Monday, February 13, 2012

Vintage Mysteries Reading Challenge 2012 - Review: THREE BLIND MICE by Agatha Christie

I hadn't read this collection of Christie short stories in many years so I think reading it again qualifies for Bev's Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge. I have the old Dell version (cover shown above) but I have to hold it very carefully as some of the pages are falling out. I love these old Dell copies.

Anyway, this collection is a mixed bag of stories featuring not only Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Mr. Satterthwaite and Harley Quinn, but also the stand-alone THREE BLIND MICE which gives the collection its name.

According to Les Blatt, one of our favorite vintage mystery bloggers, THREE BLIND MICE was written after a radio production of the same name - originally created for Queen Mary by Christie - had aired. She then expanded the earlier radio piece into a three act play, THE MOUSETRAP - which has been running now for sixty years!

I was lucky enough to see a production of it in the 80's while in London and enjoyed it very much. Though I knew the ending, I was still caught up in the mystery and suspense.

A couple of the stories in this collection have been turned into excellent PBS Mysteries, all done in the early years of David Suchet's reign when the producers were staying true to the stories.

This particular group is available for instant streaming on Netflix. My favorites of that year are FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS and THE THIRD-FLOOR FLAT. Just wonderfully done even if a few odds and ends are added to fatten out the stories. Never mind a bit of that if it makes sense and stays in tune with the characters. In truth both of these stories are actually better in the filmed versions than on the page. Both very visually interesting, both having Captain Hastings added to the mix.

In the short story collection, I enjoyed THE TAPE MEASURE MURDER very much. It features a well-known murder mystery trick which has been used over and over in the years since Christie was turning out her wonderful stories. It's a very tidy murder.

THREE BLIND MICE I didn't like as much as I remembered because the two main characters, Giles and Molly, a newly married couple, are just so 'limp'. (They work better in the play.) And the 'surprise' ending has also been used often enough since then. But  I did like Mr. Paravicini, the black market 'Santa Claus.'

THE THIRD FLOOR FLAT is also a good, quick read. Murder in the very same London apartment building in which Poirot has a flat. It is a pleasure reading (or watching) Poirot interact with some 'bright young things'. Very touching watching David Suchet's face as he wistfully looks at one of the beautiful girls involved in the case. Suchet is such a thinking actor. I simply adore him.

Then I noticed that the last story in this collection, THE LOVE DETECTIVES has the very same murderer's trick as in the Jane Marple novel, THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY. Though the short story features Mr. Satterthwaite and Harley Quinn, the most enigmatic of Christie's creations.

It's obvious to me that Christie often expanded on ideas she would use in her short stories. EVIL UNDER THE SUN is a primary example. (Though the short story TRIANGLE AT RHODES is not included in this collection.)

STRANGE JEST, one of the Jane Marple stories that is included, uses the very same clever  'hidden' treasure trick as was used in the Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant film, CHARADE. I wonder if the screenwriter read Agatha Christie?


  1. Yvette, the short story of "Three Blind Mice" was written after the original, short radio play of the same name (which was written for Queen Mary). Christie then turned it into the three-act play of "The Mousetrap," and the original production is STILL playing in London's West End theatre district - it will be sixty years this fall. Simply amazing, even for Agatha Christie!

  2. i really do like her mysteries.
    Evil under the sun. I don't remember 3 blind mice. Have to look for it.. Stay warm
    it is really cold in Maine..
    Come visit me sometime.


  3. You have this fantastically, magical way of making me want to read every single book you review. Really.

  4. Les: I'm confused. Okay, so the radio play was first. THEN the short story THEN the theatrical play which was really an enlarging of the radio production. Correct?

    Got it. I think. Thanks. :)

  5. Yvonne, if I can, I will. Maine in the summer is wonderful. :)

    It's cold here too. These past couple of days it's been the coldest it's been this winter. But it's still not as cold as past winters. On the whole it's been a very mild winter here in NJ.

  6. Good for me, Belle. :) If I can get you to read a favorite book or two then my work here is done.

    Thanks, kiddo.

  7. I read so many Agatha Christie mysteries when I was young! I really should re-read them.

    I'm sure I can find the paperbacks somehwere on my bookshelves...wonder if they will hold up after so many years!

  8. Happy Valentine's Day, Yvette!

    May your day will be filled with 'so many love words'!

    Warmest greetings,

    By the way - Agatha Christie was one of my favorites in earlier time of my life.

  9. Jack and I saw The Mousetrap in London in the '80's, too. Wouldn't it be hilarious if we had all been there the same night?!

    We have tickets to see The Mousetrap tonight at The Walnut Theatre in Philadelphia, but we both have colds and I'm not sure if we'll go. You would not want to sit next to us! I may end up giving our tickets to my sister and her husband.

  10. I'm sure the screenwriter for Charade MUST have read Christie. (Who hasn't?) ;-)

    In John Curran's wonderful analysis of Christie' note (Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: 50 Years of Murder in the Making), he noted several times how Christie reworked ideas, and often expanded short stories into novels.

    She was truly the master! Thanks for the summary of this collection!

  11. I've read all the stories you mention here except for "Three Blind Mice", but in a different collection (Masterpieces in Miniature, which includes all the Parker Pyne and Harley Quin stories plus some Poirot and Marple). "The Third-Floor Flat" and "Tape-Measure Murder" are good ones (though I have to say "The Case of the Perfect Maid" was my favorite of the Marples). I like the line in "The Third-Floor Flat" where Poirot says he knows how to pick locks, but if he had offered his servies they would have had "the grave suspicions of me." :) Definitely second the recommendation of John Curran's book, by the way.

    (I tried posting this comment yesterday but it never showed up...not sure if it was a glitch or my mistake.)

  12. Yvette, if I'm reading both Christie's autobiography and Curran's notebooks correctly, that's the right order - radio play, short story, full-length play. In any form, it's still an amazing work. A nearly-sixty-year-so-far first run ain't bad... ;-)

  13. Pat: I've found that most of the Christie books hold up. I reread them all the time, but of course I have my favorites which I never seem to tire of.

  14. Thank you, Karin. We could all use a little love. :)

    Happy days to all of us.

  15. Oh, that would be a GREAT coincidence. It was in the summer of 1984. Three of the happiest weeks in my life spent in England, Scotland and Wales.

    Oh I hope you and your hubby get to feel well enough to go. What a shame.

    Feel better, m'dear. :)

  16. Thanks, Debbie. Yes, if you read a lot of Christie you often come up against familiar ideas she'd expanded. I say: why not?

    I'm still a big fan and still read her stuff these many years later. She was/is, indeed, a master.

  17. Elisabeth, sorry you had a problem. Sometimes google blogger gets cholicky. :)

    Oh, THE CASE OF THE PERFECT MAID was excellent, though I figured out the gimmick before the end. This is one that should be filmed, for sure.

  18. Les: Thanks for the due diligence. I'd rather have the record as right as possible. :)

  19. It may have been 1984, but it would have been in the fall, October or November. I've only been to England once in the spring / summer, when I went to the Chelsea Flower Show. All the other time have been off-season. But we love England no matter what the season.

    We did not go to see The Mousetrap on Valentine's Day. Other theatre-goers would have tossed us out with all the coughing and sneezing and blowing of noses! So, I spent the evening with my love of 42 years, over a shared box of tissues and a bottle of decongestant!

  20. I haven't gotten to this one yet, at all actually. Since I'm progressing (slowly) through her books in publishing order I have about 28 to go.

  21. Don't make it a chore, Ryan. Christie is to be enjoyed. :)


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