Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Lighten up your holidays with Agatha Christie; a guest blog by Ann Claire

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: What goes better with the holidays that Agatha Christie? Her publisher's habit of releasing "A Christie for Christmas" has been carried on by the BBC's annual adaptations, released around December, as well as homages to the Queen of Crime (Knives Out II or See How They Run, anyone?)

 Ann Claire (who writes the Bookmobile Mysteries as Nora Page and the Santa Fe Cafe Mystery series as Ann Myers) knows in this disorderly world, we all crave the Christie magic. (Go to the bottom of this page and read the description of her new series debut, DEAD AND GONDOLA. Murder in a snowbound Swiss chalet bookstore? Sign me up!)

But since you must, at times, put down the book you're escaping into - if only to avoid dripping turkey gravy and cranberry sauce on the pages - Ann is sharing some delightful Christie tidbits you can throw out as your holiday table conversation lifeline.

 

The holidays are upon us and with them, gatherings from festive to forced. Office obligations, family feasts, Zoom mixers, and strangers stuffed on planes on the way to grandma’s house. Also upon us: all those topics we’re warned to avoid lest we incite an uncle and/or indigestion.

Politics, religion, finances, inflation, pandemics, facial hair, bad relationships, too-good relationships, diets, Jeffrey Dahmer, Twitter, how hot it’s been, and how to carve that turkey.

What’s a small-talker to do?  

I have a suggestion: serve up interesting facts about Agatha Christie. Slice them into diatribes. Sprinkle them around the dinner table just for fun.

Here are a few to get you started:

1.  1.   Agatha Christie loved to surf. I think that’s enough to start, end, or swerve any conversation, don’t you? But there’s more: Agatha Christie was a surfing pioneer, thought to be one of the first (if not the first) western women to practice standup surfing. She learned the sport while on a world tour in 1922 and “surfed splendid waves” in Hawaii and South Africa.

2.   2.  Agatha Christie also adored dogs. When Agatha was five, her American father gave her a Yorkshire terrier named George Washington (Agatha preferred to call him Tony). Perhaps her most beloved canine was Peter, a wirehaired terrier to whom she dedicated the Poirot mystery Dumb Witness: “Dear Peter, Most Faithful of Friends and Dearest of Companions, A Dog in a Thousand.” Peter also appeared on the cover of the first edition and in the mystery as intrepid Bob, who helped solve the crime.  


    3.   Agatha worked as a pharmacy dispenser during both world wars. She applied her knowledge to her mysteries, in which poison was her most-used means of murder. In real life, she stopped a head pharmacist from accidentally overdosing a patient. She hid her heroism by spilling the too-potent pills and crushing them under her shoe so as not to embarrass or anger her boss.   


4.   Twice, Agatha Christie spotted Poirot out in the world. Once, while having lunch at the Savoy in London and again on a visit to the Canary Islands. There’s a good topic of conversation or an escape from the table: Seen any fictional characters lately? Anyone up for a post-dinner stroll to look for Poirot?

 

5.     We have Agatha’s older sister Madge to thank for the mysteries. Madge bet Agatha she couldn’t write a detective story. Agatha sure proved her wrong! Agatha Christie remains the best-selling novelist of all time with over two billion copies sold. Raise a toast to Madge!  

6.      

        Even the Queen of Crime suffered social anxieties. Agatha Christie nearly missed a banquet in her honor because a hotel security guard failed to recognize her and turned her away. Before bumping into a friend, Agatha roamed the hotel’s halls wondering if she should just go home. Who else can relate? 

 

 

Readers, will you be gathering this holiday season? Do your plans include curling up with a good book, possibly an Agatha Christie?   

 

Whatever the season brings, I wish you health, happiness, and smooth conversations. But in case talk does sour, sneak off to the kitchen and mix up Agatha Christie’s favorite drink: Cream. Instructions: Open a container of cream. Pour into a large mug. Thin with milk (optional). Cheers!   

 


Ann Claire earned degrees in geography, which took her across the world. Now she lives with her geographer husband in Colorado, where the mountains beckon from their kitchen windows. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, gardening, herding housecats, and enjoying a good mystery, especially one by Agatha Christie. Online, you can visit Ann on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/annclaireauthor/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AnnClaireMysteries/) or check out her website for information on all her books and pen names at https://novelmystery.wixsite.com/books.

