Sunday, 28 October 2012

Agathon #9 - The Mystery of the Blue Train [1928]

Tansy and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things! (You can read Tansy's review here:

The Mystery of the Blue Train
So my favorite part of reading ‘The Blue Train’ this time round, was the first sentence of the afterward, which accompanied my copy:

‘In an interview published in 1966, Agatha Christie declared that ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’ was certainly the worst book she had ever written’. She further described it as ‘commonplace, full of cliches, with an uninteresting plot’.

Like ‘The Big Four’, which preceded it, ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’ falls in that period of Chiristie’s life when she disappeared and ultimately divorced her husband. While the circumstances in which Christie wrote the book probably colour her opinion, it’s not great, and certainly the cliche part is very true. On many occasions, particularly in the first opening chapters, Christie uses the nationality of a character as shorthand for their personality. Even the heroine of the piece, Miss Katherine Grey is characterised as cool and very English.

I think the murder plot was serviceable enough. Setting it on the train enabled Christie to mess around with the timing of events, and there are several potential murderers (with of course none of them being the actual murderer!) There are some reasonable twists and misdirections, although I found the accompanying love story a bit meh. The romance of Katherine Grey with both Derek Kettering and Major Knighton is an important component of the mystery. However, they both fall in love with her very quickly, and bounder and philanderer Derek Kettering is eventually redeemed on the back of his murdered (American) wife, and this left a bad taste in my mouth.

Probably my favorite pieces of the actual *book* were a couple of exchanges between Poirot, and his newly hired manservant Georges (or George, in the common English). In these Christie produces some very nice characterisation and gentle humor, more reminiscent of that in ‘Roger Ackroyd’. Georges becomes a long standing character, so it was nice to recognise this as his first appearance as well.

The other thing of note is that Miss Grey originally hails from St Mary Mead! We are still to reach a Marple story, so it was interesting to see this mention early on – particularly as Katherine comments that ‘things don’t happen in St Mary Mead’. (I guess they will in a few years!)

I think I liked this one a lot more than Agatha did! Certainly it was miles more enjoyable than “The Big Four.” I think that even though it’s not as clever as some of her other books, it almost is, and you can see the shape of her grand masterwork mysteries going on in the background.

It was very slow to start, especially as it wasn’t obvious which character we were supposed to be following until Katherine turned up – before that it could as easily have been Ruth or her father! And while I would happily have read a much longer book about Katherine and her new life as a wealthy woman, I was sad that Agatha seemed to lose interest in her towards the end, writing her out off camera.

But Poirot is lovely in this one, when he finally appears. He seems to be enjoying life again and I enjoyed his scenes with Georges, with Katherine and with Lenox who totally deserves to be a heroine in her own book.

I did think the twist was rather good, as it was set up RIGHT from the start that the Comte was an obvious blackguard, and Derek just as bad, and the dancer mistress blatantly murderous but too selfish to do it herself… I wondered how on earth you could have a mystery with only two suspects, and to that end had half an eye on Katherine being a very sneaky murderess. But the bit with the male-impersonating maid and especially the revelation that the lovely, awkward pre-murder scene between Ruth and Katherine was not in fact Ruth at all is a beautiful detail. I wonder how on earth they manage to deal with it in a TV/film adaptation, as it only works because this is prose, and third person head-jumping prose at that.

I also liked that the ‘nice guy’ secretary was not in fact the nice guy at all, but that doesn’t mean that Derek deserves Katherine in the least. I hope she comes to her senses, ditches him, and runs off on a girly Mediterranean cruise with Lenox.

The St Mary Mead bit made me giggle. Obviously Miss Marple hasn’t moved there and started murdering people yet!

The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
[Eileen “Bundle” Brent, Superintendent Battle]
Partners in Crime (1929)
The Mysterious Mr Quinn (1930)

Monday, 9 July 2012

Agathon #8 - The Big Four [1927]

Tansy and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – now we’ve dragged Nick along with us for the ride, and we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things! (see Tansy's post for some of the most eye-opening coverart yet!

