Book Review: The Hollow by Agatha Christie

2da87b54f6f4af60e4d249408b40948d-agatha-christieThe Hollow by Agatha Christie

Genre: Detective Fiction

Publishing Info: from the Agatha Christie Collection, Planet Three Publishing (first published 1946)

Pages: 252

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

When socialite Lucy Angkatell organises a weekend’s entertainment at her English country house, The Hollow, it seems she has thought of everything: the capable butler, the requisite number of kitchen maids – in fact, the only thing she seems to have overlooked is the fact that most of her guests hate each other.

A far-from-warm welcome greets Hercule Poirot as he arrives for lunch. Instead, a man lies dying by the swimming pool, as a gun sinks slowly to the bottom..

 

Having only read one other Agatha Christie novel – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – I have little to compare The Hollow to. While The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was written in a first person unreliable narrator style with a focus on the solving of the crime, The Hollow has quite a different focus. The murder – and Poirot – do not appear until a third of the way through the book, with the earlier chapters exploring the characters who will fall under suspicion.

Set in a country house with a host of guests, I was expecting a formulaic mystery. What I got was an exploration into the impact of murder on a group of people. Poirot features very little in the book. The focus is very much on the guests of the weekend country get away, their relationships with each other, and their reactions to murder. Since Christie spent time letting the reader get to know the characters, I cared more about them when murder came into the equation. Having more understanding of the victim and suspects’ characters meant I felt more engaged with the story.

Despite the focus on character, rather than mystery solving, I was still glued to the pages, eager to reach the end and find the solution to the murder. Satisfyingly, it wasn’t a predictable ending, and I hadn’t worked out the ‘whodunit’.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of Christie’s earliest published novels, with The Hollow published twenty years later. A development in her writing is evident. I found the writing in Roger Ackroyd rather simplistic, more so than I had been expecting. It was a pleasant surprise to find a much more mature and sophisticated style of writing in The Hollow.

Reading this book has made me curious to read more of Christie’s work. I hadn’t heard of The Hollow until I found it in a second hand book shop. I think it is therefore quite under-rated. It is a very interesting character study, whilst still being a highly satisfactory murder mystery tale.

The 13th Doctor – Unlucky 13? Or Revival?

The announcement of the next actor to play the Doctor is always eagerly anticipated by fans. It is also always analysed in the aftermath, with some full of excitement, while there will always be some who are critical or sceptical. The announcement of the thirteenth Doctor was bound to catch a lot of attention. With Steven Moffat leaving the show – to be replaced by Chris Chibnall – and a new doctor, the next series could provide the opportunity to revitalise the show. That meant a lot was riding on the casting of the thirteenth Doctor.

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I, like many, felt the show begun to go downhill when Steven Moffat became the show’s head writer. Undoubtedly, he has written some amazing episodes for the Doctor Who. The Matt Smith years were enjoyable, though bogged down by some complicated series plot arcs. Peter Capaldi made an excellent doctor, but wasn’t always given the best opportunity to shine, and didn’t gel well with Jenna Coleman. The introduction of Bill provided a spark. A plucky and entertaining companion, combined with some excellent writing, made the latest series a dramatic improvement on the previous couple. Yet, it still felt like the show could be better.

There were many a suggestion – and some not very subtle hints in the latest series’ dialogue – that the next doctor would be a woman. When the announcement trailer aired (ironically, after the men’s Wimbledon final, which is arguably always promoted and hailed more than the women’s final), and the hood was pulled down to reveal the thirteenth doctor as Jodie Whittaker, the internet exploded with a mixture of reactions. From elation, to horror, to deflation, the public gave their judgement through social media. Some said it would stop them watching the show, that Doctor Who was dead to them. This, I felt, was quite an unfair pronouncement. Can’t they at least watch one episode and then pass judgement? Many felt it was about time a woman was cast. Many praised the casting of a woman in the role for the first time as a win for equality.

The headlines – the thirteenth Doctor a woman. This is why there is no victory. The headlines were not – Jodie Whittaker cast as the next Doctor. The emphasis was placed on the fact a woman had been cast. All this does, is highlight that feminism is not finished. Women have far more rights and face less prejudices than they did a hundred years ago. But we are not equal. The Doctor is a regenerating alien and, as seen through the regeneration of the Master into a woman, can change gender as much a matter of course as changing height, or hair colour, or eye colour. The casting of a woman is, to me, undoubtedly a good thing. The issue is that Jodie Whittaker’s credentials as an actor are overshadowed by her gender in the media.