  Ellie Christie is thrilled to begin a new chapter. She’s recently returned to her tiny Colorado hometown to run her family’s historic bookshop with her elder sister, Meg, and their beloved cat, Agatha. Perched in a Swiss-style hamlet accessible by ski gondola and a twisty mountain road, the Book Chalet is a famed bibliophile destination known for its maze of shelves and relaxing reading lounge. At least, until trouble blows in with a wintry whiteout. A man is found dead on the gondola, and a rockslide throws the town into lockdown—no one in, no one out.

The victim was a mysterious stranger who’d visited the bookshop. At the time, his only blunders had been disrupting a book club and leaving behind a first-edition Agatha Christie novel, written under a pseudonym. However, once revealed, the man’s identity shocks the town. Motives and secrets swirl like the snow, but when the police narrow in on the sisters’ close friends, the Christies have to act.

Although the only Agatha in their family tree is their cat, Ellie and Meg know a lot about mysteries and realize they must summon their inner Miss Marple to trek through a blizzard of clues before the killer turns the page to their final chapter.

76 comments:

  1. I may pass on the cream drink, Ann, but I definitely enjoyed these Agatha Christie tidbits . . . .

    Although we will have our daughter and her family here for Christmas [grandbabies make Christmas extra-special!] , there will always be time for curling up with a good book . . . .

    Ann, I read “Dead and Gondola” on NetGalley and loved it . . . what a great start for your new mystery series. Congratulations!

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    1. Hi Joan, Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed Dead and Gondola. Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes for Christmas with your grandbabies--aw, that will be extra special!

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    2. Joan, when I saw the cream drink, I thought I'd enjoy it more with an equal amount of Baileys or Kahlua :-)

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    3. Now THAT would be really good, Julia!

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  2. I love this! I read all of Agatha's books decades ago and hadn't revisited them in years. However I recently read Lucy Worsley's AGATHA CHRISTIE: AN ELUSIVE WOMAN and was engrossed. Worsley's writing is beautiful and her perceptions, to me, seemed acute (despite her obvious dip into speculation about the infamous disappearance). Worsley's appreciation inspired me to get out some of my old paperbacks. I will also look for your new book! Congratulations!

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    1. I'm reading Worsley's book now too--it's so interesting. If you're looking for more non-fiction, John Curran's books about Agatha Christie's secret notebooks are great too. Plus I love to imagine the thrill of being John Curran and getting first access to look at her notes! Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Ann, wonderful tidbits! I had no idea Christie loved to surf. I recently did some research on women surfing in1920s California and was astonished to find that quite a few did, on long heavy boards, too.

    Congratulations on the new series, which sounds delightful.

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    1. Thank you, Edith! I've loved learning more about her. There's a book devoted to letters she sent home during her world tour and she raves about surfing. She surfed so much she arrived back home with an injured shoulder but no regrets. Yes, the boards sound heavy!

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  4. Congratulations on the new book/series!

    I had no idea that Agatha Christie was a surfer.

    I'll be doing the "gathering" when I attend the meal I'm invited to. But otherwise, not much else. I have time off starting from noontime tomorrow and I'll likely be using that time to work on catching up with some CD reviews that I'm behind on. Yes, I'll be doing some reading as well. I'll also hit my two regular weekly stops on Friday (long after the whole Black Friday crowds leave) to pick up CDs and comics.

    Other than the big meal on Thursday, the week is pretty much a standard kind of week for me.

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    1. Thank you, Jay! Enjoy your gathering and some relaxed days off--the best kind of holiday, I think.

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    2. Thanks Ann, I will try my best.

      Julia, I'm currently reading Joyce St. Anthony's DEATH ON A DEADLINE. I've got to read Jane Harper's THE DRY for the Mystery Book Club next month. I'm also hoping to read A KNIFE IN THE FOG by Bradley Harper and my advance copy of Maddie Day's upcoming Country Store mystery FOUR LEAF CLEAVER.

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    3. Jay, I loved The Dry. Hope you enjoy it too. I'm checking out the others you mention. Happy reading!

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  5. ANN: Great tidbits about Agatha Christie, and hello to a fellow geographer!

    I saw your book launch with Whodunit? bookstore and already had DEAD AND GONDOLA on my TBR list. Looking forward to reading about Ellie & Meg Christie in Colorado.

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    1. Grace, I have to say I'm astounded - I honestly thought "geographer" was some sort of 19th-century-only profession. I don't know why!

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    2. JULIA: I must admit that when I told people I was a geographer, most had no idea what that meant! So I changed my shtick to say I was a climatologist (or climate change researcher). They seemed to understand that better.

