Postern of Fate (Agatha Christie)

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford make their last appearance in this 1973 novel, which was also the last Christie novel to be written.

Read the short version of this review on

The Beresfords, now in their seventies, buy a house in the country and as usually happens in Christie novels, find a mystery to uncover. The events relating to the mystery, however, happened decades ago when they were still babies.

I love reading Agatha Christie mysteries, and I usually overlook the Christie cliches and try to enjoy the novel. The victims in Christie's novels more or less always are poisoned. The dialogue usually drags a trifle longer than it should. And in her later novels, including this one, there are far too many references to novels of the past, as if trying to relive the past glory.

Postern of Fate, however, is the worst in term of all the negative qualities I mentioned.

The tone of the novel is almost that of a children's novel. And I don't mean that in a good way. Most of Enid Blyton's Secret Seven novels sound a lot more mature than this one.

The most irritating part of the book was the constant references to earlier books by their titles. I really wouldn't mind a few references to previous books in a series, but common sense dictates that the references not use the title of the books. How many people actually say in real life, "didn't you solve the N or M case?". The characters of a series usually don't get to read the prequels of the books, they live through them... or get poisoned, if you're a character in an Agatha Christie novel.

The poisoning of the victims happens way too often in Agatha Christie novels. In keeping with that tradition, here too the victim is poisoned. There is a gunshot thrown in sometime late in the book, but by that time I didn't care if Christie had -- finally -- found a new way to kill her characters.

I normally enjoy the mysteries of Agatha Christie, I really do. But this is unfortunately not one that I will think of with fondness. Christie has completely lost the plot with this one. There's nothing left to do but try and forget this books and enjoy the earlier works of the author.

Rating : 1.5/5

BTT: Influence

Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?

I usually choose books myself because there aren't many people around me who read a lot. I love it when someone suggests a good book, and I'm always open to suggestions from friends, but I mostly have to rely on the internet and book bloggers for good book suggestions.

In recent days I've been looking at as another source of reading suggestions. Since I created the website a couple of months ago, quite a few of my friends have registered, and I can easily see what they're reading and that way I've been getting some great suggestions. Do take a few minutes to check out the site.

(Disclaimer: I am the developer of bukluv, so this actually is shameless self-promotion. *wink* But the site is free to use and I'm not making money out of it, so I suppose I shouldn't feel too guilty.)

How do you choose the books you read? Fellow bloggers? Friends suggestions? Or do you read whatever you like without paying much attention to others suggestions?

BTT: Which end?

It's been almost a year since my last post here, and work has kept me from reading much in recent months. Answering this week's BTT question will be a nice way to get things rolling again. :) This week's question on Booking Through Thrusday:

In general, do you prefer the beginnings of stories? Or the ends?

I guess the whole story matters to me, not just the beginning or the end. Some stories have a great beginning and then falter midway, and some start weakly and then end beautifully. Yet others may not be so good at the beginning or the end, but you can't put them down in the middle. So it all depends on the book.

If I really had to choose, I'd prefer a book with a great ending, because I wouldn't want to go through an entire book with high expectations only to be let down in the final pages.

I really must apologize for this bit of shameless self promotion here. ;-) But I guess the readers of this blog won't mind since it is about books anyway. :)

I've been working on developing a website where book lovers can write opinions in 250 characters or less. I would encourage you to go ahead and sign up for it and give it a try. The website is called bukluv and it only takes a minute to register. Also, we're working on making it easy for bloggers to share the reviews they've written on their blogs through bukluv, but that feature isn't ready yet.

Again, here's the link: Bukluv.

Once again, I apologize for bringing this up in a post about something else, but I thought some of you might like it. :)

BTT: Unread

Today's question on Booking Through Thursday:

Is there a book that you wish you could "unread"? One that you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it? (Suggested by C in DC)

I'm one of those people who rarely stops reading a book after starting it, so there are a few books that I wish I had never picked up. As for "unreading", I don't think I want to forget that I read those books; at least I should be able to remember not to read the same books (or similar ones) in future.

