Book Review : They Do It With Mirrors – Agatha Christie

This particular Agatha pick was not really a treat-read for me. It is not bad either. I suggest you pick this if you are looking for a quick read (say when you’re travelling). For once, this is my first Miss Marple mystery (I’ve always favoured Hercule Poirot’s adventures better). Although I’m a huge Agatha fan, I’ll just be straight honest with this review.

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1. The Plot

For the shared concern of a mutual friend, Mrs.Van Rodryck asks her dear friend- clever old Miss Marple for a favour to which she obliges. When Miss Marple reaches Stoneygates- a rehabilitation centre for delinquents, she instantly senses danger in the air. Two bullet shots, perfectly timed, are fired simultaneously under the same roof, killing an unexpected guest. This risks the life of her friend Carrie Louise further more as she is the most anticipated victim (being the heiress of a vast fortune). With confusing, bitter-sweet family ties and multiple suspects-each more or less a part of the family with justifiable motives of their own, the case gets complicated. How Miss Marple helps the police in revealing the actual murderer makes for an interesting read.

2. The Plus Points

  • The pace of the book is steady. Nothing is rushed into or taken too long to unfold.
  • The various characters introduced are realistic in their sketches.
  • The setting in and around which the crime takes place, is well described and easy to imagine.
  • Little relevant details are not left out. Instead, they are mentioned to the point.
  • Multiple suspects and their motives initially confuse you since every suspect seems to be a potential murderer – which is an excellent thing.
  • The victim is kind of unexpected which took me by surprise a little but that hardly matters.

3. The Pits And The Falls

  • I was not very impressed with how the plot unfolded. Basic and predictable.
  • The identity of the criminal did not come as a surprise to me. So many characters and yet your first guess hits bull’s eye?! Mysterious much? Not!
  • Some characters are pretty abrupt.
  • I found it a little boring to be honest. It was not one of those mysteries which tend to linger in your thoughts for a while and leave you wanting for more from the author. 

To infinity and back,

Maliha Taqui

Short Story #2 – The Memory Will Never Die!

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He woke up to the annoying snooze of the alarm on a chilly winter morning. Isn’t it vile to have been awakened when the most brilliant phase of your dream cycle is about to gain momentum?! Squinting, he reached out for the daisy-faced alarm clock bouncing insanely on the side table aligned to the wall next to his brown poster bed and put it to rest. It beeped a 10:30 AM. The alarm had been snoozing away for a good 2 and a half hours, he made a mental comment. He twisted and turned in his warm sheets trying to get back to the deep slumber he was so cruelly woken up from, but couldn’t.

His thoughts raced quickly in his mind, flipping through his working memory to recall what he had perceived just minutes ago. He was sure it was her. No. Yes it was her he reassured himself. She was standing beneath the blue sky, smiling at him, her arms wide open- beckoning to him and he had begun to move in her direction and was barely an inch away from her face when the vicious buzzing alarmed him. A brief smile spread across his face and disappeared as quickly as it had come. He lay there staring at the ceiling for a long time, reminiscing how her eyes, her beautiful face, her sweet words had cast an unbreakable spell on him and to his own surprise, a tear trickled down his right cheek and he involuntarily wiped it off as though embarrassed. Men are strong, he sighed. He looked at the daisy clock again and this time it struck a 12:05 PM.

Switching his gaze to the enormous window on the left, he noticed the golden beams attempting to tear through the smooth silk of the chocolate curtains. He was horribly late for work. Just as he consistently was for the entire week before and the one preceding it. I will remember to set the alarm for an hour earlier tomorrow, he made a mental note nonchalantly. He rose up unwillingly from his bed, rubbing his palms together softly, walked weakly towards the windows and drew the curtains apart. The bright light blinded him for a millisecond. The sun was high up on the horizon but the wind was still cold and dry.Quietly contemplating his thoughts, he soaked in the warmth of the sun. His handsome face shone like a pearl in the golden beams but if one looked at him with more concern he would point out that it was studded with sorrow.

He recalled his last winter with her- it was one of the best winters of his life and her presence had added a beautiful meaning to it. He had fallen in love with her perks- he adored how she rose into fits of rage when he didn’t make it to dinner on time citing work issues, her uncontrollable laughter when he humored her through his silly faces and bad jokes, her endless faith in him, her innocent dreams of riding the rainbow on a unicorn, her too-much-for-her-age wisdom and advise he could never do without, the way she ridiculed him when he sang like a wounded moose, the way she passionately read to him and the way she dozed off when he read for her on frozen days like these, how she snuggled upto him when she felt blue and instantly lightened up with chocolate ice cream in her stomach, or how she comforted him with her smile when he was sad and the way she lit up his day just by being a part of it. He could write a book with umpteen sequels on her-  that was how much he knew her, that is how much he loved her.

It was 1:30 PM now. He hadn’t showered for days he realized. He entered the king sized bathroom and the hot tub. As he showered he loosened his reigns over his tears and they came gushing through his eyes- hot and endless. For the first time in many days, he found his emotions running him down. He made no effort to fight the running stream- he just couldn’t. It was all too much to come to terms to- his loss. The past weeks had gone by struggling to cope with it but today there was no struggle. His throat felt dry and his stomach was in knots- he couldn’t bear it no more and he let out a piercing cry. And wept till he could cry no more.

