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14th December
2011
written by Steph

Guys, I am in the thick of it, dissertation-wise. I have been told on multiple occasions that the homestretch of one’s thesis is not for the faint-hearted, and I must agree one thousand percent. I keep trying to buoy my spirits by telling myself that everyone who gets a doctorate has to go through this fire walk at some point and that if it were easy, everyone would choose this path. I just have to keep getting up in the morning and pushing forward until finally this thing caves because I will not let this dissertation beat me. I don’t proudly proclaim the fact that I’ve actually been a grad student for seven years now, but given that that is the case, I certainly can’t back down now. I’ve invested too much of myself to let another six months of mind-breaking work conquer me, so come hell or high water, I will finish. And when I do, I shall rename this site “Dr. Steph & (Not Dr.) Tony Investigate!” OK, not really… Anyway, this is all to let you loyal readers know that I haven’t forgotten you even though this space has been dormant for quite a while now. I’ve just been so mentally taxed of late that it’s left me little breathing room for fun. I’m still reading, albeit less than I normally do, but the thought of writing about any of the books I’ve finished has seemed impossible. Until now. Rather than mope about and give in to my exhaustion, I’m going to push through the waves of fatigue so that I can share some of the books I’ve been reading, because really, don’t books make everything just a little bit better? Many moons ago, I proclaimed that I was going to read all of Agatha Christie’s works in chronological order. I’m not really sure why I made this vow, but given that I made that decision before starting this blog (and we celebrated our three year blogiversary not too long ago, if you’ll remember) and this is only the third book Christie ever published… well, if I keep reading at this rate, I am going to be reading these books for another 50 years. Note to self: time to pick up the pace! Those of you longtime readers may recall that when I reviewed my last Christie read, I crowed over having deduced the identity of the criminal mastermind well before the grand reveal. I am generally not very good at cracking cases, so this was a big deal for me. Well, with just her third book, Agatha totally managed to stump me. Murder on the Links had so much going on in it and so many different suspects that it was hard for me to just remember who everyone was, never mind who might have done the murdering (on the links!). (And for those of you for whom the title is not explanation enough for what happens in this novel, a brief précis: Poirot gets a letter from a Paul Renauld beseeching his assistance for Renauld fears his life is in danger and he must speak to Poirot at all costs. The letter snaps Poirot out of his malaise and he and Hastings make haste to France only to find upon their arrival that Renauld has already been killed! On the links! Sacre bleu! Now it is up to Poirot to figure out who killed Renauld (and why!), though not before he knocks head with the French constabulary’s head detective, Giraud, who thinks he can one up Poirot and his famous little grey cells.) This is definitely not one of Christie’s most elegant mysteries. As I said, there are a lot of threads and red herrings being bandied about, and it involves some of my least favorite mystery devices, namely that much information is withheld from the readers until Christie sees fit to reveal it, which means that it is practically impossible to outwit Poirot. Hastings on the other hand, we have a better chance against since he is so very dim. I know he plays the role of Watson to Poirot’s Sherlock, in that he is there to guide the readers through the case and allow for things to be explained that we would otherwise be in the dark about, but he is seriously SO dumb in this book that it was laughable. This isn't really a bad thing, though, since one of my favorite things about this book was how Poirot was essentially always chiding Hastings for being stupid...because he really was stupid! I know some people hate Poirot because he is so pompous (?) and arrogant (?) but I personally find him a delight. He’s not afraid to call a spade a spade, or in this case, to call Hastings a dumbass. And not just in terms of solving the mystery and blundering about, but also in terms of his love life. Here he falls in love with a woman (who hasn’t even told him her real name) after he’s only seen her twice… and I admit I was scandalized because I was certain he fell in love with a woman on his previous case and maybe even got married, but I have found nothing on the internet to back that up so maybe I made that up and shouldn’t rightly paint Hastings as a lothario. Anyway, apart from finding it annoying that certain critical bits of information were withheld until late parts of the novel, this book had so many other things going on that I think it would be hard to finger the perp (ew!) much before Christie’s big reveal. There are fake backstories that rely upon crimes that occurred prior to the start of this novel (and are only revealed much later on), triplicates of the murder weapon, hidden identities, and yes, even twins. So pretty much nothing is as it seems and nothing can be taken at face value, and also at times the novel veered into the absurd. Not only do we have Hastings acting a right fool because of a pretty girl, but perhaps my favorite scene of all involves Renauld’s son fainting, which results in a doctor being called for who says that the son is simply suffering from “nerve strain” and that with rest he will recover... BUT if he were excited in any way, he would risk BRAIN FEVER. Seriously? If stress = brain fever, my brain must be boiling at this point. Do you think I can use that to get out of writing my thesis up? But again, even though that kind of 1930s medicine is CRAZY, I admit that it added to my enjoyment of the book because it was so funny and laughed a good deal as a result. So too did Poirot’s clashes with Giraud (and the prize from when he wins their bet) make me chuckle. All in all, this isn’t the best mystery I’ve ever read, nor is it Christie’s best mystery penned, but it still managed to make me laugh and it was fun and quick and kept me guessing until the very end. Tony and I followed up my reading of the novel by watching the film version featuring David Suchet (the only Poirot, as far as I'm concerned) and even though it cut out a bunch of the twists from the novel, it was still very twisty and suitably campy. The only issue is that the book is filled with purportedly beautiful ladies who convince weak-willed men to do their bidding with just the bat of their sultry eyelashes, but the actresses who were cast were not exactly friendly on the eyes. But maybe that simply added to the film's charms? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’d better lie down. I think I feel a case of brain fever coming on. Rating: 3.5 out of 5

