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Review: “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” by Agatha Christie

Title: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (AKA The Boomerang Clue)
Author: Agatha Christie
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Berkley, 1992 (Originally 1934)

If you’re going to read a mystery novel, Agatha Christie is one of the great masters (mistresses?) of the genre. I’ve not read a lot of hers, so far only this and the first two Tommy And Tuppence books, both of which I liked. This particular book wasn’t her strongest showing, but it was still a very fun read.

Bobby Jones is playing golf with his friend one misty evening when they hear a startled cry from the cliffs beside the links. Thinking maybe he’s beaned some poor stranger with his ball, Tommy goes rushing over only to find that a man has fallen over the cliff. By the time he manages to climb down and reach him, the man has time only to mutter “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” before breathing his last. Not exactly portentous last words, but relating them earns Bobby a poisoning attempt and sets him and his friend Frankie on the trail of a few very simple yet very important questions: was the poor man pushed? And if so, why? And who on Earth is Evans?

Like I said, this was a very enjoyable tale. I loved the characters, the setup was interesting, and the solution just as convoluted as you would expect coming from Agatha Christie. Bobby and Frankie definitely reminded me of Tommy and Tuppence, which is cool because I really liked them. Where this one I think fell a bit short was the overabundance of coincidences that led our characters to their goals. There are only a couple of really brilliant moments of deduction, such as [EXAMPLES DELETED]. In between are semi-miraculous occurrences, like Bobby inexplicably surviving a dose of Morphia that would kill a man his size ten times over or [EXAMPLE DELETED]. I enjoyed it, but there was a lot more deus ex machina than I would usually expect from Ms. Christie.

CONTENT: I don’t recall any profanity, and if there was any it was very mild. There’s some violence, not a lot, and a good deal of what would be classed “mild peril” for a PG-rated kids movie. No sexual content–Christie doesn’t even explicitly show the characters kiss–although there is some implication that a character being discussed was involved in an affair.

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 5

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-#44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

  • Splinter, by Shira Lipkin. (***)
    A group of friends, all with magical powers, step into another world. I’m not sure why, but this story just didn’t hit the mark for me. It wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t all that impacted by it. Maybe you’ll fare better than I did. CONTENT: Strong language. No sexual content, no violence, although the emotional impact of their trip can be a little disturbing.
  • Erzulie Dantor, by Tim Susman. (***)
    In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti darkness holds sway over the land, both in the land surrounding Bas-Le-Fond and in the hearts of some of it’s inhabitants. But the voodoo gods can be fickle, especially to those who merely pay them lip service…. I wasn’t a fan here. Perhaps it’s my antipathy towards voodoo, or perhaps I was simply in the mood for a more uplifting tale. Either way, despite my lack of investment in this tale it was well-crafted. Perhaps you’ll find it more appealing than I did. CONTENT: Some strong and disturbing violence. Mild sexual innuendo. Strong voodoo occult content. No profanity.
  • Labyrinth, by Mari Ness. (****)
    Below the temple, there is a labyrinth. In it, trained Dancers wait for the condemned. If the condemned can beat the Dancers, they are innocent and go free. If not, their guilt is proven and their death just. To be a Dancer is a great honor, but it also comes with a terrible potential for loss…. This story was very well crafted, but very bleak. Perhaps another day I would have received it better, I don’t know. At any rate, this one disturbed me. CONTENT: Strong violence. Mild sexual innuendo. No profanity.
  • Blood From Stone, by Alethea Kontis. (****)
    This tale was excellently executed. Ms. Kontis takes the real historical character who was the alleged basis for the fabled Bluebeard, Baron Gilles de Rais, and seeks to explain just what turned him into that legendary monster. The story was well-told, very evocative and frankly disturbing–how could it not be, given the subject matter? My one complaint is that Lord Death, once he appears, speaks with a modern idiom that was jarring in the medieval setting. CONTENT: Strong, disturbing violence. Sexual innuendo. No profanity. Strong occult content.
  • Trixie And The Pandas Of Dread, by Eugie Foster. (*****)
    This one would have made my best-of list, hands down, had I managed to finish the anthology before the time came to post it. Oh well….In the world Ms. Foster presents here, there are far more gods than our humble sphere has ever conceived of. There’s apparently a Karmic Council that can elevate someone to godhood if they deem you worthy. Anyway, Trixie is the goddess you’ve always wished existed–she exists purely to smite the @$$holes of the world. That guy posting racist and fascist comments on your favorite YouTube video? She just pulled out his heart. That drunken idiot at the back of the theater yelling spoilers while you try and enjoy the film? His spleen just spontaneously ruptured. (I can only assume he went to Shepherd Book’s “special Hell….”) The only problem is that Trixie is running solely on duty. It’s been a long time since she’s felt any sort of the righteous anger that keeps her running, and she’s getting tired. And her totem Pandas that carry her sedan have a severe case of flatulence due to their all-bamboo diet…. CONTENT: This story is pretty offensive on every front, but I have to confess that I loved it anyway. R-rated language. Semi-explicit sexual content. Occasionally-gruesome (but always deserved!) violence.
  • The Performance Artist, by Lettie Prell. (****)
    Anna Pashkin Bearfoot is a performance artist. Her latest work will be the most controversial of all….Not gonna lie, this story was fairly disturbing. The prose was excellent though, and it was a good story. The ending had a particularly biting commentary on our culture…. CONTENT: Some sexual content, including implied rape and molestation in a character’s past. No overt violence, but some fairly disturbing content I can’t place in any other category. No profanity.

This is the fifth and final post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
-Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

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