bookish posts reviews

The Reluctant Listener: An Agatha Christie spree


So, remember how last year I wrote one post about audiobooks and then…didn’t write anything else? I’m going to try to be more conscious about reviewing the audiobooks I listen to this year.

And at the moment, I’m listening to a lot of them because I am really tired of all the CDs I have in the car. It’s dark and cold out, and so the obvious answer is ALL the Agatha Christie.

Towards Zero, read by Hugh Fraser. Audio Partners, 2007.

Not a Poirot or a Miss Marple, though it takes place in the Poirot universe. Superintendent Battle manages to solve the mystery ALL ON HIS OWN! The story is also notable for the fact that Christie manages to be both sympathetic and weirdly snobby about divorce, and for the memorable solution. Also, a romance that comes out of nowhere and left me with…questions.

However, Hugh Fraser is a marvelous reader (this is going to be a theme) and he manages to do all kinds of accents and voices really well; I’ve noticed that men reading female characters tend to make them sound silly. Fraser doesn’t, and he handles the shifts in character adeptly.

Cat Among the Pigeons (Hercule Poirot), read by Hugh Fraser. BBC Audiobooks America, 2002.

As an audiobook, this one is quite enjoyable. Hugh Fraser is an excellent reader, plus I associate his voice with Poirot, which is definitely helpful. He’s also really good at accents, and imitates David Suchet as Poirot so well that I have a weird moment whenever I remember that it’s actually not Suchet at all.

As a book, this one is frustrating, for several reasons. First, to just say it, it’s suuuuper racist. There’s kind of an undertone to most of Christie, but yeah, no this is just blatant. Second, the story as story is odd: everything happens and several characters investigate very ably, and then at the very end, Poirot comes in and solves everything. It reads like it was written as a independent book and then Poirot was shoved in at the last moment. Also, something really sad and tragic happens and everyone just seems to sort of collectively shrug and go on with life.

The Body in the Library (Miss Marple), read by Stephanie Cole. Audio Partners, 2002.

This is one I had read and re-read several times, so the pleasure of it was definitely in the narration and in Miss Marple herself (I do love Miss Marple). The solution comes a bit out of nowhere, if I remember correctly, also I wasn’t super comfortable with the way the disabled character is portrayed. (It doesn’t help that the c-word is used several times.) But by and large–Miss Marple!

Cole does a good job overall. She has a pleasant voice for narration and does Miss Marple and most of the other characters superbly. I did find myself wishing that a few of them had been differentiated a bit more. The main problem, however, is that both of the children who have speaking parts in the story sounded incredibly precocious and snotty. I don’t think this was intentional, but oh dear. Despite finding this annoying, neither child feature prominently enough for it to become a real problem for me.

I have a Tommy & Tuppence audiobook too, but I haven’t tried it yet.

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

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