Skip to content

Author: Rachel

READING THE TBR, DAY 10: A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf

I received this book as a gift for my 21st birthday.

I have owned this book for over two decades.

And have never read it.

That is nuts.

Especially since it is such a slim volume. Especially since I am very interested in, and invested in, feminist literature, and the plight of female writers through history, and the places at which those two things all too occasionally intersect.

This is such an important work. Such an accessible, yet profound, rumination on the erasure of women and their words from the historical record. About the lack of opportunities for greatness offered to those without means — and about Jane Austen and how she allegedly has less genius than Emily Brontë. (Which: no. Sorry, Virginia, but no. NO.)

That one small disagreement aside, most everything else Woolf posits herein about what it takes for a woman to turn to her art — £500 a year and a room of her own — as she addresses a group of aspiring female scholars and authors, and reflects on the significant lack of such independence throughout feminine history, resonates so deeply with me that it is like she is putting into words ideas that I hold but have never understood. And she did it almost a hundred years ago.

Such a remarkable book, told in the chattiest of prose and sporadic flight of fancy, but with an underlying current of anger and frustration — not always underlying; sometimes she is flat-out furious, and says so — A Room of One’s Own is an absolute must-read. I am only sorry it took me so long. 


TBR DAY 10: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Feminism, Literary Criticism
TIME ON THE TBR: 22 years!  
PURCHASED FROM: It was a gift.
KEEP: Definitely.

READING THE TBR, DAY 9: The Art of War by Sun Tzu

I honestly thought I had read The Art of War. I was sure I must have! Then I saw it in a stately hardcover edition when I was at a Barnes and Noble back in 2005 — you know how they have that series, reprinting classics you should have read, sometimes offered at 3 for the price of 2? So I bought The Art of War, because I distinctly recall flicking through  pages and thinking, nope, never read it. Just read lots of quotes from it, over the years. 

Military science fiction writers, in particular, like to quote Sun Tzu. And I have read a lot of those books.  

I finally read this ancient text today — that hardcover is going to look so gorgeous on my bookshelf — and it really is just a collection of quotes, in many ways. I spent the entire book nodding, appreciating the solid advice from a master strategist, and also an eminently practical and sensible person. But, you know, one often discussing the best ways to make war in mountainous, swampy and otherwise uneven ground. (This is rarely going to come up in my life, I feel.)

Each of the thirteen sections of the book — manual, really — cover a different facet of war, and of course, perhaps the most quoted and most applicable tenet Sun Tzu seeks to impart is how it is better not to go to war at all. (I’m paraphrasing.) But there are so many other pearls of wisdom in here that it is easy to see why it has become required reading in business and law schools, as well as at military academies.

Anyone in the cutthroat world of the arts should definitely read it, too. (“Plan for what it is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.” Just… excellent advice.)

The writing (or, I guess, translating) is swift, no nonsense and full of neat epigrams, the kind of sage advice that Mr. Miyagi might have given Daniel San, or that fairground Zoltar fortune telling machine might dispense if you put in a dollar. With an economy of language, Sun Tzu says much, and while The Art of War isn’t exactly gripping, it is very informative–which is almost better. I am somewhat startled to realize that it is one of the oldest surviving texts I have ever read, and yet I got so much out of it.

Because it is weirdly relevant, for a book believed to be over 2 500 years old. People, and the tactics we can use to thwart them, haven’t changed all that much in the intervening time, it turns out. 



TBR DAY 9: The Art of War by Sun Tzu
GENRE: Military Strategy
PUBLISHED: 5th century BC 
TIME ON THE TBR: 14 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Barnes and Noble, somewhere in New York.
KEEP: Yes!

READING THE TBR, DAY 8: Marvel 1602 (2012), written by Neil Gaiman

The name Neil Gaiman on a book is entirely irresistible to me. I have read most of his novels, several of them more than once (Neverwhere is a particular favourite), and much of his comic book work as well (The Books of Magic is a particular favourite). But I had somehow missed this time-displaced Marvel superhero romp until a couple of years ago, when I happened up on the trade paperback at a garage sale. 

That was a good day.

