At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie

"Inside, if this was the first time you had visited Bertram's, you felt, almost with alarm, that you had re-entered a vanished world. Time had gone back. You were in Edwardian England once more."

(This is the parlor at the Talbott Hotel in Chicago, IL)

I remember reading my first Agatha Christie book when I was ten years old. I may not have had much growing up in India but I never lacked the companionship of my very best friends - books. My father, whose limited schooling never deterred his love for reading, passed on this passion to both his daughters. While this was an instant passion of mine right out of the womb, my sister warmed up to this in her late teens and is as voracious a reader as my father and me. 

My mother taught elementary school when she was pregnant with me. They had announced that they were shutting down her little school, and the single best thing she could have done in that time of her life was to bring home half of its library! As a toddler, I was always surrounded by books and my interest in them was insatiable. I would read everything and there was no subject that was boring to me. We had books on literature, poetry, philosophy, western novels, detective novels, fiction, biographies, comics, art, and many more. And, I read them all - anything I could get my hands on. 

It was not uncommon for me to come to the dinner table with a book in hand, eat my entire meal without uttering a word, and return to my corner of the house without having lifted my nose out of my book :)  I have been known to smuggle a book to parties and weddings. 

Agatha Christie was one of those authors I read as a little girl and fell in love with. The little Belgian detective with the egg-shaped head and tiny, perfect mustache - Hercule Poirot. The lovable character Miss Jane Marple - a grandmother-type figure, sweet, unassuming old lady, who seemed to have a keen intelligence for mystery and often deduced things faster than the police could piece things together. 

Last week, during one of my jaunts through the aisles of Goodwill, I came across a pile of very old Agatha Christie novels that looked very much like the novels I read as a little girl. At $1 a piece, they were a steal! So, I picked up a few and proceeded to read one right after I got home.  

At Bertram's Hotel is set in London, where it appears as if time stood still and one had entered the parlor of a home in Edwardian England where glowing coal fires, tall wingback armchairs, buttery muffins, Indian tea, duchesses, clergymen, dangerous race car drivers, impressionable and rich foreigners, and criminal masterminds are all weaved together in this fascinating setting. 

Miss Marple was on vacation, and somehow happens to be a guest at this very hotel, when the disappearance of an absent-minded clergyman, who forgot the day of his conference in Lucerne, uncovers the center of a web of crime.  Agatha Christie describes the hotel in such detail that it takes on a life of its own, becoming an important character in the plot. Although it does not keep you at the edge of your seat, the stories are well-woven, and intriguing enough that you want to finish it to see if your deductions were, indeed, right :)

An enjoyable read.


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