Is it me or was this a really, really weird story? It’s like all of the early Agatha spy and espionage capers got crammed into a Poirot tale, and he’s spending most of his time pretending valiantly that he’s not in the wrong book. But he so is!

I liked having Hastings back very much, as I’ve missed his voice, though I am a touch irritated that Cinderella was packed off to South America and we don’t get to see her. The bit at the beginning where Hastings jumps off the boat and finds Poirot about to get on a boat himself to go see him is utterly adorable.

But the rest of it? O.M.G.

Is this the first time that Christie has written Poirot a story that feels like it’s supposed to be his last? Actually you could probably argue that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd had that feeling, but this one seems designed as a swansong – and not a very successful one considering that the next novel up is also a Poirot story.

I’ve left it a bit too long between reading the book and reviewing it, but the whole Big Four guff wasn’t that much clearer while I was reading the thing – the whole elaborate story felt like a massive fake-out, and it was all the more disappointing that it was in the end quite a serious threat.

The relationship between Poirot and Hastings does feel very real and earnest, and is the only thing pinning the flimsy, melodramatic plot to the pages. The scenes where Hastings believes his wife has been kidnapped and that he has to betray Poirot (but still wants to warn him) are marvellous, very heartfelt and chilling, and make the book worthwhile, but the rest of it is pretty ridiculous.

My headcanon will remain that the whole thing was a massive con set up by Cinderella as an entertaining jape for her husband’s birthday, and to get him back with Poirot because he had been so sad without him and their adventures.

See what I mean?

No, Tansy, it’s not just you. This story is very weird. I do actually remember reading this back in my unformed years, when i just read whatever Christie was available in the library. So I was already expecting ‘cracked out’ going in (and was also really intrigued that Christie had followed up the the skill and subtlety of Ackroyd with ‘cracked out’). However, even with forewarning, ‘The Big Four’ appeared even more cracked out than I had remembered.

BUT! BUT! It’s not Christie’s fault! Well it’s still her fault, but there was a reason for this book, as was explained to me in the afterward that accompanied my version of the book (my version lives in a 1920s omnibus with Ackroyd and The Blue Train). Christie had lost her writing mojo, after the death of her mother and the breakdown of her first marriage. She also had a book contact to fill, and needed money. Therefore she took a bunch of short stories already written, which all referenced the idea of The Big Four, wrote some filler and an ending, and the rest is history! So, yes, the book is awful, but it is justifiably awful, and well done her on fulfilling her contract!

Learning this made me forgive a lot of the issues with the book, and it was a relief to learn that my main impression – that story felt like a random collection of short stories, rather than a novel proper – was completely reasonable.

It is also nice to have Hastings back, although he is an awful arse for a lot of the story. I was NOT impressed that he forgot about his wife for months on end. I’m sure Cinderella was perfectly able to take care of herself, but I did feel it reflected a rather large character flaw on Hasting’s – particularly when he goes google eyed over lovely young stenographers at the drop of a hat.

It was also lovely to see portrayal of a Brilliant Lady Scientist. Madame Olivier may have been nuts (and evil), but she’s also kinda Madame Curie on steroids, so I’m happy to have her. It almost makes up for the rather stereotypical portrayal of the Russians, Chinese and French…

So I’m not as disappointed with this book as I might have been, though I do hope it remains an oddity rather than something Christie revisits again.

So, Agatha Christie gets her Sax Rohmer on. And her Conan Doyle. And a few others that haven’t lasted.

Much as I love (some of) the pulps the Big Four owes life to, I really didn’t like this book much.

It has many of the tropes of the pulps – ill-defined weapons that could change the course of naval war, Russian exiles, fancy killing devices, masters of disguise, inscrutable oriental master villains, plots to control the world, even an underground base from which to rule – the ending is almost like a Bond film in some ways.

The book feels almost completely “un-Christie”. Even though she often broke out of the “cosy” mystery genre for which she’s mostly remembered, it still feels very strange when she departs from the genre as thoroughly as she does in the Big Four.

The Big Four is competently written although, while the individual linked mysteries that make up the book are generally competent, I had no connection with the overall plot about the Big Four bad guys trying to control the world. It seemed excessive and overly flamboyant for both Poirot and for Christie herself, who is much better when the motivations of her villians are more venal.