Collecting all eight issues of this limited series, Marvel 1602 is Gaiman at his most amusing, inventive and irreverent, as he takes us to Elizabethan England. The Queen’s spymaster is Sir Niccolo Fury; his assistant, Peter Parquagh; his compatriots, schoolmaster Carlos Javier and physician Stephen Strange. From blind balladeer Matthew Murdoch to the “Witchbreed” Scotius Somerisle to Master Jean Grey, the entire comic is as much a fun game of spot-the-superhero as it is a commentary on religion, monarchy, history, colonialism and institutional hatred.

In the midst of eerie weather patterns and predictions of the end of days, a young woman arrives from the New World, asking for aid for the Colony of Roanoke. Meanwhile, the Spanish Inquisition is hunting down everyone who is different, and Count Otto von Doom is holding a brilliant scientist prisoner — long thought lost on the good ship Fantastick — while plotting to assassinate the English Queen. 

So clever, full of Marvel in-jokes but also profound insights into humanity, 1602 is a remarkable achievement of a comic book, one that tangles together science fiction and fantasy and comic lore and history to make for a wholly enjoyable experience for Marvel fans and Gaiman fans alike.  (I happen to be both.)


TBR DAY 8: Marvel 1602  written by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Andy Kubert and Scott McKowen
GENRE: Comic Book/Superheroes
PUBLISHED: Comics: 2002; Trade Paperback: 2012
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 years?  
PURCHASED FROM: Garage sale. I paid $3. Amazing.
KEEP: Yes!

READING THE TBR, DAY 7: In Quaking Hills (2016) by Kate MacLeod

You know when you buy an ebook and love it, so you buy a hard copy to place proudly on your shelves? That’s what I did with Under Falling Skies, Kate McLeod’s first Scout Shannon novel of science fiction horrorness. Peopled with intriguing characters — all of them, incidentally and yet you don’t even notice it for ages, women — and giving us a survival story told from the perspective of our plucky teen heroine, Scout.

On a bleak, cruel world, she is orphaned and alone, with only her dog — eventually two dogs — for company, and a stubborn independent streak a mile wide. In Under Falling Skies, a solar flare sends her underground in company with other refugees from the storm, and she makes friends with an inter-stellar spy-type who is on a mission of revenge. 

At the beginning of In Quaking Hills, the solar flare has only just receded, Scout has just escaped the underground locked-room-murder-mystery bloodbath that was her previous adventure, and has a date to meet her new (deceased) friend’s space travelling partner, Liam, in a few days. She decides to spend those days tracking down a fugitive, trying to make herself useful to Liam and hopefully convincing him to take her away from all this. But then she meets a cute boy, and she ends up spending the next several days a prisoner of some very dubious rebels, under the command of an unstable maniac.

Much of the book is spent in frustration at Scout’s stupidity. You want to scream at her: “What are you doing? Why are you doing this? What the hell is wrong with you?” At times, you may even do it. (With apologies to my neighbours.) There is a constant threat of violence, a deadline, and a manipulative narcissist who is so obviously a manipulative narcissist, it feels ridiculous that Scout keeps falling for his nonsense. You have to keep reminding yourself that she is young, has had a difficult life, and her socialization has been lacking. But then you remember that despite her youth, she has had a difficult life, and should know better than to trust… well, anyone.

In the end, In Quaking Hills was, for me, a disappointing sequel, but enjoyable enough that I will no doubt follow Scout’s continuing travels. I may just stick to the ebook versions of them, from now on.  


TBR DAY 7: In Quaking Hills (Travels of Scout Shannon #2) by Kate MacLeod
TIME ON THE TBR: 8 months.  
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur, Melbourne.
KEEP: Maybe.

READING THE TBR, DAY 6: The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy

When Viggo Mortensen signed on to star in an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel, you can bet I was interested. The returned king himself, there is something compelling about Mortensen — and his role choices: A History of Violence is notable — and the fact that The Road was post-apocalyptic as well… well, of course that film made it to the top of my watch list, and it had barely begun production yet.

Consequently, I bought the book, in preparation for the film. But then I was inundated with post-apocalyptic and dystopian reading (The Hunger Games first came out in 2008, you’ll recall; almost every novel released thereafter for the next three years was post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian, by some kind of royal decree, it seemed), and somehow, I never did read The Road. Or watch the film upon its release in 2009, either. (Sorry, Viggo!)

Today, I finally read that book, and boy, I wish I had read it earlier. It is a bleak, tragic, pulse-pounding, wholly absorbing rumination on humanity, morality and the importance of family — plus, looting — and it takes hold of your imagination and will not let go.

