. Reynolds (short nonfiction, 106 pages)
  • Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (contemporary fiction, 114 pages)
  • The Concrete Jungle by Charles Stross (contemporary fiction, science fiction, 57 pages)
  • Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh (contemporary fiction, historical crime fiction, 149 pages)
  • The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman (contemporary fiction, 110 pages but there are a number of full page illustrations so not really that long)

I will be sharing my thoughts on all of these before the end of the month.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Novellas in November: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Tony Webster, retired and in his later years, looks back on two of his relationships with women, one when he was a student at university, and the other with his wife, Margaret, who divorced him after twelve years of marriage. 

At the beginning, Tony spends a good bit of time describing his high school relationship with three boys, and most especially Adrian.  As he moves on to college, he talks about growing up, sex and sexual relationships, and how different such things were in his youth in the sixties.

Veronica was his first serious girlfriend in college, and the relationship breaks up eventually. Later he finds out that Veronica and Adrian, his friend from high school, are lovers. He feels that he has been betrayed and writes a scathing letter to Adrian, who commits suicide a couple of years later. His ex-wife, Margaret, plays a supportive role. They are still friends, and they meet occasionally for dinner and discuss his life.

This is general fiction, not a mystery, but it has some elements of a mystery story. After Tony is retired, he receives a small bequest from Veronica's mother after her death, and one of the objects she has left him is Adrian's diary. He did not know this woman well, only met her once when he visited Veronica for a weekend. Why did she leave him money and the diary? Veronica comes back into his life at this point. She has possession of the diary and she will not release it. Why?

I like the gradual unraveling of the story, as Tony reveals the surprising and disturbing explanation of events that lead to the bequest. The story is narrated in first person by Tony, thus we don't always know how much is true or remembered through the filter of his character and hang-ups. I liked that the story kept me thinking after I had finished the book. Did I agree with the narrator's assessment of himself and the situation? 

It was an interesting, thought-provoking read. The themes I noted were regret and remorse, blame, and memory. How much we can trust our memories over time? Also, it is an excellent character study.

This month I am joining in the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. The event celebrates the short novel, or novella. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck


Publisher:   Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Length:       163 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Settings:     UK
Genre:        General fiction
Awards:      Booker Prize
Source:       Purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2021.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Annual Book Sale 2021: My Son's Books

For many, many years my family and I have been going to the annual Planned Parenthood Book Sale in September.  The sale lasts about 10 days, so two weekends, and we always go several times throughout the sale.

This year was special because the sale was canceled last year, as most other events of this type were. So we were especially looking forward to our visits to check the books out.

These are some of the books my son selected for himself. He usually concentrates on the science fiction and fantasy books, plus graphic novels. 

Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle

This book is described as a novel of alternate science.

Description from the book's dust jacket:
The ancient Greeks believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. The great astronomer Ptolemy mapped the solar system and stars, locating each heavenly body in a crystalline sphere, the spheres forming a concentric series that progressed in an orderly fashion outward from the earth. Celestial Matters is a startling novel of hard SF, set in an alternate, ptolemaic universe in which these beliefs are literal scientific fact.

Counting Heads by David Marusek

Description at the publishers' website:
Counting Heads is David Marusek's extraordinary launch as an SF novelist: The year is 2134, and the Information Age has given rise to the Boutique Economy in which mass production and mass consumption are rendered obsolete. Life extension therapies have increased the human lifespan by centuries. Loyal mentars (artificial intelligences) and robots do most of society's work. The Boutique Economy has made redundant ninety-nine percent of the world's fifteen billion human inhabitants. The world would be a much better place if they all simply went away.
Eleanor K. Starke, one of the world's leading citizens is assassinated, and her daughter, Ellen, is mortally wounded. Only Ellen, the heir to her mother's financial empire, is capable of saving Earth from complete domination plotted by the cynical, selfish, immortal rich, that is if she survives. Her cryonically frozen head is in the hands of her family's enemies. A ragtag ensemble of unlikely heroes join forces to rescue Ellen's head, all for their own purposes.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

From the Publisher Description at Powells.com:
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would.