There were some highlights, too. I kind of liked Madame Olivier – but Countess Vera Rossakoff, the fallen Russian adventuress, has always been one of my favourite side characters in the Poirot stories (as much as she owes to Irene Adler). She’s one of the strongest of Christie’s female characters, for mine, in that she acts through her own agency and largely seems in control of the events and not, as many others were, a mere puppet carried along by the events surrounding her.

The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)
[Hercule Poirot]
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
[Eileen “Bundle” Brent, Superintendent Battle]
Partners in Crime (1929)/The Mysterious Mr Quinn (1930)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Agathon #7 – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd [1926]

UntitledTansy and I have taken the challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication and we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things! We’re joined this time by guest reviewer Cranky Nick. (see Tansy's post here:


To me, this book is the first one that feels like an Agatha Christie to me – or at least, what I think of as an Agatha Christie. It’s also one of a handful of her books where I knew going into it what the gimmick/trick to it was – as with The Orient Express, the solution to the murder is a matter of general pop culture knowledge.


But I was impressed at how fun and interesting the novel was to read, even knowing the trick to it. I think Christie is quite devastatingly clever with this one (a dreadful precedent to have to live up to for her whole career) because the book seems designed to be reread with care, or read with the knowledge of the solution. It was far from a ‘spoiler’ – I knew that the narrator was the murderer, and yet I couldn’t see for a good chunk of the novel how he had managed to do it, and unravelling the howdunnit was great fun.

I also really enjoyed the clever phrasing in which our unreliable narrator was concealing his acts – I could often spot where it was being done, but didn’t always know what was being concealed.
One of the great misdirects of this novel is that Poirot treates Dr Sheppard (our narrator) as if he is a replacement figure for Hastings, who previously narrated his stories – indeed, he often tells us (by telling Sheppard) how similar the two men are, which encourages us to think of Sheppard as being both trustworthy and slightly dim. Though in fact, if you’re reading (as I was) with a suspicious mind, it becomes fairly obvious that the two men aren’t the least bit alike, and Poirot is messing with everyone’s heads.

While I liked Hastings, I have to admit that the Poirot of this novel is my favourite so far – his intelligence and subtlety comes across much better than in the earlier books where he’s really only smarter than Hastings (not hard). Here you see him really enjoying himself and stretching his intellect – and maybe this is the first time he’s had a seriously worthy adversary?

I also enjoyed the cast of characters as a whole – Sheppard’s relationship with his dizzy gossip of a sister Caroline, and all the social details that come across, and the many revelations that are unravelled in the course of the story. I can see why this one is so well known – while I have enjoyed reading her early books and the bizarre fluffy spyish romps, this is the first book where I get the sense that Christie has really got a handle on what she is doing.


I was also quite surprised at how readable Roger Ackroyd was, even when you know the twist. I originally read this when I was very young, but have always avoided a retread, because I assumed the novel would survive a spoiled ending – but that’s certainly not the case.

Even when you know the twist, and you’re looking for a way to trip up the narrator and “solve” the crime early, Roger Ackroyd is still a very engaging novel.

What mostly fascinates me with this book, though, is how much of a risk Christie was prepared to take with Poirot. Published in 1926, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is only her sixth novel – and only the third including Poirot (there was also a collection of short Poirot stories, Poirot Investigates).

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and Murder on the Links were both narrated by Captain Alfred Hastings, in very much the tradition of Sherlock Holmes – with the “narrator as stooge” trope to the fore. Hastings often plays a role in the solution of the crimes in earlier works, but is almost never correct. The central character, though described through Hastings, is still Poirot.

Poirot was barely a character in Roger Ackroyd – he was described only partially by the narrator, who (for obvious reasons) didn’t give the full insight into his character and actions that the earlier books, narrated by Captain Hastings, did.

Reading it again, it’s clear how big a shift it was for Christie. To take what was becoming her defining character and relegate him to the sidelines, and to depart so radically from the earlier “narrator as stooge” theme was an extraordinarily bold step.

The flaws are the usual Christie ones – in particular, the side characters are little more than cardboard cutouts etc.