The Road is the story of the Man and his son, the Boy, and their long, cold trek through an ash-strewn American wasteland, following an unspecified but clearly powerful cataclysm that has ended the world as we know it. (Nuclear winter is heavily implied.) Theirs is a life of constant motion, of constant hunger, of constant fear. It is scavenging in towns already picked over in search of overlooked canned goods and shoes that fit. It is hiding from their fellow survivors, who have turned to cannibalism, and being ever on guard. It is illness, and fatalism, and yet more fear. (The Boy, for instance, is always “scared, Papa.”) 

On their way to the coast, though what they might find there they cannot say, the Boy confronts the Man with multiple Big Questions about life, the universe and their place in this new, terrible world. The Man alternately shields his son from the hopelessness of their situation and tells it to him straight. Possibly the main point of the novel is the softening effect of children — how people are kinder, gentler, if there is a kid they must protect, and answer to.

Moreover, it is about consumerism, about all that we have that means nothing, and all that we take for granted that means the difference between life and death. It is a book about suffering, yes, but it is also a book about survival, and some of the most satisfying passages of The Road are the treasure hunts that mean one more day — and exactly what constitutes treasure, when the skies, and civilizations, fall.

I have read, quite literally, dozens of post-apocalyptic novels: from the literary to the zombie-laden and from the love-triangled-YA to the established, much-heralded classics of science fiction. This is one of the very, very best.


TBR DAY 6: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
GENRE: Post-Apocalyptic
TIME ON THE TBR: 10 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Borders in Singapore!
KEEP: Yep!

READING THE TBR, DAY 5: The Penelopiad (2005) by Margaret Atwood

I read my first Atwood back in 2010, at the urging of my friend Kate — it was, of course, The Handmaid’s Tale. Since then I have woven my steady way through her book list, finding favourites (Oryx and Crake! How good is Oryx and Crake?) and a couple that were rather difficult to get through (The Blind Assassin, for one). But one Atwood novel I never somehow got around to reading was one I already owned long before Kate set me on the path to Gilead: The Penelopiad.

I had bought this book because I am a Greek Mythology nut, and the idea of the Odyssey, but from the faithful Penelope’s perspective, appealed to me mightily when I saw this book in stores back in… maybe 2006, I think. Then I never read it, it got further and further, deeper and deeper towards the back of the TBR, and quite honestly, were it not for this book-a-day reading challenge I have set myself, it might easily have lain there another dozen years or more. 

That would have been a shame. Because this is vintage Atwood, brilliant Atwood, in total command of an ancient tale, and even the modern language patterns (not to mention words: “factoid”?) she bestows upon this much-venerated lady is a total joy, as Atwood expands upon and reexamines the tales told of Penelope, that most patient of wives sitting calmly at home and fending off lecherous suitors while her husband took the long way home from the Trojan War for twenty damn years. Of most particular import to Atwood are Penelope’s maids, twelve young women hung by her son Telemachus at the behest of the returned Odysseus, for the crime of being raped and turned into playthings by the Suitors.

It’s a theme.

Even in this version of events, Penelope is a bit of a sadsack — she is always weeping about stuff, and when she confronts her jerk of a teenage son about his behaviour, she is shrill and unwise — and her cousin Helen is painted in the most unsympathetic of lights, which seems quite cruel; she was a victim of an arranged marriage, too — but as a vehicle for showcasing the truly appalling lot of women in general throughout history, their lack of agency and their constant physical and emotional peril, as well as the short shrift usually done them by historians, The Penelopiad is as brilliant as it is brutal, for all that it is lightly told, and with frequent poetical interruptions and leaps into the surreal. (That courtroom scene!) 

Very glad to have finally read it.   


TBR DAY 5: The Penelopiad (Canongate Myths #2) by Margaret Atwood
GENRE: Greek Mythology/Literature
TIME ON THE TBR: At least 12 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: My copy has that telltale marker line across the bottom of its pages, so I must have bought it discounted or remaindered somewhere lost to the mists of time.
KEEP: Yep!

