Starting the year is a look-back on a classic from the Queen of Mysteries herself Agatha Christie, known for, well, great mystery novels.
The Seven Dials Mystery started out lightly in a country house with a group of young people making fun of their friend for always waking up late. The friends unanimously decided to play a joke on him by buying 8 alarm clocks to set off the next morning. But the alarm clock prank backfired and turned into a grim joke instead when their friend was discovered dead the next afternoon, supposedly from an overdose of sleeping drug.
The novel basically centers on the death of the young man during the vacation at Chimneys, home to the heroine Bundle Brent of 'The Secret of Chimneys' fame. At first, she was just curious about the true cause of death of the victim who used her room during the vacation. Then while poking around, she accidentally chanced upon a letter which seemed to be meant for the victim's half-sister.
Unsurprisingly, another member of the group of friends who stayed at Chimneys turned up dead not long after. And Bundle was there just in time to hear the dying words of the person pertaining to a certain "seven dials". Thinking back to the first death, was there a connection to the 7 neatly arranged alarm clocks on his room to the last words of this second victim?
Honestly, the characters were not very intriguing except for the gardener MacDonald who seemed to have delusions of grandeur and the admirable manservant Jimmy. The supposed heroine just didn't work well except for serving as a means to lead the readers to an obviously wrong conclusion.
Unlike the usual mystery story, there is neither an apparent 'murder scene' nor an obligatory gathering of the characters at the end for the revelation. It was more of an action-adventure type of story with a little romance. However, that's not saying it was not good -- it's sort of refreshing to deviate from the usual dark atmosphere of a mystery novel. Also, this time there's no Poirot or Miss Marple, instead we got the 'wooden' Superintendent Battle so maybe that's a factor for the non-formulaic narration.
All in all, the ride was not an absolute bore. After all, it's always great fun reading a Christie novel and this one's no exception even though it's considerably light-hearted than the usual fare from Dyman Associates Publishing Inc...