With multiple big changes happening to Doctor Who, the next series could either mark the revitalisation or demise of the show. If throughout the series it is constantly referred to how the Doctor is now a woman, it could be a disaster. It could be like having political correctness shoved down our throats. If it is treated like a normal regeneration (albeit of course with some reference to the change of gender, it is bound to be a surprise to the Doctor!) with another great actor taking the reins, then it could be a great move. Having enjoyed Broadchurch – both Chibnall’s story and Whittaker’s acting – I have hopes for the next series. Let’s hope the number 13 revives the show, and doesn’t cause its demise.

Book Review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

9781909489431The Kill Order by James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic

Publishing Info: 2013 by Chicken House (first published 2012)

Pages: 331

Star Rating: 2/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Sun flares have unleashed devastation on the earth. Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and against the odds they survived.

But now a violent and high contagious disease is spreading like wildfire. Worse still, it’s mutating, and people are going crazy. Mark and Trina will do anything to save their friends – if only they can avoid madness and stay alive…

 

The opening few chapters got my interest, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to keep reading to find out why the virus was happening. The opening action sequence was exciting and gave me high hopes for the rest of the book. Unfortunately, it didn’t continue as well as it started.

The plot is vague. It just didn’t really go anywhere. Despite the constant action, I lost interest because there wasn’t anything else to keep me engaged. There was a lot of action, maybe too much. The action scenes become quite repetitive. Some of them were hard to follow. There was a scene at some kind of base, where I just couldn’t visualise the awkward attempts at describing the characters’ surroundings and spent a few chapters feeling confused because I couldn’t visualise what the characters were doing. In a couple of places, Dashner made the odds the characters had to face (e.g. the number of enemies in a fight) so difficult that it seemed unrealistic for them to get out of those situations.

The fast pace also meant there was little time to develop characters. As with the Maze Runner trilogy, most of the characters were bland, and the book lacked any kind of character arcs. Only Alec’s personality came through, but only through repetitive emphasis on his characteristics.

I wasn’t keen on the flashbacks, but that may have been to do with the way they are written. The narrative switches to present tense for the flashbacks. Dashner’s writing seems to read even worse in present tense than it does in past tense. His writing is simple, which I didn’t have too much issue with in the other books, but for some reason in this one it’s very clunky. I also felt the dream flashbacks didn’t add anything that couldn’t have been conveyed in other ways, such as through Mark’s thoughts.

There is a strange prologue and epilogue with Teresa and Thomas which doesn’t connect much with the main story. I wasn’t sure why Dashner wrote this book. It showed more about how the virus broke out, which was interesting, but beyond that I didn’t see the point. If I hadn’t previously read books by the same author, I likely would have given up on it, but as I enjoyed The Maze Runner, I thought I would give it a chance and read to the end.

After finishing the book, I did an internet search to find out how the book connects with the main series. I felt there must have been a bigger connection. It turns out one of the characters from The Maze Runner is in The Kill Order. Was I supposed to remember one tiny bit of dialogue from the main trilogy? I don’t even remember reading the bit of information that shows the connection to the character. Maybe I missed something totally obvious, and I’m the odd one out. There was nothing in The Kill Order to suggest one of the characters was one from the main trilogy. I think there is too much reliance on memory of a small detail included in the other books. If I had to do an internet search to understand what I was reading, then it was too subtle.

I would have enjoyed the book more if I’d realised the big connection to the Maze Runner trilogy. However, the book and characters should have been able to stand on their own without reliance on the connection to the main series. The fact that only understanding the connection to the Maze Runner trilogy character would have made me care about the characters and plot, just highlights how flawed The Kill Order is.

Book reviews of the trilogy:

The Maze Runner

The Scorch Trials 

The Death Cure

Top 5 Wednesday: Book Covers You’d Live In

This week’s T5W is the top 5 book covers I would want to live in. There are so many amazingly designed book covers out there, it was hard to choose! T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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1) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The design of this particular edition really caught my eye, so it is the edition I own. With the mountains and the trees, I would love to live there. Plus, Hobbiton always seems like such a friendly, fun place.

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2) Under the Trees by Ashley Maker

The bright green colours in this cover make the forest look really enchanting. I do love a good wood. I’m always taking photographs of trees.

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3) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

With Hogwarts in the background of this cover, how could it not make the list? I expect this one needs no explaining.

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4) Dragonfly by Julia Golding

The colours on this cover are so striking, and when I read the book I imagined it being a really beautiful place.

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5) Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas 

I haven’t read the book yet. The design of this cover is really creative, and the scene depicted drew me in. (disclaimer: the glow in the dark cover did not influence the purchase of this book…nope…not at all…)