READING THE TBR, DAY 4: Getting Stoned with Savages (2006) by J. Maarten Troost

I have no idea why it has taken me so long to read this book. I loved Troost’s first quirky travel tome, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, which saw him and his then-girlfriend Sylvia spend two years on the small island of Kiribati, coming hilariously to grips with a whole new way of life and becoming one of the locals. Why, then, has their time in Vanuatu and Fiji lain unread so long on my shelf? Well, no, that’s not true. Not unread. Partially read. I got a few chapters in, I picked it up to read more multiple times, but then just kept… not getting very far.

I even read Troost’s later travel book, 2008’s Lost on Planet China, which is excellent and also the only travel narrative I have ever read that has made me not want to go to a place, when I stumbled across it several years ago, but still, despite its reminder of how good a writer he is, and despite this earlier book glaring at me almost daily from the “started, need to complete” stack of books next to my bed (we all have those, right?), and coming away with me on several trips both interstate and international, I kept only inching forward in the book, a couple of pages here, maybe a whole chapter there, for YEARS.

Today, I decided to go back to the beginning, taking out the bookmark from page 57 (57! In nine years!) and reading it straight through in one sitting. 

Getting Stoned with Savages is a vastly enjoyable memoir. It is filled with Troost’s singular humorous fatalism, a kind of “eh, the world is crazy, what are you gonna do?” amusement at all that is going on around him, as well as showcasing his natural charm and pleasing self-awareness. When Troost talks of “getting stoned” he is talking about his obsession with kava, the naturally occurring stimulant popular in the islands to which Sylvia’s aid work has taken them. The passages in which he describes his gradual dependence on the stuff are subtle but stark; the parts of the book where he talks to locals on both Vanuatu and Fiji, explores their complex and colonialized histories — the cargo cults of Vanuatu are particularly fascinating — as well as going int depth about some of the more opaque vagaries of custom and society on the two island nations is both informative and entertaining, as the best travel writing should be.

(The part where he is writing a book in here, though… he’s writing his book before this one, The Sex Lives of Cannibals. That hurts my head a little, in a meta, causality kind of way.)

So why did it take me so long to read this book? Why did I stop and start so much? Why did it take an act of will to actually complete it? There is no earthly reason for this in its contents, which are wry, erudite and at times even quite exhilarating, so I can only assume that the reason was me. The more I consider it, I think it’s just that not having finished this book had become a habit with me. Having it constantly by my bed, or as my travel companion, was comforting somehow, as though it were a beloved stuffed toy. I have only realized this now that I have completed it and find myself filled with an unaccountable sadness–which, again, has nothing whatsoever to do with the contents of the book.

It’s like, who even am I, if I am a person who has finished reading Getting Stoned with Savages? I have been in some kind of… of relationship with this book for nine years. And now it feels like this book and I just broke up. Happily for me, I’ve discovered that Troost has released two more books in recent years, 2013’s Headhunters on My Doorstep and 2018’s I Was Told There’d Be Sexbots. So perhaps I can buy those and have an equally problematic, semi-dependent, weirdly clingy attachment to them, as I proceed to not read them for almost a decade.


TBR DAY 4: Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost
GENRE: Travel Narrative
TIME ON THE TBR: Almost 9 years. My “You purchased this item on” notification on the paperback’s Amazon page tells me it was on January 29, 2010.
KEEP: Yes, of course.

READING THE TBR, DAY 3: Stargate SG-1: Female of the Species (2018) by Geonn Cannon

This is a very recent release, comparatively speaking to the rest of my TBR books, but in all honesty it has been something I have wanted to read since it was first announced some years ago. Indeed, since Geonn — full disclosure: I know him! — first mooted the possibility of this book on his social media, I was always going to read it. And not just because I know him. In fact, this book immediately landed on my Must Read list because not only did I really enjoy his previous SG-1 novel, Two Roads, but this book was going to be an adventure centered on Vala and Sam, and I love those women.

The story takes place during late-Season 10 of SG-1, when Vala’s quick-grown daughter Adria is ravaging two galaxies at the head of the malevolent religious organization (redundant?), the Priors of the Ori. However, it is not those diabolical false god-peddlers with whom the team must deal here, but with breaking into an unfindable, inescapable prison to free Vala’s old cohort, smuggler and thief Tanis (as seen in the sixth season SG-1 episode “Forsaken”). Along the way, maybe they’ll be able to dig up some dirt on the Lucian Alliance, the loose federation of criminals who have taken over the galaxy in the wake of SG-1 defeating pretty much all the Goa’uld, and who make up a decent-sized chunk of Stargate Universe‘s plot.

