And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie #60Books

And Then There Were None is arguably the very best story the Grande Dame of Mystery Fiction, Agatha Christie, has ever written.

Originally published under the title Ten Little Niggers (orTen Little Indians – back then these terms were not yet considered offensive), the story is about ten seemingly unrelated people who are lured to a remote island under false pretences. What starts for some as a holiday, and for others as a job offer, soon turns into a game of life and death.

Handpicked by someone only calling themselves U.N. Owen, these ten people are soon trapped on a barren island with no means back to the mainland and no choice but to wait for a boat.

Central to the story is a poem and the decoration of ten figurines in the house on the island. In some editions it’s called the racial terms that made up the original titles, although more recent editions call the poem “Ten Little Soldiers.” All of the soldiers die or disappear, and one after the other, the figurines disappear, just as another guest turns up dead.

Unlike Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot stories, there is no clever sleuth here to work it out for the reader. No clues are collected or analysed, it’s a race against time for the ten frightened guests who have to work out whether there is a murderer among them or someone else made it to the island. It’s a thrilling read, a page-turner to the very last word that leaves the reader baffled.

This story is THE whodunnit classic. Full of plot twists and red herrings, And Then There Were None stays gripping to the very last page, just as the protagonists stay classy and reserved in true British fashion. Even as the number of suspects decreases, readers are left wondering who the killer is and what their motives are.

Agatha Christie truly is a legend.

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: March 1, 2003 (First published November 6, 1939)
Pages: 317
ISBN: 978-0007136834

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Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift is possibly one of the most scathing pieces of satire ever written. And yet, many will remember it only as a childhood story about Lilliputians.

The book is actually divided into four parts, and Captain Lemuel Gulliver’s shipwreck on the island of Lilliput, on which people are only six inches high, is only the first part of it all.

Personally, I think that the story about Lilliput is so memorable, because nobody knows how to pronounce the other places Gulliver visits on his travels (with one obvious, not-made-up exception). He meets the Blefuscudians while living with the Lilliputians, and eventually travels to Brobdingnag, Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, Japan and the country of the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos.

It’s understandable why children love this story. Swift’s description of the people and places, from the tiny Lilliputians, the giants of Brobdingnag and the flying island of Laputa are incredibly imaginative. Gulliver’s accounts of his travels make for adventurous tales any escapist will love. But the true genius of his writing is his clever disguise of his satire, which spares no-one. From British politicians of the eighteenth century, English society as a whole, religious beliefs, philosophers and scientists to the readers themselves, Swift is quite outspoken when you read between the lines. Often disguised as Gulliver’s actions or observations from the cultures he visits, they draw paralells to the real world of Jonathan Swift’s time.  Plus there is the definite parody of Robinson Crusoe which had only been published a bit earlier.

Gulliver’s Travels is a classic for young and old. Even without knowledge of eighteenth century politics and society, it’s an entertaining read that has stood the test of time.

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Gulliver’s Travels
Author: Jonathan Swift
Publisher: Penguin Popular Classics
Release Date:  1994 (Originally published in 1726)
Pages: 329
ISBN: 978-0140623642

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Camille Perri’s The Assistants is a modern-day Robin Hood-esque tale of opportunity, financial gain and a sense of entitlement.

Tina works as an assistant for a media mogul. Like many others of her generation, she is highly educated, stuck in an unfulfilling and underappreciated job, and saddled with student loan debts.

So when she is handed a cheque that could end her financial troubles without anyone noticing where the money has gone, she takes her chance. What started as a means to an end soon spirals into illegal money laundering.

On the face of it, The Assistants would make a good, light-hearted movie about the trials and tribulations of recent college graduates struggling to find a proper job while trying to make ends meet. There is humour, blackmail and love. It has got the pace it needs, reads well, features a beautiful protagonist and a clever scheme. But said beautiful protagonist is also the problem.

Tina herself does very little out of her own choices. She gets dragged along by colleagues and friends, guided by the actions and decisions of the people around her. While she is the face of it all, she is not the mastermind. She commits crimes and gets away with them, while others convince her to keep going back for more. Self-pitying and self-righteous, Tina is a bit too whiny to be a proper heroine. She is meant to be competent but comes across as easily manipulated and bullied.

The Assistants is nonetheless an enjoyable read, which I would have no problems recommending for light entertainment and vacation reading. Tina’s initial situation may hit a bit too close to home for recent graduates, though.

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: The Assistants
Author: Camille Perri
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-0399172540

 

The Assistants by Camille Perri was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by
Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead