Tag Archive: Agatha Christie


Review by C.J. Bunce

In the never-ending adaptations and updates of stories and novels by Agatha Christie, Hugh Laurie (House, MD, Roadkill, A Bit of Fry and Laurie) may have created the best yet.  In the three-part limited series Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Laurie, the always witty and sometimes dry writer, director, comedian, and actor has found the perfect story to add his signature style.  In stressing the fun of the thrill of the chase–and merging exquisite banter with the perfect cast of leads–Laurie’s series runs circles around the popular dark, dreary, and sometimes even unnecessarily grotesque Sarah Phelps adaptations of Christie’s stories (see our reviews of the recent Ordeal by Innocence, The Pale Horse, and The ABC Murders).  And even without the all-star casts of Kenneth Branagh’s big-screen adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, we’ll bet you walk away from Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? with a new favorite Agatha Christie story.

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Regular borg readers know about novelist Elizabeth C. Bunce′s reviews here at borg.  Last year her novel Premeditated Myrtle won the Edgar Award at the 75th annual honors (awarded by the Mystery Writers of America and named for mystery writing pioneer Edgar Allan Poe).  She was also a finalist for both the Agatha Award (honoring mystery author Agatha Christie), and Anthony Award (honoring mystery author Anthony Boucher).  As we shared previously, Elizabeth was a 2022 finalist–her second consecutive year–for the Edgar Award and the Agatha Award this time for the latest novel in her Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series, Cold-Blooded Myrtle.  This year’s finalist list has been released for the 2022 Anthony Awards, and Elizabeth has been nominated yet again, making her one of only three novelists in the history of the awards to be a finalist twice for all three honors, and the second novelist to be so honored with the mystery writing trifecta in back-to-back years.

The Anthony Award is an annual recognition for mystery authors, named to honor mystery writer and Mystery Writers of America co-founder Anthony Boucher (shown above, with cat friend).  Past novelists recognized by the Anthony Awards include J.K. Rowling, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Stephen King, Lilian Jackson Braun, Robert B. Parker, Max Allan Collins, Jill Thompson, Louise Penny, Lawrence Block, Laura Lippman, Nancy Pickard, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Patricia Cornwell, Donald E. Westlake, Rick Riordan, Lee Child–and Elizabeth (shown above with Sophie, the inspiration for Peony the Cat in her series).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We first previewed the big-budget Death on the Nile here at borg back in 2018, possibly the most pandemic-delayed film of any.  Based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel, it’s the second in Branagh’s series of opulent, major cast, big-screen films after 2018’s Murder on the Orient Express (reviewed here).  That movie was far more spectacle, more Hollywood, a faithful, exciting film filled with genre stars including Branagh as Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot, plus Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Penélope Cruz, with a particularly engaging performance by Tom Bateman as Poirot’s friend Bouc.  Bouc, a new character brought along by Branagh is the only returning character with Poirot for Death on the Nile.

A sort of Christie twist on Romeo and Juliet, the story and its core murder plot on Egypt’s great river remains identifiable, but Branagh updates nearly everything else, unlike in his first Christie adaptation. So like Branagh’s Frankenstein, this really is Branagh’s Death on the Nile, although also credit the changes to writer Michael Green (Logan).  After a theatrical run beginning in February, it’s now available on Vudu and digital and other home media.

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As we mentioned earlier this month, 2021 Edgar Award-winning author and borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce was nominated for her second Edgar Award, for the second year in a row.  This weekend she added another accolade for her novel Cold-Blooded Myrtle, as she was nominated for the Agatha Award, Elizabeth’s second year nominated for the award, which commemorates traditional mystery works typified by the novels of mystery author Agatha Christie (pictured above, left).  Past nominees have included John Grisham, Anne Perry, Max Allan Collins, Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark, Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich, Ann Cleeves, Rhys Bowen, Charlotte MacLeod–and Elizabeth.  Nominees are announced early each year and winners awarded at the mystery convention Malice Domestic.

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Congratulations to Elizabeth for her nomination for Cold-Blooded Myrtle

From Elizabeth’s publisher:

Cold-Blooded Myrtle opens moments before the grand reveal of the annual Christmas shop display at Leighton’s Mercantile.  As Myrtle and the townsfolk of Swinburne gather for the yearly tradition, it becomes clear something isn’t right.  The proprietor of Leighton’s Mercantile is found dead and the display tampered with.  But who would want to kill the local dry-goods merchant?  Perhaps someone who remembers the mysterious scandal that destroyed his career as a professor and archaeologist involving the disappearance of a local college student.  When the killer strikes again, each time manipulating the figures in the Christmas display to foretell the crime, Myrtle, Miss Judson, and Peony the cat set out to unravel a twisted tale of secret societies, cryptic messages, long-buried secrets, and a killer bent on revenge.  The case becomes even more personal when clues connect Myrtle’s own deceased mother to the sinister happenings.

“A holiday mystery is a crime fiction tradition, and many of our modern holiday customs have their origins in the Victorian era,” explains Elizabeth.  “I knew from the start one of the books would have to take place during an Exceptionally Victorian Christmas.”  Elizabeth goes on to say, “I hope that young readers see Myrtle’s determination and curiosity as an invitation to be bold and curious in their own lives.  Myrtle is a heroine who doggedly pursues her own path, despite outside pressures trying to define her.  I want kids to see that it’s ok to embrace their own passions and interests too, whatever they might be.”

The perfect holiday book for young readers and grown-up mystery fans alike, this fantastic third installment of the award-winning Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series promises scandal and drama, Victorian rule-breaking, early forensics, code cracking, and a packed cast of delightful and eccentric friends and foes.

In addition to the 2022 Edgar Award and Agatha Award nominations, Cold-Blooded Myrtle has been named a Kirkus 2021 Top 10 Best Book of the Year and a Wall Street Journal holiday guide recommendation.  It’s available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook here at Amazon.

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Along with A Visit from St. Nicholas, there is no more famous Christmas story than Charles DickensA Christmas Carol Since it debuted in 1843 it’s been reprinted hundreds of times, made into more than 100 films, and its ghostly lesson trope has been incorporated into dozens of TV series.   For England, A Christmas Carol meant the revival of universal celebration of the holiday of Christmas that would spread across the planet, as well as cementing traditions that continue 178 Christmases later.  I want to share an idea for your own cold winter read in the tradition of a very Victorian Christmas in England:  borg writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s latest novel, Cold-Blooded Myrtle, the third book in her Edgar Award-winning mystery series.  As reviewed in the Wall Street Journal this month, “Younger [Sherlock] Holmes fans (and older ones too) should be charmed by Bunce’s Cold-Blooded Myrtle, the latest entry in her series featuring 12-year-old amateur sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle.  In 1893, Myrtle receives a double Christmastime shock: the death, in The Final Problem, of her fictional idol Holmes, and the apparent murder of the proprietor of her town’s mercantile store.  Tidings of discomfort, indeed.”  It’s chock full of Myrtle’s notations on Christmas traditions, including some little-known oddities from Christmases past.

After a year that saw her helping the constabulary discover the murderer of her neighbor and surviving a botched vacation at seaside where she foiled more than one criminal’s efforts, young Myrtle hopes to have an ordinary Christmas.  Her current pursuit is simply finding an appropriate present for her unflappable governess–and frequent partner in solving crime–Miss Ada Judson.  But when does anything ever go as planned at Christmas?

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Make no mistake, despite the title, this BBC adaptation really is not Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence.  It is without doubt writer Sarah Phelps’s Ordeal by Innocence, and it stands out as the best of her recent adaptations of Christie’s works.  In many ways, the 2018 television series is better than its source material.  Phelps is known for adding prurient subtext and graphic imagery to her film versions, efforts that typically seem uncomfortably gratuitous (such as the gore and sado-masochism in The ABC Murders, reviewed here at borg).  But in the case of Ordeal by Innocence, the delivery is more even-handed and her departures make the story better.  I came into the three-part miniseries immediately after reading Christie’s novel.  Published in 1958, Ordeal by Innocence centers around the classic mystery trope of the missing alibi witness, but with a tragic twist.

One lonesome night, scientist Arthur Calgary (played by Attack the Block’s Luke Treadaway) picks up a hitchhiker, and then is unavoidably detained, unaware that his testimony could make or break a murder trial.  Jack Argyll (Jacko in the novel, played here by Derry Girls’ Anthony Boyle) has been convicted of the murder of his adopted mother, philanthropist Rachel Argyll, matriarch of a clan of adopted children and assorted other household members.  Jack, with his contentious relationship with Rachel and a history of petty crime, seems the ideal suspect for the crime.  When Dr. Calgary appears long after the fact to clear Jack’s name, his mission of mercy and justice is met with strange reactions from all involved.  It’s almost as if they want brother and son Jack to be guilty.