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

From the description on the back of the book:
Back in the day, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland had led the Fleet into battle against an implacable machine intelligence capable of devouring entire worlds. But after saving a planet, and getting a bum robot knee in the process, he finds himself relegated to one of the most remote backwaters in Fleetspace to oversee the decommissioning of a semi-deserted space station well past its use-by date.
But all is not well aboard the U-Star Coast City. The station’s reclusive Commandant is nowhere to be seen, leaving Cleveland to deal with a hostile crew on his own. Persistent malfunctions plague the station’s systems while interference from a toxic purple star makes even ordinary communications problematic. ...

Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions by Lois H. Gresh

From the back of the trade paperback edition:
A series of grisly murders rocks London. At each location, only a jumble of bones remains of the deceased, along with a bizarre sphere covered in strange symbols. The son of the latest victim seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes and his former partner, Dr. John Watson. 
They discover the common thread tying together the murders. Bizarre geometries, based on ancient schematics, enable otherworldly creatures to enter our dimension, seeking to wreak havoc and destruction. 
The persons responsible are gaining so much power that even Holmes's greatest enemy fears them - to the point that he seeks an unholy alliance.

On Her Majesty's Occult Service by Charles Stross

This omnibus edition combines books 1 and 2 in the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross, plus a novella and a short story. 
Book 1: The Atrocity Archives
Book 1.5 (novella): The Concrete Jungle
Book 2: The Jennifer Morgue

This is the description at Goodreads of the Laundry Files series:
The multiple Hugo Award-winning Laundry Files series follows the exploits of a former tech support worker now-turned field agent, Bob Howard, at the Laundry, a top secret British intelligence agency dedicated to protecting the cosmos and the human race from nefarious supernatural phenomenon beyond spacetime. Starting off with The Atrocity Archives, witness Charles Stross infuse each genre-bending novel with a blend of dark fantasy, bureaucratic humor, and the pacing of a hardcore thriller. An innovative spin on H.P. Lovedcraft's "Cthulu Mythos," the Laundry Files is perfect for fans of weird fiction and bureaucratic humor with a technological twist

Neither my son nor I know much about these authors. If you have any experience with the books or authors, we would love to hear more about them.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Reading Summary for October 2021

This month I read seven books. Five of them were in the crime fiction genre, although some of those were more suspense than mystery, with the crime in the background. Most of those books were picked specifically for R.I.P. XVI. For that event, I also read a fantasy novel that borders on horror by Ray Bradbury. The last book I read this month was from my Classics Club list.

This month the communal driveway for our condominium has been torn up and inaccessible. The work started on September 20th and was supposed to be finished in no more than 4 weeks. This was what it looked like on October 22nd.

General Fiction

The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy

This was my pick for the Classic Club spin, and I am glad I finally read a book by this author. It is set in the South, in New Orleans.  Binx Bolling is from a rich family, is a veteran of the Korean War, and has been set up as a stock broker by relatives. He likes going to movies, making money, and going out with his secretaries. He also has a lot of existential angst. Family members pressure him to pursue other careers and get more serious about life. This is one of the few books set in the South where I had some recognition of my own feelings and experiences. We were at a much lower socioeconomic level than the characters in this book, though. I was on the fence about this book until the ending, which I loved.

Fantasy / Horror

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) by Ray Bradbury

A traveling carnival brings evil to a small town in late October. See my review here.

Crime Fiction

The Thirteenth Tale (2006) by Diane Setterfield

If I had to pick a favorite book for this month, this would be it. It grabbed me emotionally and I enjoyed every page. See my review here.

A Little Local Murder (1976) by Robert Barnard

This is a light, humorous satire about the residents of an English village. The ending packs quite a punch. See my review here.