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    3. Hi Grace--yay, geography! I might double comment, but in case my first response doesn't come through, I was so happy to see you for the Whodunit launch! Thanks so much for helping me celebrate! Climatology is more understandable. I was more of a cultural geographer and tell people anthropology.

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  6. Congratulations, Ann. I have read little to none of the historic mystery authors' works, jumping right in to modern day mysteries just a few years ago. The premise of your new series sounds delightful and I'm off to look for it. Have a wonderful holiday!

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    1. Judy, I was the same way, and I honestly feel the best way to get into Christie's work for a newbie is to watch some of the many wonderful adaptations that have been made, either as movies or short series.

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    2. Thank you, Judy! When I started my series, I thought I knew Christie but quickly realized there were so many of her works I hadn't read. It's been fun to 'discover' them. Julia, I agree--I love the modern adaptations and spin-offs. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  7. Nice to meet you, Ann, and nice to be introduced to a new mystery and two series I'm not familiar with. I am fascinated by your story of Agatha Christie roaming the halls in a hotel instead of going to a banquet in her honor because she couldn't figure out a way to establish her identity. Or did she feel so devastated by not being recognized that her self-confidence was shot? I find the story quite mysterious, since I would have expected her to be made of sterner stuff. But I guess we all get attacked by doubt now and then, don't we?

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    1. Hi Kim, great to meet you! The story about Agatha Christie in the hotel really resonated with me too. Reading about her, she had sides that were bold, brave, and brilliant (obviously!), but she also described herself as shy and socially anxious. I imagine, at the hotel, she was already anxious about the banquet? Maybe hoping for an excuse not to go? Ha--that's just me, projecting my own feelings about big social events.

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  8. Thanks for all the Agatha Christie factoids! So fun! I read many of her books when I was a teenager and enjoyed them. Dead and Gondola sounds very Agatha-like.

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    1. Gillian, isn't it amazing that not only do her books continue to sell and sell, but that Agatha herself continues to be a source of fascination - forty-six years after her death. How many other authors can you say ring that bell?

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    2. Thank you, Gillian! It's been so much fun to learn more about Agatha herself. I feel like she's as entertaining a character as Miss Marple and Poirot.

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  9. Wow, I had no idea about any of these facts! My big question is how do you keep all your names straight? The new series sounds wonderful!

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    1. Ha! Thanks, Lucy! I do quiz my husband sometimes about who I am. Plus my writing names are all pen names so I have my actual name to keep track of too.

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  10. Who knew Christie was such an overachiever in so many other areas, as well as writing? Makes sense, though. Thanks for the info, Ann.

    I'm going to have to stop reading this blog. Not only am I compelled to buy books from more authors than just the Reds (daily), but now I'm going to want to read and reread all the Agatha Christie books. There is a serious hole in my mystery lexicon!

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    1. Karen, I have developed an addiction here, and everyone who contributes to this blog is an enabler. I share your disease and buy way too many books. Oh well, I do love you all!!

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    2. I was talking to my agent the other day and she said she uses Jungle Reds to get book recommendations. When we're adding onto agent's TBR piles, we're doing something extraordinary indeed!

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    3. Thanks, Karen! Oh, my TBR pile is towering and I blame the Jungle Reds too! :)

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    4. Karen, I feel the same way! I have discovered so many great authors through this blog, and don't have time to read everything. I try not to buy too many books, but the library doesn't have everything on my list. Problems of a privileged reader...

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  11. How marvelous to read such interesting things about Dame Agatha! I only hope I can remember at least one or two to share. I especially liked reading about her favorite drink. My eldest son would probably like that drink, too, but he would probably add a shot of maple syrup.

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    1. Judi - she wasn't all that plump, even in old age. She must have been in the habit of long walks around the grounds of Greenway is she was downing straight cream on the regular!

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    2. Thanks, Judi! I love the cream bit too. I forget which book now (maybe Midwinter Murders?) but she writes a foreword in a later edition rhapsodizing about a childhood memory of drinking straight cream. Sweet!

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  12. Ann, Colorado, mountains, bookstore, and a cat named Agatha? I'm in! I've read many of Agatha Christie's books, the Miss Marples and Tommy and Tuppence are my favorites. Looking forward to checking out your other series as well. Agatha as surfer: too cool!

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    1. I'm waiting for the series that has young Agatha solving mysteries while hanging ten, Flora!

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    2. Thanks, Flora! Agatha Christie was such a remarkable woman. It's too hard to choose, but I think Miss Marple is my favorite--I love the moment she wraps up a crime. Julia, yes, where's the young Agatha series? Wouldn't that be fun?

