In an attempt to kick start the official festive season (any festive inclinations in November are really just pre-amble) and as a return to a tried and tested remedy for sluggish reading vibes, I turned to the queen of crime, the first lady of the drawing room mystery, the Mistress of Murder Agatha Christie. And it worked a treat.
Christie describes this book in the preface as a Christmas dinner of two main courses, two entrees and a sorbet, along with a glorious description of her childhood Christmases in an old, draughty country manor with a boiled turkey, a roast turkey, mince pies and plum pudding.
So the setting of the first main course, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is quite familiar; an old country manor house, two types of turkey, mince pies and plum pudding. I see what you did there AC. Only is M. Poirot enjoying these festivities, not the author. Poirot is dragged, as he often seems to be, to the countryside over the festive period, lured by the idea of central heating and all the mod-cons, to find some rubies stolen by a dastardly ladyfriend of an Eastern prince. Naturally, it is a matter of the utmost delicacy, and Poirot manages to kill two birds with one very large, very valuable red stone.There's a staged murder that takes a turn for the too-real that turns into a happy Christmas for everyone. Appearing originally in 1923 and then subsequently expanded, it's nice to see that almost 100 years ago, people still griped about Christmas not being what it used to be. Even in 1923, the concept of decorating a tree, having an excessive dinner and having the whole family round was seen as kitsch, old fashioned and somehow under threat from the relentless march of modernity. Our trees might look different, our food might be more lavish and a bit more additive-ridden, but our complaints about the cessation of tradition never seem to alter.
The other main course is The Mystery of the Spanish Chest, an old school body-in-the-chest while everyone has a party round it. It reminded me of Hitchcock's Rope, a massively underrated film that also has a big, boxy dead elephant in the room that nobody notices. It's a bit of a nod to Othello and has an interestingly small number of characters/suspects and a pleasingly convoluted, absurd series of motives. Not particularly festive though, if you don't count all the eating.
Then come the entrees, because maybe that's the order that post people eat in. The Under Dog, a reasonably familiar lots of people living in a big house and one of them is killed deal where our M. Poirot has to look through all their bedrooms in the manner that he seems so thoroughly to enjoy, and Four and Twenty Blackbirds which seems to have been included purely because it is a food based mystery. But what is more festive than food? Lastly, the sorbet; The Dream, a short, twisty tale with a mad Home Alone style booby trap, identity swapping and murder.
Yes they'e silly and daft and old fashioned and mostly variants on the same themes, but these short stories definitely did the job. I found myself *wanting* to pick this book up; I thought about it when I wasn't reading it; I sacked off boring crap like cleaning and ironing to have an hour with Poirot, careering round country houses and telling everyone why the could've been the murderer but weren't. Anyway. I've ordered the Mystery in White next, cos cosy crime is by bag at the moment and it's too early for A Christmas Carol.
Has anyone else had a really long book slump before?
What do you recommend to get over it? What are your go-to authors or books for re-invigoration?