The wikipedia description pretty much sums them up, sadly

“The suspects include Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, Roger’s neurotic hypochondriac sister-in-law who has accumulated personal debts through extravagant spending; her daughter Flora; Major Blunt, a big-game hunter; Geoffrey Raymond, Ackroyd’s personal secretary; Ralph Paton, Ackroyd’s stepson and another person with heavy debts; Parker, a snooping butler; and Ursula Bourne, a parlourmaid with an uncertain history who resigned her post the afternoon of the murder.

The initial suspect is Ralph, who is engaged to Flora and stands to inherit his stepfather’s fortune. Several critical pieces of evidence seem to point to Ralph. Poirot, who has just moved to the town, begins to investigate at Flora’s behest.”

None of them really move beyond those fairly shallow descriptions. I had some hopes for James Sheppard’s sister, Caroline, the village gossip – but she largely disappears from the narrative by the end.

It’s still a very readable book, though, well worth reading again.


Roger Ackroyd is one of the quintessential Christie novels. The setup is entirely traditional – there’s a big house in the English countryside, an excellent assortment of hangers on and poor relations for suspects, and a lovely, changeable timeline of alibis and non-alibis. And right in the middle of this, Christie swings out perhaps the biggest twists in who-dunnit-storytelling of its time (apparently there were complaint letters to The Times upon publication!). I’ve read Ackroyd several times over the years so rereading it for review now was interesting because, not only did I know who the murderer was, I’m sufficiently familiar with the book to remember when Dr Sheppard (and Christie) is diddling us. I did wonder if this would make the experience anticlimactic, and to be honest I do feel some regret that I can’t have the revelation that I presume I felt on my first reading because, unfortunately, I have no recollection of my first time. However, I still think this is Christie’s strongest work to date, so it was still a pleasure to work through the book and watch what she did.

Probably my biggest surprise for this work is that it’s only Christie’s 3rd Poirot novel, and only her 7th book overall (including one collection of shorts). In my mind Ackroyd sits much later in oeuvre – probably partly because it is one of her classics, but also because Poirot is described as being so old! He’s come to King’s Abbot to retire, Hastings has run off to Argentina (presumably with Cinderella). It feels like things are winding down for Poirot, yet Christie will be writing about him for another 50-odd years.

Regardless of the twist, I found the novel itself is very entertaining and funny. Some of my favorite scenes are when Dr Sheppard is describing the behaviour and opinions of his sister, Caroline. The evening game of mahjong in particular hugely entertaining, while the running joke of Poirot being a retired hairdresser is also very fun. I think Christie does an excellent job with Dr Sheppard. When he’s not murdering people, he has a gently snarky humor and he’s a lot cleverer than Hastings (poor Hastings!) Combine that, with his relatively awful sister, and Dr Sheppard is a very sympathetic character – which is another way Christie has pulled the wool over the reader’s eyes. Having said that, I’ve always been particularly concerned how Caroline took the news that her brother was a murderer (and – perhaps worse – a blackmailer). I’ve always been afraid that she would have been completely undone by the revelation, which is of course ridiculous because she is Not Real!!


The Big Four (1927)
[Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp]
The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)
[Hercule Poirot]
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
[Eileen “Bundle” Brent, Superintendent Battle]
Partners in Crime (1929)
[apparently the main character is a mystery!]

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Agathon #6 – The Secret of Chimneys [1925]

It’s been a while, but we’re finally back! Tansy and I have taken the challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication and we’re blogging as we go along. Spoilers are likely. (Tansy's post is here:

Agathon #6: The Secret of Chimneys [1925]
Anthony Cade, Superintendent Battle, Eileen “Bundle” Brent


Here we go again! This is another Agatha Christie novel that doesn’t fit my apparently-narrow previous idea about what an Agatha Christie novel was. Instead it’s another of these early – what do we call them? Not quite spy novels, more intrigue romps. Definitely not a murder mystery, though there is murder and mystery aplenty.