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Boucher Myrtle

Do not adjust your screen–this is not a repeat post.  Regular borg readers know about novelist Elizabeth C. Bunce′s reviews, and this year she has had had great success with her mystery series, beginning with Premeditated Myrtle, which won this year’s Edgar Award (honoring mystery writing pioneer Edgar Allan Poe).  We previously announced that she is nominated for the Agatha Award (honoring Agatha Christie) to be named this summer, and we’re happy to report she has just been nominated for this year’s Anthony Award!  Her book becomes one of only seven middle grade novels to have been nominated in the history of the award.

The Anthony Award is an annual recognition for mystery authors, named to honor mystery writer and Mystery Writers of America co-founder Anthony Boucher (shown above, with cat friend).  Boucher was also known for his science fiction and critical works.  Past novelists recognized by the Anthony Awards include J.K. Rowling, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Rhys Bowen, Robert B. Parker, Max Allan Collins, Jill Thompson, Louise Penny, Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Tony Hillerman, Charlaine Harris, Thomas Harris, Patricia Cornwell, Ann Rule, Alan Bradley, Sharyn McCrumb, Donald E. Westlake, Rick Riordan, and Lee Child.  This year the award will be announced at the annual World Mystery Convention (also called Bouchercon) in late summer, to be held virtually or in person from New Orleans.  It is the convention’s 52nd year.

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Find out more about Elizabeth and her novel Premeditated Myrtle here.  Check out Elizabeth’s reviews of books, TV, and movies at borg here.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the 21st century’s best comic book artists with a singular style brings her heroine back to the comics pages.  Writer-artist Cynthia von Buhler is know for her sensationalism, both in story concepts, artwork, and marketing, merging real-world events and time travel tours to the past via her comic book work, as seen in her striking The Illuminati Ball We first met her heroine Minky Woodcock in Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini (reviewed here), as she recounted the 20 days leading up to the famed magician’s death on October 31, 1926.  Her next Minky adventure is now available in single monthly issues, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla.  If you like the idea of a girl Friday coming into her own, then Minky Woodcock is for you.

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It’s one of the only films this year to keep its original theatrical premiere month, and it’s still planning on coming to a theater near you.  And it’s one of the most eagerly awaited sequels of the year after director and star Kenneth Branagh delivered such an impressive adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express in 2017.  A new all-star cast has assembled behind Branagh, returning as master detective Hercule Poirot, in Death on the NileDespite her many convoluted plots, Christie knew how to name a story.  Get ready for some more good sleuthing–The first trailer for the film is here.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Screenwriter Sarah Phelps (EastEnders, Dublin Murders) is back with her next project, another adaptation of a well-known Agatha Christie work, a year from release of her first Amazon Studios project, The ABC Murders (reviewed here at borg), which starred John Malkovich and Rupert Grint.  The new series is Christie’s creepy tale The Pale Horse, a supernatural mystery from 1961, directed by Leonora Lonsdale (Beast).  The series stars Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle, Zen, A Knight’s Tale) as Mark Easterbrook, a man of questionable character whose wife dies in the bathtub at the beginning of the story.  Remember his name, because it is included last on a list found in the shoe of another dead woman.  Why women are ending up dead found on the list, and why Easterbrook’s name was included, is the key mystery of this two-part series.

As Easterbrook is hounded by the local police led by Sean Pertwee (Gotham, Doctor Who) as Inspector Stanley Lejeune–who is investigating the string of deaths.  Easterbrook decides to investigate himself, to beat the inspector to the answer, which takes him to the small town of Much Deeping.  Much Deeping has an inn, an inn that is home to three witches, and he figures that somehow they are connected.  Easterbrook’s second wife, a key player in the story, is played by Kaya Scodelario (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, The Maze Runner).  This is another Christie story of lies, and the lying liars that tell them, with the oddball, quirky twists we saw in both The ABC Murders and Murder on the Orient Express.

Rounding out the cast are familiar genre faces Georgina Campbell (His Dark Materials, Krypton, Broadchurch, Black Mirror) as the first Mrs. Easterbrook and Bertie Carvel (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Sherlock, Doctor Who) as another man interviewed in relation to the deaths.

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