At half past two, he came out of his room wearing the gray tee shirt she had gifted him on the Christmas of last winter and a pair of blue denim jeans. He refused to part from it on days that he stayed indoors, avoiding all possible social contact. He headed straight to the room on the right as he climbed down the spiral staircase. He stood near the door gaping at the unkempt room that belonged to his daughter. He picked up the mess as he walked in, frowning and murmuring to himself, “She wouldn’t have liked this mess at all. At all. At all,” as he went about this chore. He then came to the desk laden with piles of untouched homework and books against the yellow wall and could not help but take a look at the pictures hanging on the wall.

Yellow was his wife’s favourite colour. “Yellow was her favourite colour,” he remembered. Staring intently, he took the picture with the thickest frame off the wall and studied it. The faces in the photograph were smiling- he, his cute little daughter clutching onto his arm and his pretty wife. How he longed to see her lovely face again. He knew that he could not. For she was far out of his reach, beyond anybody’s reach, up above in the Heavens watching over him- she was his guardian angel now. Her last words had been “He is the best man in the whole wide world and you were so wrong about him,” to her estranged mother and “I always had a lovely time with you Daddy. I love you,” to him, as she lost her battle to a terminal illness. His fingers moved over his daughter’s face in the picture and he sighed in muffled pain, “I love you Sarah. Daddy misses you. Your memory will never die!”

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The End.

To infinity and back,

Maliha Taqui

Short Story #1 – The Assassin

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Ten short quick steps brought him to the other side of the room. There was a sound of breaking glass. In a moment he had jumped out of the window. The window, Clarke realized, opened into an empty street. Another bullet missed his right ear by a mere inch. He got on his feet, brushed his dark suit , glanced at the mafia men over his shoulders insanely firing at him from the window above and dodging the rain of bullets, he disappeared round a corner. He would now scurry to the docks where his ferry awaited him.

The life of Clarke Davies, better known by the code name – Agent 21, was a journey that imperiled his own life and seemingly of those associated with him. Once an assassin is deemed habituated to killing, there are not many options- how could his existence be facile?! The way he mercilessly butchered this man an hour ago, was in his estimation the most vicious murder he had ever committed. Clarke undertook all his gruesome missions under the cloak-name Agent Twenty One. Back in London, his remaining family was blissfully unaware that their man of the house  who they unconditionally loved, was in all truth, a brutal, ruthless murderer (a.k.a- a hit-man).

Davies provided services to a secret agency of the underworld, for wages enough for an entire generation of his family to lead a fine life of luxury and benefits- but the monetary gains never seemed to make any difference to him. The Agency was headed by a very powerful man, Clarke had heard but even after working for him since five long years, he was not faintly acquainted with his boss. He received details of his gory adventures in mysterious packages delivered at his home at odd hours after nightfall, and he had to set off on his enterprise on the fixed date and hour leading him to prevaricate to his unsuspecting hemiplegic father and a widowed sister.

Clarke wasn’t in the least bit like this before- he had been a happy chap, living a normal and a free life but a heart-rending, soul- wrenching event changed him, inducing in him the spirits of hatred and vengeance for all those who were responsible for the anguish he had undergone. His thirst for revenge brought on his record, five appalling murders. Taking advantage of this vulnerable and vengeance-driven indomitable man, the Agency Head compelled him to sign the contract and in return promised to provide him ‘safety’ from the Law. Signing the contract was inevitable those five years back since there was another underlying threat to his family posed by none other than his boss. Hoping that his new job might guarantee the safety of his family, he decided to never look back.

Hence, five years into the future, everyone in the underworld  identified him as Agent 21- an accomplished rifle shooter, effortless with ballers and a fearless Assassin. 

Clarke reflected on his life in the past five years, as he kept running ahead of and dodging the mafia men who were following him like mad bulls. He was suddenly tired of this life- he felt sick on seeing his blood-stained hands which had mercilessly taken dozens of lives- some innocent, some cruel. The men chasing him worked for a mafia don who he had recently put to permanent sleep. The murder scene refused to fade away from his memory. He had axed the head of the man before his family- the helpless innocent faces for the first time in five years melted his frozen heart. The weeping frightened eyes of the Don’s youngest daughter reminded him of his own son who was slain years ago by men akin to Clarke in their actions. He realized the malice of his deed as he turned a corner and reached the docks where his ferry waited for him. Two short jumps and he would be in his ferry and make his escape from the mafia men.

To the astonishment of the man waiting for him in the ferry, he suddenly stopped running. He came to terms with the fact that the life as an assassin never brought him peace, that it made him less of a human every passing day, that revenge was not sweet and murders could never be justified- neither his wife and son’s murders five years ago nor the murder of that little girl’s father this very evening. As he opened his eyes now filled with tears, the boatman of the ferry signaled him to jump in. He breathed a heavy breath, nodded his head side ways, turned to face the mafia men (now advancing towards him even more quickly), raised his left hand back so as to signal the ferry to be off. When the motor inside the ferry began to throb, it faintly disguised the sound of a dozen bullet shots that pierced the body of Clarke Davies.

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The End.

P.S. – This was written way back in 10th standard by me but i have altered a few details.The main lead of this story is roughly inspired from a character in a video game I used to enjoy playing a lot when young. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Appreciation or criticism is welcome in the comments sections. (:

To infinity and back,

Maliha Taqui