Yeah, you kind of need to know a lot about the various Stargate iterations before going into this one. But that is true of almost every media tie-in novel–particularly so, if the book is a good one.

And this is a good one indeed. It is funny, it captures several of characters perfectly — Colonel Mitchell, Vala and Teal’c in particular — and it has a fast-paced and intricate action-y plot that could easily have been a real episode. (Probably a two-parter.) The other thing I really loved about this book is how SG-1’s fame is shown to have spread throughout the denizens of the galaxy. Their names are constantly being recognized, their deeds constantly being hailed as either heroic or demonic, and that is exactly how it should be.

My few quibbles with the book mainly lie in the characterization of my beloved Daniel — but he is difficult to capture, and I am rarely satisfied with his portrayal in these books — and with the way in which members of the team are constantly Leslie Knope-ing each other, delivering these long periods about how excellent the others are to their faces, which feels kind of out of place. But the thing about this licensed fan fiction is that it is wish-fulfillment at its finest, giving fans (and Geonn is a big SG-1 fan) a chance to rectify what they felt were the deficiencies of the series, as well as celebrate all that was great about it. And clearly, Geonn felt the team were not sufficiently complimentary to each other throughout the show. So he made that happen. 

Despite these minor, minor concerns, I know this is a book I will read again and again, much as I rewatch my favorite episodes of SG-1 over and over. And there is no higher compliment I can give to a media tie-in novel than that. 


TBR DAY 3: Stargate SG-1: Female of the Species by Geonn Cannon.
GENRE: Science Fiction/Media Tie-in
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 weeks — but really two years.
KEEP: Yes!

* Incidentally, today I also read Peril at End House by Agatha Christie, the next Poirot book following Black CoffeeHoly shit, that book is amazing! I thought I had previously read all the Poirot books, but I clearly missed that one, because no way would I have forgotten its details. Such panache! Such a cleverly told, thoroughly unpredictable plot. From the winsome Nick, whose life is in peril, to the sundry suspects who never quite entirely trustworthy, to the little Belgian’s incredibly clever deductions, it is definitely among the best of the Poirot mysteries. Possibly one of the best mysteries I have ever read.    


READING THE TBR, DAY 2: Mortal Engines (2001) by Philip Reeve

I bought this book back in 2009 when it was announced that Peter Jackson was planning to helm a film adaptation of this award-winning YA steampunk novel… and then promptly forgot about it. This is weird, because I am an avowed adherent of Jackson’s adaptations (a marathon of The Lord of the Rings extended editions is, at the very least, an annual event at my house), and also YA steampunk is very much in my, if you will forgive the pun, wheelhouse.

Pun because this book (and the three that follow it, making up the Mortal Engines Quartet) are about cities on wheels. Specifically, we spend a lot of time in London, many thousands of years in the future, as it rumbles through the wastelands, gobbling up smaller cities on wheels and plotting world domination using old tech from the Ancients. (That’s us, obvs.)

I will confess that I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago, which I wouldn’t normally do, before having read the source material. Oh, there are plenty of adapted films I have seen without reading their basis, of course, but this is mainly because I had no plans to read said books. Or I was unaware the film was an adaptation until it was too late. (Don’t you hate it when you’re already in the cinema when the dreaded “based on the novel by” credit flashes up on the screen? This happens alot, nowadays.)   

I… didn’t love the movie. And I am hardly the only one. It is being called the biggest flop of 2018, or even the worst movie of 2018 in some quarters, which seems pretty harsh in a year that gave us Overboard and Future World. Yes, in my review for Romantic Intentions Quarterly, I called it “Mad Max meets Howl’s Moving Castle meets Stardust, and far less than the sum of those parts.” I said it was “a visually splendid but largely forgettable experience.” All of this is true. But there was enough that was good about it that I wanted to read the book that inspired it. I was certainly intrigued enough by the world we are shown, by the characters we — barely — meet and the hints of greatness sprinkled throughout that I dug out my long-owned copy of the book that began it all, and dove right in.

It really is very, very good. And I can see why Peter Jackson, a man with a grand vision and a penchant for taking risks, would want to try to bring it to life. But I can also see why he, by and large, failed to do so. Because boy oh boy, Mortal Engines is so many things at once — action adventure and allegory and revenge tale and dystopia and gigantic improbable cities on wheels, for goodness sake — that capturing all of that oddity and having it make any kind of sense was always going to be a massive undertaking.