8 Comments

  1. It’s good to see you back! I used to read a lot of Christie when I was supposed to be studying so I think you’ve made a good choice in reading it. Sorry it wasn’t one of her best. Good luck with the rest of your dissertation!

  2. 12/14/2011

    Dr. Steph and (Not Dr.) Tony has a nice ring to it.

    Or you could put a modern spin on the old fashioned Dr. and Mrs. and go for Dr. and Mr. Or Mr. Not Dr.

    Does Tony know we’re renaming him?

  3. 12/14/2011

    I only read a Christie novel for the first time last year (I think, maybe it was 2009?) and they’ve been fun but not lifechanging. I tend to get the urge to read one in April or so…

    Good luck on the dissertation. I agree with Jill. Dr. Steph and (Not Dr.) Tony is awesome. 😀

  4. 12/15/2011

    I have never read Christie, but I hear that I may be missing out on something good, so I am determined to try one soon. I also love that the character was in danger of getting brain fever. What exactly is that? I don’t think anyone really know for sure, but can you imagine using that for an excuse. It would be weird, but pretty awesome too! I hope that you manage to get your dissertation finished soon, and that you and Tony have a very awesome holiday season! Take care over there!

  5. *waves* Hello there!

    A not-so-good Christie is still a good Christie and probably the perfect novel when your little grey cells and too busy 🙂

  6. 12/19/2011

    @ Jackie: As my brain has been crumbling (perhaps due to brain fever?), I’ve really been digging mysteries because they are immediately rewarding and have swift moving plots and don’t really make me work very hard. I admit it, I’ve become a lazy reader of late!
     
    @ softdrink: Truly it’s my desire to rub Tony’s face in my doctorliness that keeps me motivated these days! He keeps saying he will get back at me by calling me “Dr. Wife”, but hey, so long as there’s a doctor in there (and I when someone is choking at a restaurant and calls for a doctor, I can raise my hand and then stand idly by) it is worth it! 😉
     
    @ Amanda: Oh, I agree completely that Christie novels are really not lifechanging, but given that my brain is all mushy, I do appreciate that they are not taxing on my mental resources yet totally fun and engaging. I am so tired all the time that most books just seem like too much work, so if not for Christie and others of her kind, I might be a horrid non-reader!
     
    @ zibilee: Well, so far, early Christie has been somewhat skippable, so when I eventually get to one that is hella awesome (and I know they exist) I will let you know! I read a bunch of her stuff when I was a teen, so I know that some of her books really are great, but apparently those happen later on in her career!
     
    @ Alex: Yes indeed! If only I could call on Poirot to help me in real life. I bet that guy could make short work of the mysteries of my data and not even break a sweat.
     
    @ Nicola: Thanks for the vote of confidence! I keep repeating to myself that once I get that doctorate no one can take it from me, so now is not the time to quit! But it sure is hard!
     
    @ sakura: I think “gazumped” is the perfect term for how one will feel while reading this book! Even though I don’t think it’s one of her bests, as Alex pointed out, even on her worst days Dame Christie is still incomparable for one reason or another (in this case the brain fever was enough to earn my devotion!).

  7. 12/17/2011

    Hang in there Steph, it’s well worth getting that ‘Dr’ while you are young. Plenty of time for reading for pleasure afterwards!

  8. 12/18/2011

    Good luck with the thesis – getting a PhD is really hard work but you’ll get through it!

    Murder on the Links was the first Christie I read and it totally gazumped me. After that I was hooked:)

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