First up, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.
Roger Ackroyd is a middle-aged man, a manufacturer of wagon wheels, and very wealthy. He lives in the village of King's Abbot, with various relatives, all of whom rely on him financially. It was said that he might marry Mrs. Ferrars, a widow, but she dies one night attended by Dr. Sheppard. Dr. Sheppard's sister, Caroline, a notorious collector of gossip, insists that Mrs. Ferrars committed suicide, the reason being that Caroline is sure she poisoned her husband and was so full of remorse she killed herself. Then Ackroyd himself is murdered, stabbed in the back one evening after receiving a letter from Mrs. Ferrars, posted before her death. The house and village are full of suspects. It seems a lot of people needed money from him and there is even a whiff of blackmail. One of the suspects, Flora, Ackroyd's step-daughter, goes to Dr. Sheppard's new nextdoor neighbour for help. He is a recently retired private detective who has taken up growing marrows. His name... is Hercule Poirot.
Funny how you can sometimes get so wrapped up in a book you devour it in a day. Mind you, it's not a huge book and I read it in large-print format so it was an easy read. But nevertheless it's the kind of book you find you can't put down. It's narrated by Dr. Sheppard, so you get quite an interesting viewpoint, one that belongs to the village where the crime is committed and who knows the suspects intimately. You get a real sense of the eccentricities of Poirot too, of his secretiveness when he knows things others do not - how irritating this can be, especially for Sheppard who is trying to emmulate Captain Hastings for Poirot. It's full of humour, one chapter entitled, 'An evening at Mah Jong', is absolutely hilarious... Agatha Christie had a very good eye for the humour in everyday situations and I don't think she's given enough credit for that. This is definitely one of the best Christies I've read so far and I'm told it's generally thought to be one her best as well.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd qualifies for Bev's Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt challenge under the category 'Telephone'.
Next, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.
Rosemary Cooke lives with her mother and father, both scientists, in Indiana. Once upon a time she had a sister and a brother but both of them have disappeared. Rosemary has just started college in California. She rarely tells people anything about herself so is rather a solitary student. Her life is one of forgetting, of not wanting to remember certain things about her childhood. So far she has succeeded in burying everything but for how much longer can she keep her secrets? And does she really want to? She needs to find answers to certain crucial questions and keeping secrets will not help in that quest one iota.
Well that's a very sparse description! Necessarily so because this is a book you need to know very little about before you start reading. About a third of the way through comes a huge reveal and although some may guess the big secret, I did not: I was taken totally by surprise. This is one of the most thought provoking books I've ever read but sadly I can't say why. I can say why I liked it. I liked the first person narrator, Rosemary, very much; she's brave and candid and a very forgiving person. I liked the sadness of this book... which might seem like an odd thing to say, but I did. I learnt a lot and that's where the sadness comes in, there's unintentional cruelty, people doing things they maybe shouldn't just for the sake of curiosity, for science. To be honest, it's heartbreaking. The book divides opinion... some seem to dislike it intensely, others really love it. I loved it and would like to read more on the subject it covers.