Having said that, the plot of this one is even more bonkers than I have come to expect from Christie’s early work, and the various threads of lost European royalty, con men, posh people with titles and dead bodies frankly bemused and befuddled me. Having said that, my heart was won very early on by the gorgeous and banterrific Virginia Revel – I paid attention pretty much for her, and everything that came out of her mouth.

Christie writes marvellous young women! I tend to find all her younger male characters quite bland, with only the older and more character-laden men being worth paying attention to (with the possible exception of Hastings) and in this book I did enjoy the gruff and intelligent Superintendent Battle. But the absolute stars of The Secret of Chimneys for me were Virginia and, to a slightly lesser degree, Eileen “Bundle” Brent (whom I see from our spreadsheet is going to make a comeback, hooray!)

Virginia feels very much like a British version of the kind of characters Katherine Hepburn used to play in the 30’s: she’s witty, beautiful, flirtatious, and utterly in touch with her own frivolity. She’s also very sexually confident, and enjoys half her male acquaintance being in love with her. I liked that she was originally brought into the conspiracy because the aristocratic blokes trying to deal with – all that complicated plot business which I won’t pretend I understand or remember – admired her charm and intelligence. Then of course, while they tried desperately to patronise her, she ran rings around them constantly. In another era, she would totally be alongside Patrick McNee in the Avengers. Is it too much to hope there was a movie version of this novel made in the 60’s starring Diana Rigg?

Bundle on the other hand is a quieter sort of female, more docile and domestic, and yet she is every bit the wit that Virginia is – snarkier and more understated in her remarks. I enjoyed their double act and would have liked to see many more scenes with them together.


The reveal at the end about our con man protagonist (sort of) Anthony Cade being a secret prince and heir to the throne of Whereverslovakia was hilarious and awful in its bizarreness, even if it made a terrible kind of sense. And it was totally worth it for the scene in which he tells Virginia exactly who it is she married.

“How perfectly screaming!”


This installment felt a bit soulless to me. My major trouble is with hero of the story, Anthony Cade. He’s FAR too perfect, and even when you think he’s down and out, you find out later he’s not (cos he’s perfect). And Christie keeps mentioning his bronzed face and lean body, which to be honest is a little unsettling! Perhaps what I found missing from this installment is a bit of grit and grime (which seems a little odd to say when there’s murder, and leaving-of-bodies-beside-the-road, but there you go), but everything seemed to sort itself put far too neatly. Also, this novel was quite uncomfortable to read from a race point of view – it starts off with a few derogatory remarks about Africans, and then moves on to some less than flattering mentions of Jews, and ‘dagos’ (which in this case seemed to mostly be referencing citizen of the fictitious European country Herzoslovakia). ‘The Secret of Chimneys’ was published in 1925. Obviously it’s a book of its time, but does that make it ok? Does this represent Christie’s own views or is she just writing what she sees?

The main positives of the book are Christie’s female characters. Virginia Revel is the kind of women I’d want to be in 1925 (most specifically independently wealthy and quite able to run her own life). I probably have a bigger a soft spot for Bundle, though, – so earnest and pragmatic and one of those young ladies of a certain age who gets lumped with an unusual nickname. I’d love to know if this was common at the time, or if it’s just a ‘Christie’ thing. I can think of several young ladies of Christie’s invention who have suffered an unusual nickname (Lettuce is one that comes to mind), indeed Bundle’s younger sisters have already given the monikers of Guggle and Winkle at 10 and 12! Also, I have to admit that the book does have some fairly charming chapter titles: Anthony Disposes of a Body, Mainly Political and Financial, Anthony Signs on for a New Job.

So in summary, some good lady characters (though I’m not sure it passes the Bechdel test), a motley assortment of uninspiring men, and a far too neat resolution. Not awful, but not great either.


I know we don’t normally do right of reply, but I wanted to agree with your point about the casual racism in the book, something that’s very much of its time but also not going to become LESS of an issue with Agatha Christie as we go on.

I’m pretty sure that it does pass the Bechdel Test (we should check in with this for each book!) because of the bit where Virginia calls up Bundle and says she’s coming to Chimneys, nothing would keep her away, what ho, old girl.