The Quickening (2020) by Rhiannon Ward

Rhiannon Ward is a pseudonym for Sarah Ward, who wrote four British police procedural mysteries previously. Three of those I read and liked a lot. This is a suspense novel with gothic elements, spooky and sort of creepy, not my usual type of reading. It is set in 1925 and highlights how many families lost sons and fathers to World War I. The main character is a female photographer who is documenting the contents of an estate that is in disrepair and being sold. There is an excellent subplot about a séance that took place back in 1896, and its continuing effects on the family, but I did not care for the overall emphasis on spiritualism. 

Skeleton Key (2000) by Jane Haddam

I read this book in October because the story is set at Halloween. It is the 16th book in the Gregor Demarkian series. This was a reread and it was a good choice from the series. See my review here.

Fête Fatale (1985) by Robert Barnard

This book has a lot in common with A Little Local Murder by the same author, which I also read this month. This story is set in a small English village, and many of the characters are quirky and somewhat unlikeable. But, unusual for Barnard's books, the story is narrated by a woman, the wife of the local veterinarian. She claims that the village is run by women and she is unsympathetic to the control they wield and how they use it. Some of the villagers are in a tizzy because a more orthodox vicar is being brought in to take the place of the previous incumbent of that position.

Currently Reading and More

This month I am reading novellas for Novellas in November. I have read four so far and enjoyed all of them.

Currently I am reading Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, a historical novella that starts in 1917 and follows events in a man's life through several decades. Set in Idaho and Washington, mostly.

We still don't have access to the driveway, at least for driving, although now we can walk on it. In this photo, taken yesterday, you can see that the pavers have been installed all the way to the street but entry is still blocked. 

This last photo, also taken yesterday, shows the driveway at our end of the drive. A lot of finishing still needs to be done. Click on the images for best viewing quality.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Stories by Agatha Christie


A few nights ago I decided to read some short stories from a collection of Hercule Poirot stories. I read the first two in the book: "The Affair at the Victory Ball" and "The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan," both first published in 1923.

The stories were very good. I enjoyed the descriptions of Poirot, his quirks, and the appearance of Inspector Japp. In these stories the narrator was Captain Hastings. Some of my favorite novels in that series were the ones that Hastings narrates. 

However there was one problem... I have seen all of the Poirot adaptations with Suchet recently and I remembered the stories, who did it, how it was solved. All of it. 

So I moved on to a book that has a few stories by various sleuths created by Agatha Christie. 13 for Luck has stories featuring Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Harley Quin, Mr. Parker Pyne, Inspector Evans, and Tommy and Tuppence. I read three stories featuring Jane Marple. My favorite story was “Tape-Measure Murder,” from the collection Three Blind Mice (AKA The Mouse Trap).

“Tape-Measure Murder” by Agatha Christie

This story begins with a dressmaker, Miss Pollitt, waiting at the door of a house. She has brought a new dress for Mrs. Spenlow to the house because it is ready for fitting. But she has knocked and knocked and gotten no answer, although she had scheduled an appointment. After much discussion, Miss Pollitt and a neighbor, Miss Hartnell, look into the window of the front room and discover that Mrs. Spenlow is lying on the floor, dead.

As soon as the police start investigating, the husband is the main suspect. Miss Marple gets involved because Mr. Spenlow has used her as his alibi, in a sense. He got a call from Miss Marple to come by and consult with her at 3:30. When he showed up she was not at home. Miss Marple tells the police that she never called Mr. Spenlow, but that he did come by when she was out.

The solution to the mystery is complex and satisfying, and there is a very clever clue which should have given it away, but certainly did not alert this reader. Miss Marple figures it all out, of course.

The other two stories featuring Miss Marple were from The Tuesday Club Murders. The stories were good, but I did not like them as well as the "Tape-Measure Murder." Yet I think I will find a copy of that book, because the characters in the stories are a lot of fun.

I welcome suggestions for other short stories or collections by Agatha Christie, if you have any to recommend.