by the pricking of my thumb

R. I. P. VI Challenge – Completion

Ever since I was a child I have been reading books from the supernatural, crime and mystery genres. TV shows featuring similar themes have also been a favourite of mine. So, when I found out that Carl V is hosting the R. I. P. (R. eaders I. mbibing P. eril VI) Challenge at Stainless Steel Droppings, I just had to participate.

The R.I.P. Challenge has taken place every year from September 1st through October 31st for the last 5 years.

There are several challenge levels at which participants can join in. I had chosen,

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit the very broad definitions of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming or Edgar Allan Poe…or anyone in between.

I have taken my time with this challenge, savouring the two mysteries and two horror genre books that I had chosen. Reading (and in the last book’s case, re-reading) for this challenge was a great pleasure.

I have received some very nice feedbacks from fellow challenge participants for my reviews.  Thank you guys!

Overall, I have enjoyed The R.I.P. Challenge very much. So, thanks to Carl V for the challenge and here’s to hoping that I’ll be seeing you again next year.

Books Completed:

1. By The Pricking of My Thumbs. Agatha Christie.

2. Clouds of Witness. Dorothy L. Sayers.

3. The Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

4. Dracula. Bram Stoker.

By The Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie

By The Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie was published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in 1968 and by Dodd, Mead and Company in the US later the same year.

The title of the book comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth,

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

These lines are among my favourite lines from the play.

A visit to Tommy’s aunt Ada’s nursing home can always be a challenge. This time is no different as Tuppence has to sit it out at the visitor’s lounge after another one of Aunt Ada’s outbursts. Her only companion, a seemingly mild elderly resident of the home, suddenly asks her if it is her child that is buried behind the fireplace. Before she can make any sense of it Tuppence has to go way. As the elderly lady suddenly vanishes without a trace, Tuppence decides to investigate the matter and solve this intriguing puzzle.

The part about an elderly lady startling a stranger with a tale about a child being buried behind a fireplace recurs in at least three of Agatha Christie’s books, Sleeping Murder, The Pale Horse and this one. And surprisingly the story never fails to send a chill down my spine.

Tommy and Tuppence are a bit different from the other Christie creations Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. They age in real time unlike Poirot and Marple who remained the same age throughout their long literary journey. Strangely I find it kind of comforting that Poirot and Miss Marple remain the same in all of their books. They are solid, comfortable, more forces of nature than vulnerable human beings. Tommy and Tuppence are more real, I guess. But I prefer the solidity of Miss Marple and Poirot’s agelessness.

Tuppence is full of energy and hardly seems like a lady in her 60’s. Her character’s attitude and actions feel younger. Tommy is hardly visible here. It is Tuppence’s show all the way.

I had no trouble finishing the book. It is mostly fast paced and quite enjoyable.

Like all the late Christies By The Pricking of My Thumbs too has some problems. It is a thriller and a pretty good one most of the time but Christie introduces threads that go nowhere. The whole criminal mastermind thing was quite unnecessary in my opinion.

The narrative thankfully is better than most late Christie mysteries. It is not overlong and doesn’t meander along without any rhyme or reason (I am looking at you The Clocks and Elephants Can Remember!). It is sharp and taut most of the time.

The ending was really surprising. It was unexpected and quite chilling. The identity of the original perpetrator and how he/she ties up with everyone and everything surprised me.

Overall, By The Pricking of My Thumbs is one of the better late Christie mysteries. I just wonder how great it would have been had she written this book in her prime.

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Welcome Home: Books that Arrived in July & August 2011

” ‘Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are’ is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.” – François Mauriac.

I love to re-read old favourites. They shape who I am. They also tell what I am likely to read in the future. The list of books I bought in the months of July and August  do have a lot in common with my frequently re-read books, plays, classics and of course, mysteries. Hope fully these books will also become a part of my frequently re-read books.

Here are the books I bought in the months of July and August.

July 20, 2011.

The Chronicles of Narnia.  C. S. Lewis.

This is a paperback edition of the complete Narnia saga. As a child, the TV series The Chronicles of Narnia was one of my favourites. I haven’t seen the recent big screen version of it but the buzz generated by the movies and the fond childhood memories have finally made me buy this. But who knows when I would be able to actually read this gigantic volume!

August 9, 2011.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs. Agatha Christie.

Science Fiction Stories. Edward Blishen (ed.)

It’s Only a Movie : Alfred Hitchcock – A Personal Biography. Charlotte Chandler.      

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. William Shakespeare.    

Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare.    

I have yet to try any of my favourite Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence books. I have decided to start with By the Pricking of My Thumbs.

I picked up another from the Red Hot Reads series. I had enjoyed their Detective Stories so much that I couldn’t resist their Science Fiction Stories compiled by Edward Blishen.

It has been ages since I read any non-fiction so picked up It’s Only a Movie : Alfred Hitchcock – A Biography by Charlotte Chandler. I have always admired Alfred Hitchcock’s work. His Rear Window and Rope are two of my favourites. His biography might be interesting to read.


A bunch of Penguin Popular Classics editions of Shakespeare’s plays were going for real cheap at another book store. Picked up A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night.

So, these are my books for the months of July and August. Hoping to read them soon!