Blurb: Since the beginning of history, jewels have exercised a harmful spell. Murder and violence have followed in their wake. So with the famous Heart of Fire ruby. It passes into the possession of the beautiful American woman, Ruth Kettering, and doom follows swift upon it. Whose hand was is that struck her down? Were the jewels the motive for the murder, or were they only taken as a blind? What part did the beautiful foreign dancer play? These are some of the questions that have to be answered, and the story tells also how these strange and dramatic happenings affect the life of a quiet English girl who has felt convinced that "nothing exiting will ever happen to me." She uses very nearly those words to a chance acquaintance on the Blue Train - a little man with an egg-shaped head and fierce moustaches whose answer is curious and unexpected. But even Hercule Poirot, for it is he, does not guess how soon he will be called upon to unravel a complicated and intricate crime when the Blue Train steams into Nice the following morning and it is discovered that murder has been done.
Thoughts: I rather liked this book, it was typical Christie and a nice simple read.
17. Emma - Jane Austen
Blurb: Jane Austen teased readers with the idea of a 'heroine whom no one but myself will much like', but Emma is irresistible. 'Handsome, clever, and rich', Emma is also an 'imaginist', 'on fire with speculation and foresight'. She sees the signs of romance all around her, but thinks she will never be married.
Her matchmaking maps out relationships that Jane Austen ironically tweaks into a clearer perspective. Judgement and imagination are matched in games the reader too can enjoy, and the end is a triumph of understanding.
Thoughts: This was a re-read from nearly 10 years ago when I was at Sixth Form. I thought I'd give it another go as I hated it - Emma was just so irritating. 10 years older and slightly wiser I still found her really bloody irritating. I enjoyed the book slightly more a second time around but it's not one I'll be revisiting again in a hurry.
Hickory Dickory Dock
Blurb: Hercule Poirot frowned.
"Miss Lemon," he said.
"Yes, M Poirot?"
"There are three mistakes in this letter."
His voice held incredulity. For Miss Lemon, that hideous and efficient woman, never made mistakes.
And so Hercule Poirot launched into another of his memorable cases to extricate Miss Lemon's sister, who ran a students' hostel in Hickory Road, from her troubles. The series of thefts there which had so upset Miss Lemon intrigued M Poirot because of the complete incongruity of the missing articles; he was fascinated and uneasy. Unfortunately his worst fears were fulfilled.
But by putting first things first and by peeling off layers of irrelevance one by one, Poirot was able to perceive, when it occurred, the inevitable mistake that betrays a murderer. At one point Inspector Sharp was inclined to apply to his own dictum "No one is as clever as they think they are." But generalisations do not apply to the master mind and Hercule Poirot - and Agatha Christie - has achieved another masterpiece of detection.
Thoughts: Again a pleasant read, still continuing to prefer the Poirots to the Marples.
Hitler's Last Days: An Eye-witness Account - Gerhardt Boldt
Blurb: In the last months of the Second World War, Gerhardt Boldt, a young cavalry officer serving on the Russian Front, found himself seconded to Gehlen's military intelligence staff in Berlin. Summoned to daily briefing sessions with the Fuhrer, his Generals and closest associates - in particular Bormann, Goering and Goebbels - Boldt had a unique opportunity of observing at close quarters the leading members of the Nazi hierarchy. His description of the atmosphere, first in the semi-ruined Chancellery and then in the claustrophobic surroundings of the Fuhrerbunker, conveys a chilling impression of destruction - of the collapse of the entire Nazi system no less than the disintegration of its creator's personality. This book was written immediately after the war and expanded for this edition. Gerhardt Boldt trained as a cavalry officer having been dismissed from the Hitler Youth for insubordination. During the war he served on both the Western and Eastern fronts, was wounded several times and decorated twice. After the war he returned to his home town of Lubeck where he had a wines and spirits business. He was technical advisor to the film, 'Hitler: The Last Ten Days', for which this book was a major source, starring Sir Alec Guinness.
Thoughts: I was in a Nazi mood and had been meaning to read this book for a while. Of all the 'I was there' books, I think this is my favourite. Boldt is refreshingly honest and incredibly knowledgeable. You feel his disdain and regret for the regime the whole way through, definitely showing that his remorse was genuine (better than Traudl Junge, her book annoyed me). I think it helps that Boldt was never really into the idea of being a Nazi, but felt the passion and pride of fighting for his country. This was also written just a year after the war, far earlier than many other memoirs and far less reflective. A highly recommended read.
20. The Tudor Princess - Darcey Bonnette
Pages: 324 (5899)
Blurb: From childhood, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. As the daughter of Henry VII, Margaret is married to James IV, becoming Queen of Scotland.
Despite her doubts, Margaret falls in love with her new home. But she has rivals, and whilst James is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. It's clear that providing an heir cannot guarantee Margaret's safety, and when she attracts the attentions of the ambitious Earl of Angus, Scotland is brought to the brink of anarchy.
Beset by betrayal, secret alliances and the desires of her own heart, Margaret has one overriding ambition: to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost.
Thoughts: The issue having a degree in History and reading historical fiction is your accuracy and b/s alarm goes off a lot. I know the author makes it clear it is fiction, but my God is it melodramatic! You should feel sorry for Margaret but instead you end up detesting her whiny, impulsive and selfish nature - probably the exact opposite of Bonnette's aim with the book. Bonnette tars Henry VIII from the tender age of eight as being the selfish brute we all know - something most historians would say was utter rubbish. This really felt like a trashy read based very loosely on historical fact. It will be going straight into a book swap for someone else to read.