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    3. I think what I love most about Agatha Christie's creation of Miss Marple is that she's so unexpected as a character. Old lady, easily overlooked, dismissed. Smart as a whip and age doesn't slow her mind down one bit--like so many women I've had and have the privilege of knowing.

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  13. Hank Phillippi RyanNovember 22, 2022 at 8:54 AM

    Wow, thank you! I did not know any of this, and now I feel very Christie-knowledgeable.We would probably not all be together here today if not for her, and for that I am even more grateful.
    She saw Poirot? Did she write about that? And your book sounds wonderful.
    Happy preparation days, everyone, and so lovely to see you!

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    1. Hank, I took that to mean she saw someone who fit her image of Poirot, but I may be mistaken.

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    2. Well, now: There's a book just begging to be written, no?

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    3. Thank you, Hank! I may be repeating myself if my earlier comment appears, but isn't Christie amazing? I'm so thankful for her, especially for Miss Marple. As the story goes, she saw Poirot twice in real life--strangers, walking by (or maybe once on a boat). Amazing! Amanda, you're right--there's a story begging to be written!

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  14. Well, I’ve learned a lot today about Agatha Christie, and I thought knew everything about her that I needed to know! I’ve been a fan of hers forever. I read all her books a long time ago but I don’t recognize the title DUMB WITNESS. I forward to reading your new book, and your others as well.

    I’m going to NJ for Thanksgiving, to be with one of my sisters, and her kids. My brother-in- law died suddenly during the summer. My sister wants to do something different, so I’m not sure exactly what to expect. We spoke over the weekend, and she joked that she has more food choices available now, because her husband had been a picky eater. I’m happy that I’ll be with her and her young adult children.

    DebRo

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    1. Hugs to you and your sister, DebRo. Safe travels.

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    2. Thank you, Deb! Best wishes and safe travels. I'm sorry for your family's loss.

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    3. Have a great visit and a wonderful holiday, Deb!

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  15. Fascinating!! Who knew? Writing these down, intending to haul them out if Thanksgiving dinner conversations waft into tricky territory. ... And I wonder what it would be like to have Agatha herself at the Thanksgiving table? Would she like fresh or canned cranberry sauce? White meat or drumsticks? Where would she stand politically? Perhaps it's better not to know.

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    1. Hallie, you have to watch SEE HOW THEY RUN, if you haven't already. Dame Agatha makes an appearance, played by Shirley Henderson, who is absolutely perfect!

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    2. Hallie, wouldn't it be the best to have Agatha Christie at the table? She's my answer now to that historical-figure-you'd-invite-to-dinner question. Mmm...maybe still best not to bring up politics. Safer to keep to food, mysteries, and surfing. :)

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  16. Having ready Christie's autobiography, I knew about her surfing love, dogs, and her sister. I did not know about the social anxiety.

    It's one of my traditions to read HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS every year at this time.

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    1. Liz, what a great tradition! I'm adding that to my Christmas relaxation reading list.

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  17. Thanks for the Agatha trivia. I’ll see if I can slip it into the dinner conversation on Thursday. I recently read a collection of Christie’s Miss Marple stories and am currently reading Marple: Twelve New Mysteries which is a collection of Miss Marple stories written by 12 different authors. The Friends & Fiction Writers’ Block podcast interviewed two of the contributing authors, Alyssa Cole and Jean Kwok, if anyone is interested in more detail about the project.
    Adding Dead and Gondola to my list.

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    1. Thank you, Brenda! I'm looking forward to the new Marple stories! I'm saving it for a relaxing holiday read. I'm going to check out that podcast too. Thanks for the tip! Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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  18. I've been enjoying a Christie-filled fall, starting with The Grand Tour, the 2012 book of her letters, diary and postcards home--plus her photographs--of her 1922 year-long trek around the world with Archie and the British Empire Exhibition Tour; then of course, I re-read The Man in the Brown Suit, which was heavily based on her adventures around the Commonwealth; next Lucy Worsley's own narration of An Elusive Woman (yes, excellent) and finally the wonderful and welcome collection of NEW Miss Marple stories by a clutch of contemporary writers. Called Marple, but of course that's MISS Marple to you. And me.

    Steeped in Christie. Ahhh....

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    1. Hi, Susan. Ah, steeped in Christie sounds like the best kind of autumn! I might be double commenting (or more likely I failed to hit the right button earlier), but if you liked The Grand Tour, I recommend Come, Tell Me How You Live. It's her memoir of an archeological dig. Her character really shines through. In the first chapter she goes shopping for summer clothing off-season and rants about zippers. Ha!

