Snow Days of Mystery

“My chief dislikes are crowds, loud noises, gramophones and cinemas.”

I feel a particular kindredship with Agatha Christie. I too dislike crowds and loud noises. I’m not much for listening to loud music and even before covid movie theaters were hit or miss for me. I find that too often the movie volume is much too loud for my general comfort. But I am VERY excited for the upcoming release of “The Death on the Nile.” I’ve been waiting not so patiently for its release since 2020. I’m hopeful it will be successful so Kenneth Branagh will do movie Poirot movies. Personally I’m hoping for Halloween Party or Dead Man’s Folly, two of my favorite Poirot stories.  

We started this year with an immense 2 feet of snow and even 3 weeks later there remains drifts, and piles reminding us that it is still winter. The largest snowflakes I’ve ever seen, clumps as large as my fist fell from the sky. We spent 3 days without leaving the house, some of that time without power, some of that time with internet. Which I found helpful in staying on top of my reading goals. It’s easy to read when nothing can distract you!

Thankfully, we were never long with out electricity (an hour at a time) nor internet (about a day), so mostly a quiet week at home. AND I started my Christmas puzzle from my sister. Hopefully by next update I can attach a picture of my completed 3D Hogwarts puzzle. May the magic continue! 

So far I’ve read, “The Secret Adversary,” “Murder on the Links,” and “The Man in the Brown Suit.” Of the three, I must say Anne Beddingfield made “The Man in the Brown Suit” an exciting and compelling read. I read half of it in one sitting! But reading Agatha’s works in order, I can see the distinct similarities in her plotting thus far. No surprise both Poirot books, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” and “Murder on the Links,” have convoluted mysteries that only the best detective in the world could unravel. Both have a red herring character under arrest for the murder and need Poirot’s interference to clear them.

“The Secret Adversary” and “The Man in the Brown Suit” also had several similarities. First, and my favorite, are the plucky, adventure seeking, young heroines. Tuppence and Anne are the forward thrust of their stories. Their excitement is contagious even as they survive multiple near death experiences, reject multiple proposals, and fall in love. But let’s not forget the most compelling similarity, brown! 

In “The Secret Adversary,” Mr. Brown is the ultimate villain, a leader of a group of criminals whose identity is a secret, unknown to even most of his own gang. His invisible hand seems to be in everything, including a potential labor strike. In “The Man in the Brown Suit,” there is a similar individual that goes by the name of The Colonel, and his identity is mystery until the end. Is he the man in the brown suit? Did the man in the brown suit kill the woman in Millhouse? I was surprised to have another character strongly connected to the color brown and wondered if it was intentional on Agatha Christie’s part. It is such an ordinary and overlooked color to have such importance attached to it. 

The Secret Adversary – the origin story and first appearance of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. I had the distinct feeling that I had read this one before, though maybe it was as an audiobook that I listened to while falling asleep. Either that or my whodunnit radar was on point because I just knew that Sir James Peel Edgerton was not the sweet smelling rose he seemed to be, though perhaps the past few years of American politics has left me wary of all political characters. 

Murder on the Links – Poirot reappears, and is able to sleuth through the most convoluted of mysteries while pitted against Paris’ most formidable detective, Giraud. Lest there be any doubt that Poirot is the best detective in the world, Poirot puts Giraud in his place. As usual, Hastings is our guide through the mystery, and like any good sidekick misses some of the biggest clues, usually due to his eyes being too focused on the young women in this case. Hastings is such a lovelorn character, especially in Agatha’s early writings. He basically falls head over heels for any decent looking female in his age range. In “The Mysterious Affair at Styles,” he falls for both Mrs. Cavendish and Cynthia. Here, he falls for the anxious eyed Ms. Daubreuil AND the mysterious Cinderella. Poirot is right that if he kept his mind on the task at hand, he’d see more clues.

The Man in the Brown Suit- This is our first glance at Colonel Race, a character we’ll meet again. It is told primarily from the perspective of the plucky and adventure seeking Anne Beddingfield as she kind of falls into a mystery. After losing her father and becoming free to do as she pleases, Anne gets mixed up in a case of missing diamonds. Diamonds that could mean the undoing the villainous “The Colonel.” She finds her way onboard a boat to South Africa and ingratiates herself with a cast of characters full of intrigue. There are many near death experiences, and a rush to solve the mystery to save love.  I loved this one, it felt different from the other books far. There was much more adventure than sleuthing as compared to Agatha’s previous works, and a strong undercurrent of love that I’m surprised seems to run through much of Christie’s works. Knowing she later wrote romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott is less surprising the more of her I read. 

To celebrate this books, and to stretch my baking prowess, I baked a traditional Victoria sponge. It’s a delicious sponge cake with a buttercream (or whipped cream if you prefer) and strawberry jam filling between the layers. Unlike most American cakes, this cake is not frosted/iced on the the outside, but rather dusted with a small amount of powdered sugar. I chose this recipe from the BBC. I do have scale that made measuring very easy, but if you don’t have a scale, you can try this King Arthur Baking’s recipe.


200g caster sugar (you can either run granulated sugar in your processor or just use granulate sugar)

200g softened butter

4 eggs, beaten

200g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons milk

For the filling

100g butter, softened

140g icing sugar (powdered sugar), sifted

Drop vanilla extract (optional)

Half a 340g jar good quality strawberry jam

Icing sugar (powdered sugar) to decorate


  1. Heat oven to 375F. Butter 2 8 inch cake tins and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, eggs, flour, baking powder, and milk together until you have a smooth, soft batter.
  3. Divide the mixture between the tins and smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden and the cake springs back when pressed.
  5. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely
  6. To make filling, beat butter until smooth and creamy, then gradually beat in sifting icing sugar and a drop of vanilla if you’re using it.
  7. Spread buttercream over the bottom of one of the sponges. Top is with 170g of strawberry jam and sandwich the second sponge on top.
  8. Dust with a little icing sugar before serving. Keep in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.

Published by Aprile

An passionate reader, amateur baker, aspiring writer, and professional cat lady.

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