Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.
–Selected Writings, Gertrude Stein
The Pale Horse, the latest Agatha Christie adaptation from screenwriter Sarah Phelps, released a trailer (below) this week. It stars Rufus Sewell and Kaya Scodelario, which is spot-on casting because they’re both compelling but it’s particularly easy for them to tilt over into being unlikable as characters. The plot is set in the 60’s and focuses on Mark Easterbrook (Sewell) , who wakes up next to a dead young woman, and is drawn into the mystery surrounding her death when a list of names is found inside her shoe and people from the list keep dying. Scodelario co-stars as his icy wife, a role I’m sure she’ll chew up with ease. The two-episode series airs February 9th and February 16th on the BBC, and it looks like it may release on Amazon Prime on March 13, 2020. Here’s the trailer, and a slightly spoilery review from Empire.
The Internet lit up with glee when some Yorkshire police nabbed a distinctive ring and ah, attempted to return it to its owner.
Ngaio Marsh. Generally counted on one hand among the great dames of the English mystery’s golden age, Marsh is a New Zealand writer of the late 20th century. She wrote thirty-two crime novels over about fifty years, and most are considered classics of the genre. I’ve found her to be, at her best, the only mystery novelist I’ve read who is comparable to Christie within the style both wrote in – the sharpness of her characterizations of people both high and low in society, her good-humored approach to occasionally very dark and macabre stories, and most of all the atmosphere of her stories, such a warmly compelling blend of uncensored portrayal of evil and compassion and love for her characters. I should note, however, that I’ve also found her to be wildly uneven – I’ll pick up a Marsh novel and be wildly engrossed from the second page and come away hugely pleased – and the next week I’ll try another and be bored out of my mind. Generally nothing in between, either – her novels are either fantastic or total duds as far as reading pleasure and quality. Unlike Christie, she chose only one hero for her novels, the deadpan, cultured Roderick Alleyn, whose mind it is a pleasure to be in, and whose famous artist wife is a significant character in several novels.
To read: Death in a White Tie
To avoid: Black As He’s Painted, which is both melodramatic and unfortunately tainted with quite a lot of the racism that was a fact of life in Marsh’s day
1. Summer put me on a huge murder mystery kick for some indefinable reason, so I’ve been engulfing Agatha Christie like Turkish delight.
Third Girl. This is a twisty Christie in that you really have no idea where you stand until the last 10 pages or so of the novel – in some of her novels, especially the Marple ones, Christie gives us most of the information, but in this one nearly all of it is withheld so we’re as confused as the victim. I did figure it close to the end but simply by instinct rather than logic. Poirot is approached by a girl who is convinced that she has murdered someone – Poirot goes on the hunt and can’t find anyone who has been murdered! This is also one of the faintly disturbing ones – a girl is psychologically ruthlessly manipulated, so it left me with a feeling of unease. Nonetheless worth a read and there’s a sweet romantic note at the end. (Side note: do you follow me on Goodreads yet?)
The Seven Dials Mystery. A very melodramatic and ultimately silly plot, but the character-writing is superb – Lady Eileen Brent, better known as “Bundle”, is the quick-witted, plucky daughter of a Lord, and when a man is murdered in her father’s house and some clues turn up months later, she goes determinedly on the hunt. She’s a delight and there’s some very endearing romance. A Superintendent Battle mystery. All told read for the dialogue and ignore the plot.
2. Emma Approved. This webseries based on Emma from the production team behind The Lizzie Bennett Diaries is not very good, but it’s finally picked up speed with the adorable latest episode which featured some flirtation between Emma and Alex Knightley.
Borealis Northern White wine. This 2012 Willammette Valley wine is what the wine shop recommended when I asked for a white that was slightly sweet. It’s still a little too sweet for my taste, but really grew on me over time. It seems to be a versatile wine, it starts out a little dry in the mouth then delivers sweetness; I would say offhand that it’s a wine better with food than drunk on its own, and that it goes well with Asian food. There’s something addicting about it nonetheless – it’s a perfect refreshing summer wine, I find myself reaching for it more evening after getting home. $12.99. Update: much more polished description from Drink here.