The chapter where Anthony disposes of the body is pretty great, and the ramifications of this demonstrate that Christie’s sense of humour was pointed sharply inwards – she’s poking fun at the same genre conventions that her novels rely upon.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
[Hercule Poirot]
The Big Four (1927)
[Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp]
The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)
[Hercule Poirot]
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
[Eileen “Bundle” Brent, Superintendent Battle]

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Book List 2012

What I read in 2012:
  1. Liberator, Richard Harland ()
  2. Winter's Shadow, M J Hearle ()
  3. Chasing Odysseus, Sulari Gentill ()
  4. The Spider Goddess, Tara Moss ()
  5. The Rosie Black Chronicles - Equinox, Lara Morgan ()
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson (well worth searching out and reading)
  7. The Wolf Letters, Will Schaefer ()
  8. Reign of Beasts, Tansy Rayner Roberts (flappertastic)
  9. The Secret of Chimneys, Agatha Christie (a bit cracked)
  10. Changing Yesterday, Sean McMullen ()
  11. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen (tedium with elephants)
  12. Bad Power, Deborah Biancotti (engrossing, polished)
  13. Feed, Mira Grant (intelligent zombie literature - loved it!)
  14. Only Ever Always, Penni Russon ()
  15. Labyrinth, Kate Mosse (I wish this has been more interesting)
  16. The Dragon Keeper, Robin Hobb ( very engrossing, worth seeking out others)
  17. Tymon's Flight, Mary Victoria (Eh. Fairly average.)
  18. The Girl who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson ( very engrossing, develops the story nicely)
  19. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie ( very accomplished)
  20. Showtime, Narelle Harris ( well matched collection of short stories)
  21. Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch (not Harry Potter in the police force, but still good fun)
  22. Moon over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch (probably better than the first - and the first was good!)
  23. The Witch of Exmoor, Margaret Drabble (intelligent and knowing character observation)
  24. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot (outstanding)
  25. The Big Four, Agatha Christie (completely cracked, but understandably so)
  26. Passage, Connie Willis (Connie Willis is so smart!)
  27. Divine Misdemeanours, Laurel K Hamilton (fairly awful)
  28. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (literary 80s)
  29. Deadline, Mira Grant (ZOMG-bie literature)
  30. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (reread)
  31. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (reread)
  32. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (reread)
  33. Through Splintered Walls, Kaaron Warren (*everyone* should read 'Sky')
  34. Cracklescape, Margo Lanagan (this is effing literature)
  35. Tess of d'Urbevilles, Thomas Hardy (slow going, TBH)
  36. 12 Monkeys, Elizabetyh Hand (serviceable adaptation of the movie)
  37. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchel (fantastic linked stories)
  38. Sweet Valley Confidential, Francine Pascal (a guilty pleasure)
  39. The Mystery of the Blue Train, Agatha Christie (cliche-matic)
  40. Jigs and Reels, Joanne Harris (short fluff)
  41. Whispers Underground, Ben Aaronovitch (very good!!)
  42. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson (fat, satisfying ending)
  43. Salvage, Jason Nahrung (great mood)
  44. Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dann (competent shorts)
  45. The Bride Stripped Bare, Anonymous (intimate and absorbing)
  46. Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, Lydia Millet (fantastic premise)
  47. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer (the amazing history overcomes the twee - mostly)
  48. Showtime, Narelle Harris (reread - held up well)
  49. People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks (absorbing)
  50. Grasshopper, Barbara Vine (also absorbing)
  51. The Seven Dials Mystery, Agatha Christie (reminisicent of Big Four, but actually different)
  52. Partners in Crime, Agatha Christie (tommy and tuppence)
  53. Bread and Circuses, Felicity Dowker ()
  54. Damnation and Dames, Ed. Liz Grzyb and Amanda Pillar ()
  55. Midnight and Moonshine, Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannet ()
  56. Bloodstones, Ed. Amanda Pillar ()
  57. Mythic Resonance, Ed Stephen Thompson ()
  58. Soulless, Gail Carriger (less cerebral than expected, more sexy)
  59. Changeless, Gail Carriger (story develops)
  60. Up the Duff, Kaz Cooke (instructive!)
  61. Blameless, Gail Carriger (no shark jumping yet)