Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Well, after a long, long hiatus from reading Agatha Christie novels and because I saw the latest movie version of it, I just had to read this book! After the overt violence in Natchez Burning, the covert violence set in a bygone era of train travel glamor to countries that are now torn apart by war it was a heavenly read! I know, right, how does that make any sense, covert violence, war and it was a heavenly read?! It really was!

I think I just loved the setting. I really love stories set in this time period and I love the glamor of the travel modes in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Christie puts together a great cast of characters, all of different nationalities, ages and social standings. Somehow they all end up travelling together during a slow time of the year.  It is to be a 3 day trip across Europe for her famous detective Hercule Poirot when he finds himself having to solve a murder, which happened on the train as it was attempting to pass through Yugoslavia but ended up stuck in a snowdrift stopping the train in the middle of the night.  Poirot is asked by M. Bouc, the director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lit, to investigate and solve the murder before the train is dug out of the snowdrift and before the Yugoslavian police show up and complicate things with the upper-class passengers on the train. So now it seems that we have a cast of characters from various parts of the world and a murderer among them as the train is still trapped for some indefinite time in a snowdrift!

I had to love the writing style, an ugly ‘dragon’  Russian princess with a face like a sheep, ( I had to wonder what the actress felt about being cast in a role with that description!) a loud, brash American woman who never seemed to shut up, and several snobby Brits, a Swedish ladies maid, a French valet … It was a wonderful read full of tantalizing hints and clues given by both the passengers and Poirot, but even though I saw the movie, (I forgot how it ended – too tired to remember it) I did not remember ‘who done it” until almost the end of the book, but still could not put the clues together until explained by the infamous Hercule Poirot! I love that fact that no matter how hard you try, you cannot figure out the truth of the matter unless himself, Hercule Poirot, explains it to you!

Stars: 5

The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal

This is Sheena Kamal’s debut novel and it was a tough, gritty and violent read. I loved it!  It is set in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where Nora Watts, an Indigenous woman,  works for a small private investigative company. She is a product of BC’s foster care system and a survivor of a horrible, violent rape that leaves her almost dead as well as pregnant. She is in a coma for months and when she awakes discovers she is pregnant and it is too late to terminate the pregnancy. She is forced to carry the child to term and after delivering a healthy baby girl, gives her up for adoption. Nora is not motherhood material.

Some fifteen years later she is contacted by the adoptive family because the girl, Bronwyn (Bonnie for short) has gone missing thus setting in motion a string of events that test Nora’s beliefs about herself, force her to relive some of her past and make the reader either love her to bits or at least have a great deal of sympathy for her. I loved her.

Through this gritty, violent story, Kamal brings to focus the plight of Indigenous women and girls, foreign investment, drug/alcohol addiction and ecological issues such as mining which have all been news-worthy topics and social issues in British Columbia. She also managed to contrast the natural beauty of B.C. with the dark, seedy side of the Downtown Eastside. It had a shocking ending to the part of Bonnie’s disappearance and a touching ending to the story. I wanted a sequel…How is Nora?…How is Bonnie and…??

It is truly wonderful to have found such a potentially great newbie Canadian author to add to my growing list of “OMG another book by….”!