If I had to mention books that I would rather never have read, I'd name Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and The Road to Gandolfo/Omaha books by Robert Ludlum.

Do you ever continue reading a book despite knowing that you won't like it, thereby adding list of books to "unread"? Or do you stop reading the moment you know the book isn't the kind you like? I believe I'm in the minority that reads books anyway even when the know they don't like it.

The Book of Evidence (John Banville)

When I first picked up this book, the title sounded a lot like that of a mystery novel. This book is nothing of the sort, it's more of a look at the mind of a murderer after he has committed a totally pointless crime.

The Book of Evidence is the confession of Freddie Montgomery, a 38 year old ex-scientist, who murders a servant girl when she finds him in the middle of a ridiculous attempt at stealing a painting from an acquaintance.

The story is narrated by Freddie as he sits in jail awaiting trial for the murder. In the first half of the book, he talks about his past, the events leading up to the crime and the murder itself. The latter half of the book is a recounting of Freddie's actions until his capture.

John Banville's work has been compared to that of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and I could see some similarities (and contrast) between this book and Crime and Punishment. The protagonists in both the books do not have a clear motive for their crime. However, Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment is filled with remorse about the crime, whereas in The Book of Evidence, Freddie is completely remorseless. When speaking about why he murdered the girl, he casually says that he did it just because he could, and not because there was any real reason to do so.

This isn't the kind of novel you choose if you wanted a nice fast-paced crime novel to read, but it's definitely worth a read if you want to read about a crime from the perspective of the criminal rather than the detective.

Rating : 8/10

Other Reviews

Reflections of a Fine Book Connoisseur

Ice! (Arnold Federbush)

The first thing that came to my mind when I started reading this book was the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Though the plot aren't exactly identical, there are many similarities between the two. Unfortunately, I enjoyed the book a lot less than I enjoyed the film.

Ice! is about the sudden approach of an ice age, in which the majority of human population is destroyed. The changes that this ice age brings happen over the course of a few weeks, rather than the years that it normally takes.

The novel is mainly set in New York, where the protagonist, Mark Haney predicts sudden climate change. Soon there are ice storms that cause a lot of damage to New York city and it is apparent that very soon the climate change might leave the human race extinct. A group of people including Mark, and the woman he loves, Karen, try to survive in the extreme conditions.

The main reason I didn't enjoy the was the characters, none of whom I liked. Every one of the characters seem to contradict themselves with everything they say. Mark, for example, keeps talking about his grand plans to save civilization, even though his own group of survivors are barely able to keep themselves alive.

Karen, the expert on Eskimo culture, keeps preaching that the group has to live exactly like Eskimos if they are to survive, but changes the rules where she is concerned. At one point she argues with Mark about him carrying his scientific instruments (which Mark considers vital for their survival, and she considers useless) although she herself is lugging around wooden carvings that couldn't help them in any way.

Finally there is one question the survivors are left with -- do they try to save what is left of civilization, or do they live a nomadic life? They make their choice at the end of the book when they decide to abandon Mark and go on searching for better hunting areas.

Although the characters were annoying, the author's way of looking at the end of the human race was interesting. There's a lot of comparison with the extinction of dinosaurs, and there's one interesting conversation where the survivors speculate about what species will take over the planet once they are gone.

Rating : 4/10

Review: The First Billion (Christopher Reich)

More and more authors are using their expertise in their respective fields to create and write in sub-genres that they are comfortable with. Robin Cook, with his medical thrillers, is a famous example for this. The there's John Grisham, who uses his experience as a lawyer in writing legal thrillers. Christopher Reich is a former Swiss banker and uses his knowledge on the subject to write thrillers set in the corporate world.

In The First Billion, John Gavallan, the head of an investment firm is taking a Russian media company public. His firm is struggling, and this could be the deal that saves it, but there are rumours that something is wrong with the Russian company. His friend, whom he has sent to Russia to investigate, disappears, and he himself is suspected of murders. He discovers a much bigger conspiracy than he expected when he looks into what is happening.

I didn't like this book very much. The plot was not very convincing, and the twists were forced into the story. I didn't like the characters in the novel either, because there are too many gaps in their stories that are not filled in.

