Friday, January 13, 2023

Five classic mysteries

Last night I once again watched the Granada/Masterpiece Theater version of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Jeremy Brett. It is the most faithful—and best—film version of the book. Today Five Books included the book in their list of "The Best Classic Crime Fiction."
  1. The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins
  2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The ABC Murders (1936) by Agatha Christie
  4. Brat Farrar (1949) by Josephine Tey
  5. The Talented Mr Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith
The Hound of the Baskervilles: a short book, easily read in an afternoon. I first heard of it when I was about seven and a picture and short summary featured in a diary I was given. It was already enough to send shivers down my spine. The book opens in London, in Baker Street, with the usual back-and-forth between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they deduce what kind of man has left behind his walking stick. The plot quickly draws you in with its combination of a family curse, the unforgettable setting of the bleak, Devon moors and the hellish, spectral hound that haunts them. Sir Charles Baskerville feared his own death and duly died—will the last of the Baskervilles, Sir Henry, fresh back from the colonies, also fall victim if he returns to Baskerville Hall? It’s very, very cleverly done.
And The ABC Murders:
I can’t remember which was the first Agatha Christie I came across, but I’ve tried to read all of her crime novels. It’s primarily about the plots. Only rarely does the twist in a contemporary mystery book give me the satisfaction that Agatha Christie does. I suppose it’s also the familiarity: with each book I know I’m going to get the same thing and yet cleverly different. The ABC Murders features her Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, before she got really fed up [with] him. The story is mainly told through the eyes of his old friend, Captain Hastings, who comes back from South America to find Poirot dying his hair. Poirot has received an anonymous letter signed A.B.C., challenging him about a mystery which he won’t be able to solve. The plot revolves around the ABC Rail Guide—the train timetable book that was widely used at that time—and is one of her cleverest.
Sophie Roell, "The Best Classic Crime Fiction," Five Books, Jan 13, 2023.

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