Having seen the film and read the book in such close succession, I can see where cuts were made, characters were eliminated and/or conflated and events were twisted, and mistakes were definitely made there, no doubt about it. The standout characters of the novel — bookish Tom, firebrand Hester, noble Katherine, earnest Bevis, assorted fussy and venerable Historians — are given too short a shrift. In the book, you care about them. You’re invested in Tom and Hester’s burgeoning relationship. More than that, you believe it. I don’t think the same can be said for the film. Meanwhile, zombie cyborg soldier Shrike is great in the film, but so much better in the book. (And in the book, you properly understand that he is a zombie cyborg soldier.)

For all the movie’s flaws, I have to say that I am glad I saw it, if only because it led me to read Mortal Engines. It is a whirlwind of a book, a treasure of a book, with a fascinating (if outlandish) premise, a cast of likable and/or relatable characters, quite thrilling action sequences, and it is not afraid to pull any punches or kill any darlings. YA dystopia is a vast and varied playground in which I have spent many a long year and many a happy/sad/frustrating/glorious hour, but Mortal Engines has now taken its place among my very favourite examples of the genre.


TBR DAY 2: Mortal Engines (Mortal Engines #1) by Philip Reeve.
GENRE: YA Dystopia/Steampunk
TIME ON THE TBR: 9 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Borders! Somewhere on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. That is how long ago it was that I bought this book.
KEEP: Yes. And I will definitely be reading the sequels.


READING THE TBR, DAY 1: Black Coffee by Agatha Christie and Charles Osborne

In preparation for clearing this book from my TBR pile, I have been re-reading Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series across the last couple of weeks. Although Black Coffee was originally published in 1998, I had never heard of it nor seen it listed in any Poirot bibliography until I found it in a second hand bookshop a couple of years back, as it is an adaptation — by Australian novelist Charles Osborne — of a 1930 play, the first penned by Christie.

Some cursory online research suggests that she wrote this play because she was unhappy with the stage version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, adapted by Michael Morton in 1928 and renamed Alibi for some reason. Or perhaps the reason was that the stunning denouement of Ackroyd might have kept playgoers at home, because they already knew it, whereas with a new title, they might have mistaken it for a different tale entirely. 

Incidentally, I just reread Ackroyd last week, and even knowing how it all plays out, it is still an incredible read and a truly remarkable achievement in mystery writing. 

Anyway, displeased with how her Hercule was portrayed in Alibi, Christie decided to write her own stage version of his adventures–which led to her second career as a successful playwright. Arguably the most successful modern day playwright, given that The Mousetrap is the world’s longest-running play, with in excess of 26 000 performances given since its opening in 1952.

The plot of Black Coffee is a simple one. There is a secret formula for some kind of nuclear reaction, an austere physicist who rules his weary family with an iron fist, and a cast of dubious characters, both foreign and domestic, who may or may not have means, motive and opportunity to steal the science and kill he scientist. Most notable about the book is that its stage genesis is apparent, since most of the action takes place in pretty much the same room. Really, aside from a short (and somewhat out of character) rumination from Poirot as the book opens, in his London apartment, pretty much everything occurs at the scene of the crime. The very room that is the scene of the crime! 

And you know what? It works. 

Aside from the early weirdness, Osborne captures both Christie and Poirot admirably. Captain Hastings is also familiar and well-done, and the mystery unfolds with great style and purpose. The final gotcha scene is particularly well-rendered, and in all, it is a very successful Poirot novel very well told.

I like to read books in publication order, and giving it a 1930 pub date, this one comes right after 1928’s The Mystery of the Blue Train, and is the seventh Poirot novel overall. Next is 1932’s Peril at End House, which I don’t think I have read for at least fifteen years, and can’t quite recall what happens. I’m looking forward to tackling it — though, as it isn’t technically on my TBR pile, the remainder of my Poirot reread (which I am enjoying the hell out of) will have to be in addition to clearing out my many shelves as yet unread.

Oh, how ever will I cope?


TBR DAY 1: Black Coffee by Agatha Christie and Charles Osborne.
GENRE: Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHED: 1998 (based on a 1930 play)
TIME ON THE TBR: Approx. 2 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Grub Street Bookshop, Fitzroy.
KEEP: Yes! And the Poirot reread continues…