Despite having grown up watching the Inspector Morse TV series with John Thaw and Kevin Whately I realised I’ve never actually read any of the books. As it’s actually hot enough in the UK to feel like a proper summer it tends to mean I end up reading more and nine times out of ten it’s a detective novel so it felt like a good time to see how the books compare. My parents ave the complete set so I decided to start at the beginning and so read The Last Bus to Woodstock, which was first published in 1975.
I’m not sure how popular the Inspector Morse series is outside of the UK, or even in the UK, any more as there hasn’t been a new episode in over 15 years and it’s pretty much only shown on the digital ITV channels as repeats, though it is available on the ITV player if you live in the UK and want to watch some. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a detective series based on these books by Colin Dexter. It’s based in Oxford and the main characters, Morse and sergeant Lewis, tend to end up with the more unusual murders. The kind that need some different ideas and only really make sense when explained at the end. They’re fairly quiet, as far as murder mysteries can be, and there’s lots of visits to pubs and conversations rather than fast paced action sequences and violence.
I’ve already reviewed the first two Death in Paradise books based on the characters from the BBC TV series and by the show’s creator Robert Thorogood. This third book, Death Knocks Twice, was published last year and I’ve been meaning to read it but not quite got round to it until recently.
If you haven’t heard of the TV series this is based on it’s a similar style to Agatha Christie stories in that there’s a murder that seems impossible, often a locked room is involved, and a group of detectives in Saint Marie police station, a fictional Caribbean island, have to work out how it happened. The lead is a British detective in Richard Poole who has some unusual ways to solve the case. This time it’s a murder that looks like a suicide with no obvious motive. As the story unfolds pretty much every member of the family that lives in the estate where the murder happened becomes the main suspect so it keeps you guessing to the end.
I’m not sure how popular George Gently as a TV series has been outside the UK but it was a fairly popular series that finished last year. It’s a detective show set in the 60s which revolves around Inspector George Gently (played by Martin Shaw) and his sergeant Bacchus (who isn’t in the books). I’ve loved the show and didn’t realise it was even based on a series of books until recently and, when I saw one in the library, I had to read one and see how it compared.
It seems like a lot of TV shows are based on books and it’s very rare for me to actually like both versions. There are often so many differences that one or the other stands out as better to me, whether it was the first version I saw or not. The main difference here, that I can see from one book anyway, is the lack of Bacchus (played by Lee Ingleby). I had read before finding this book that the character of George Gently himself was very different but I found that I could imagine the TV version when reading this. Maybe because this book is around the twentieth book in the series of forty six (if I’m remembering that number correctly) so he may have mellowed compared to what I’ve read on the character.
This review is about the book, I just thought that it would be worth doing a bit of an introduction including the TV show as that’s how I found the book in the first place and I think it may be the more well known incarnation.
Another Agatha Christie book, this is from a series of ten that Penguin published that she chose herself as favourites. I already reviewed Death on the Nile, another from this series, and this has the same green cover that the Penguin Crime books do. It’s The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie, a book of twelve short stories about Hercule Poirot. Each one is inspired by one of the Labours of Hercules, the classic book about the Greek myths of Hercules.
This edition was published in 1955 (it’s the reprint, he original Penguin was in 1953) but as it’s one of the more well known Agatha Christie books and part of the Poirot series it has been published many times over the years. Hercule Poirot is one of Agatha Christie’s more famous characters and there are TV adaptations of all of the stories, though I don’t remember all of these being made. Each of the stories is short, ranging from around 15 to 30 pages, and covers a wide range of mysteries from dog kidnapping to murder.
Title: Death on the Nile
Author: Agatha Christie
Year written: 1937
Publisher and year: Penguin Books, 1953
ISBN Number: Pre-dates ISBN numbers, later versions will have them but there are so many I can’t list them all
I have always loved watching Agatha Christie books that have been turned into TV shows or movies, especially the David Suchet Poirots, but I have never seemed to get on with reading her books. I don’t know if it was that I picked bad ones to try as a first by her or there was another reason but I’ve tried a few times to read them and given up part way through. This summer I decided to read some of the ones we have in our bookshelf and, as I know this story well though I couldn’t remember who did it to start with, I thought it was a good place to start as I knew I enjoyed the story and knew Poirot as a character. It is hard to read these without imagining David Suchet’s Poirot speaking in my head and walking around the boat.
This copy of the book pre-dates the ISBN system but it’s been published so many times in a lot of languages so I think you should be able to find it somewhere near you in a second hand book shop or online, I’ve found this exact copy for around £4 despite being the first print of the first penguin release, so they’re around and cheap if you want to pick it up or your library should be able to get it I’d expect, it may depend on how popular she is as an author in your country.