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  19. Fascinating! Surfing. Who knew that was even a thing at the time.

    Congratulations on your latest. Looking forward to a cozy read while the snow falls.

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    1. Thank you, Kait! Isn't the surfing fact fun? A pioneer! Happy winter reading. :)

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  20. What wonderful tidbits about Agatha! Thank you! A few weeks ago, I stayed at the Old Cataract Hotel, where Agatha wrote Death on the Nile. Our trip leader tried to get us inside the very room where she wrote, but someone was staying there and chose not to share. :) Can't wait to read Dead and Gondola!!

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    1. Thank you, Barb! How amazing to stay in the Old Cataract! I want to see your travel shots sometime. :)

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  21. Your description of your latest book has me anxious to read it. What a great teaser!

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    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy it and have a happy holiday with lots of books!

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  22. Welcome to JRW, Anne Clare! And I recalled a few of these tidbits from Agatha's autobiography. When I read the Advanced copy of your novel, I thought that the name Christie was actually her first husband's name Archie Christie. If they are related, it is more likely they are related to her first husband who was not a kind person, as I recall.

    Her maiden name was Miller. I remember something from her autobiography that her father was said to be an "agreeable" person. It sounded like her father had good social skills?

    And I have a collection of the new Miss Marple mysteries (4) with the beautiful flower covers.

    Planning to read cosy books during Thanksgiving. It is going to be a quiet Thanksgiving this year.

    Diana

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    1. Thanks, Diana! True--it's just as well they're not related to that line of Christies! Her second husband sounded like such a lovely man. Oh and I love those beautiful flower covers. Enjoy your holiday and lots of happy reading!

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  23. Surfing? That will definitely stop any conversation. I'll have to remember that one.

    Congrats on the new book. It sounds great!

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    1. Thanks so much, Mark! I think that surfing bit is good for any conversation. :)

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  24. Ann, what a fun post!! I did not know about the surfing. I'm definitely putting Lucy Worsley's book--and yours!!-- on my TBR list!

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    1. Thank you, Deborah. Lucy Worsley's book is so much fun and informative!

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  25. Ann, your plot sounds very Agatha Christie. Who would manage to appear to solve the case? It sounds like a job for Poirot and Hastings to me. Your Christie trivia would have been wasted on my Louisiana in-laws. I remember sitting at a small table with my father-in-law years ago, grinning at each other while we kept silent. The talk at the big table was all about Louisiana politics and how Huey Long could fix things if he weren't so inconveniently dead, etc. We just ate and grinned.

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    1. Pat, I love that image of you and your father-in-law at the small table. Ha! Louisiana politics and Huey make for wild tales, at least. I'm an LSU grad :)

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  26. I am taking a break from getting the house straightened and cleaned for Thursday. It is not a job for the faint of heart. My house is practically tingling with delight that the old woman who lives here is finally paying it some attention. My most challenging and dangerous task will come after writing this post, clearing out the spare bedroom so that my son can actually sleep in there tomorrow night. I may not survive this task. But, I know when I sit at the dining room table with my grown children and my daughter's family, I will be so happy that it looks nice (well, better than when I started).

    Ann, I absolutely adore the cover of Dead and Gondola! And, I love the premise for the series and this story. So, I just ordered the paperback, and it will go in my Christmas Bag of Books I give myself.

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    1. Kathy, I feel for you and house tidying! Last year, we had a full house--and a house that hadn't been visitors-coming scrubbed since before the pandemic. I was exhausted, but, yes, once they all arrive it'll be wonderful. Have a lovely Thanksgiving and holiday season. I hope you enjoy Dead and Gondola. Thanks so much for ordering it and commenting here!

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  27. Ann, your new book sounds right up my alley, and I'm delighted to have even more titles to add to my TBR list! I just recently read about Agatha being a surfer, maybe in Britannica's One Good Fact email. It increased my already significant respect for her.

    On the subject of holiday drinks, I'll chime in with my fave - Strauss Organic Eggnog, Christmas in a glass!! Strauss is a Northern California dairy, and each November their eggnog hits the shelves of local markets. Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate, and Happy Thursday to all the rest!! ~Lynda

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    1. Thank you, Lynda! Wasn't Agatha amazing? Ohhh...that eggnog sounds great too. Makes me want to seek out a local variety. Happy Thanksgiving and Thursday to you too! :)

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