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Friday, 27 June 2014

Miss Marple and Shoko

Ok, so I am 35 and I have never read the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie before. In all honesty, I only read my first Agatha Christie novel, The Mystery of the Blue Train, last year, so I am a late starter, considering that she has been a mainstay of family bookshelves my entire life!

It has been almost a year since I read the first Miss Marple book, Murder at the Vicarage, when I decided to start reading them in order. But then, I had other things to read and I kind of left it... However, this year, I am determined to do better.

First, I read the second Miss Marple Novel, The Thirteen Problems.
The first chapter of this one, The Tuesday Night Club, started life as a short story in a magazine. A group of friends gather together in an author's aunt's drawing room and begin discussing mysteries. Each tells a tale and the other's try to guess the solution. They are rather surprised when Raymond West's elderly spinster aunt, Miss Jane Marple, is far and away the best guesser.

The remaining chapters mainly follow a similar style, where we are in a third person pov situation at a dinner party conversation, where someone relates a mystery, with the exception of one actual crime. None are particularly in-depth or all-consuming, but they are all good. They are mysterious mysteries which no seemingly obvious answer, where everyone else guesses wildly more and more random solutions until Miss Marple puts us out of our misery and explains, usually confirmed by the narrator of each mystery! 

The solutions are neat, but not contrived, and overall, I gave it 4/5 stars.

Second, I read the third Miss Marple novel, The Body in Library.
Ok, apparently Agatha Christie wanted there to be a body in the library, but it had to be an ordinary, unassuming kind of library, and a very inappropriate body. It is obvious that she lived in a different time, personal libraries are far from ordinary in modern homes!

She managed though, it's 7am when the Bantry's are awoken to the news that there is a dead woman that no-one recognises, lying on the hearthrug of the Colonel's library. Naturally, suspicion will fall on the Colonel, and Mrs Bantry has a plan, by enlisting the help of Miss Marple, she can discover the real murderer and prevent the village tabbies gossiping about the Colonel and giving both him, and by association her, the cold shoulder.

No, I didn't get whodunnit (I had three suspects, it was none of them - but then, I NEVER get it right!), but again, the solution was neither rushed, nor contrived, it FIT. The clues Miss Marple references in her explanation were right there, and pointed out as the plot moved along. I gave this 4/5 stars too, but I may have been overly harsh... I'd have gone for at least 4.5 if they allowed half stars on Goodreads!

This takes this year's tally up to 23/52... so am currently only 3 behind, as it's week 26 now! Girl child has read 271 books ever... and was gloating that that is more than my annual tally... I was tempted to point out the difference, but then I counted, and she has read 90 books just in 2014 - so far... decided against pointing that one out!

So that's Miss Marple... what on earth is Shoko?

As you may have noticed, there's a football world cup going on... in case you missed it, England gave a disappointing performance, resulting in them being knocked out at group stage, along with Italy, Spain and Portugal. But, as is quite popular, beloved's workplace ran a sweepstake. Everyone chips in a set amount (usually a quid), pulls a team name out of the proverbial hat, and the winner gets the pot of funds. However, beloved's workplace, wanted to be a bit different. So, everyone was expected to make food from the country they pulled out. Beloved got Ghana. Neither of us have had any experience of Ghanaian food, so a googling was in order. We decided against trying to source goat meat, although one of my colleagues assures me there's a very good butcher quite near to the office that sells it, and we made a beef and spinach stew called 'Shoko', some 'jollof' rice and plantain chips.

It took over 4 hours to make the night before he took it into the office, but apparently the Shoko went down very well. The jollof was claggy and not entirely as pleasant as we'd hoped, and the plantain chips didn't last overnight too well, they went soggy... ick! But we gave it a bash. Alas, beloved didn't take photographs, he intended to, but he forgot and then it got eaten... never mind. I genuinely have no idea how close to authentic it was, I found all of it very spicy, but beloved (who likes spicier food than I do) said that it was pleasant, rather than spicy.

Anyway, even if you haven't noticed the football world cup, you might have noticed wimbledon... lots of people playing tennis, which I like. So, I am away to watch some more of 'today at wimbledon', before preparing for my walking club tomorrow (Ellesmere Port to Chester along the canal, not an epic, but should be nice if the weather holds out)... have a great weekend, read something you enjoy and eat something different! 
 

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