Considering the fact that this book deals with a company's public offer and that it was written by someone who can be expected to know a lot about the topic, this book was a major disappointment when it came to telling us about what happens in an IPO.

There is the FBI, the KGB, the Russian mafia, mass murderers, torture... everything is thrown into the story. The book gave me the impression that Reich was trying more to write a thriller, rather than focussing on the aspects of the story that he could write about with greater authority.

The good thing about the book is that it is fast paced, very much so towards the end, and to some extent this makes up for the poorly developed characters. But it's still not a book that I will recommend.

Rating: 3/10

Books: July 2008

With all the free time I had in July, I really should have finished a few more books, but even then nine isn't all that bad. And I've even finished posting about six of them, that's a record. :)

  1. The Testament (John Grisham) [7/10]
  2. The Manuscript (Eva Zeller) [7/10]
  3. Twelve Red Herrings (Jeffrey Archer) [7/10]
  4. The Chinese Assassin (Anthony Grey) [3/10]
  5. Confessions of an Ex-Girlfriend (Lynda Curnyn) [6/10]
  6. Dark Tower 1 - The Gunslinger (Stephen King) [6/10]
  7. The First Billion (Christopher Reich) [4/10]
  8. The Book of Evidence (John Banville) [8/10]
  9. The Adversary (A M Kabal) [7/10]

Stats: 9 books, 9 authors (6 new), 2858 pages.

BTT: Gold Medal Reading

With the Olympics games going on in Beijing, this week's Booking Through Thursday question is about sports.

Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general? Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?

Do you consider yourself a sports fan? Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too... but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.

The only sports related book I remember reading is John Grisham's novel, Bleachers (review) about a high school American football team. However, this book was more about the people in the team than the game itself.

I do consider myself a sports fan, although nobody would call me a rabid one. I follow cricket and the EPL and there are a lot of football related feeds in my feed reader, but that never really made me look for sports related books. I rarely read biographies or memoirs, and sports related fiction isn't very common. So I think my sports related reading will mostly be confined to football blogs and the sports page of the newspaper. ;-)

On to an unrelated topic now... my friend Varun has written a short story on his blog called The Foreseen. Please drop by his blog to read it if you have the time. :)

BTT: Endings

Last week's Booking Through Thursday question was about memorable first lines from books. This week's question is quite similar, but I find it a lot more difficult to answer this one.

What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the last line?

A lot of people mentioned last week that they hardly ever notice opening sentences. I look for interesting opening sentences, which is why I made a long list of favourite opening sentences. (Btw, why hasn't anyone recognised that last one? And here I was, thinking it was too easy...)

This question, however, wouldn't make much sense unless we change "final sentences" to "endings". No author is going to worry too much about how the last sentence is going to sound; it's the beginning that might catch (or not) somebody's attention. But endings are still very important, in that sometimes people might end up hating an excellent book just because the ending was bad.

If I really had to mention a famous last line, I'd say nothing can beat "they lived happily ever after", although I don't remember any book that actually ended that way. Nor do I remember one that starts with "once upon a time..." even though you could call it one of the most famous opening sentences. ;-)

Anyway, coming to our question, I can't say I have ever radically changed my opinion about a book because of the ending. There are many books, where I was disappointed with the way things were wrapped up. Bel Canto (review) is a perfect example of that. The book was rather good, but the ending came as something of a shock. The epilogue of the book just didn't fit in with the rest of the story.

A similar case is the last Harry Potter book. I didn't exactly hate the epilogue, but the story was wrapped up well by the end of the final chapter and the epilogue looked rather out of place. But both cases, the endings didn't make me like the books any less.

As for really good endings, I loved the way Nicholas Sparks left room for hope at the end of A Walk to Remember by giving an ambiguous ending.

Frederick Forsyth is an author who writes some great endings. His book, The Devil's Alternative waits till the very last paragraph to reveal the biggest plot twist. Now that's how a book should end.

I couldn't think of any last sentences from books, except for the "all was well" from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Do you remember any last sentences from books? And could a good last sentence have the kind of impact a great opening sentence has?