Christie lovers will revel in this comprehensive, authoritative book.



A generous and meticulous biography of the legendary crime writer.

In a book originally published in England in 2008 as Agatha Christie: An English Mystery, Somerset Maugham Award winner Thompson (The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters, 2016, etc.) offers an affectionate take on the beloved British mystery writer. Thompson calls Agatha Christie (1890-1976) an “entirely private person” who loved to write. As a young girl living a privileged life with servants on the English coast, she published a poem in a local newspaper and never stopped. Her output was prodigious. She wrote her first mystery, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (in which Hercule Poirot—“unreal, unbelievable, yet mysteriously alive”—makes his first appearance) in 1916, after her sister said, “I bet you couldn’t.” After it was published in 1920, Christie published novels, plays, and stories, including the “obviously autobiographical,” pseudonymous Mary Westmacott books, virtually every year. Thompson writes that Christie became a better writer “by degrees. By intelligence; by instinct; by confidence; by courage.” The author is unquestionably a fan of Christie’s works, which she knows intimately, discussing them in a somewhat reverential tone, but she also admits that Christie wasn’t always “at her best.” Christie’s “dazzling” and “elegantly” structured novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) is “exquisite.” Five Little Pigs (1942) is a “masterly piece of writing.” Thompson has a penchant for mixing the biography with the works, quoting extensively from them to help reinforce her discussions of events in Christie’s life. She is excellent with her almost novelistic, day-by-day accounting of Christie’s famous disappearance in 1926 when she was distraught after learning about her first husband’s affair with another woman. She made the reporters covering the story “look silly. Now she would suffer for it.” Thompson admits Christie “probably was something of a snob” and a “writer first, mother second.”

Christie lovers will revel in this comprehensive, authoritative book.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-653-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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