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Sir Thomas Legge said: “Damn it all, Maine, somebody must have killed 'em.”
“That's just our problem, sir.”
“Nothing helpful in the doctor's report?”
“No, sir.”
I'm getting a bit bored with Lovejoy as my bedtime reading and might give Agatha Christie a try, working scientifically through her books in order of popularity until I get tired.

I went through an Agatha Christie phase when I was about 13 and had read And Then There Were None at that time. It's quite far from the normal format of murder mystery: ten people on an isolated island (whose name varies with the edition of the book), all invited because of a fatal incident in their personal past, are bumped off one by one. One of the ten must be the murderer; but who? The solution is just barely credible in the context of the story (requires some impressive good luck from the murderer, and failure to observe some obvious clues from his victims). But it is tautly constructed, and must have been very appealing when first published in late 1939 - no mention of the imminent war, but the previous war's shadow lies across all the characters.

The book is of course notorious for the racism of its original title. It's interesting that the two characters, who become the (largely sympathetic) viewpoint for the climax of the story proper, are also the most obviously racist - one of them has explicitly carried out a racist multiple murder as a colonial officer in Africa, the other is the only person to defend him. But it's also interesting that the murder confesses to inflicting "prolonged mental strain and fear" on "the more cold-blooded offenders" who die last, so the author's message is ambiguous. There's a much less ambigous anti-Semitism directed at a minor character, which is not queried in the same way.

I shall persevere with this project. Murder on the Orient Express is next, and I haven't read it or seen any of the screen adaptations (though, thanks to the spoilers generally abounding in popular culture, I do know whodunnit).


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 21st, 2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
Orient Express is probably my favourite of the Christie novels but from immediate recall all the ones you've got coming up are good ones.
Jul. 21st, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
For some reason I have never read any Agatha Christie novels but I know the twists to loads of them, including this one (I think). They are all twists that I can imagine being very exciting when they were revealed first.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 04:57 am (UTC)
We've been avoiding the books so as not to spoil the wonderful lush BBC productions. Does Christie spend much wordage on setting and such, or does she like Jane Austen, writing for her peers, assume that everyone knows what sort of houses and clothes everyone has?
Jul. 22nd, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
I listened to And then there were none as an audio book when I was recovering in hospital at the age of 19 from an RTA. I was being weaned off of morphine (and the horrible dreams that brings) after some extensive injuries. As such, no book has ever scared me so much.

My favourites are; The Moving Finger, The Body in the library and Evil under the sun. I was disappointed by Endless Night.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 07:25 am (UTC)
I too went through a Christie phase in my teens. I was as much an obsessive completist then as now, but I think there's a few I haven't read. Can't remember much about them now.

I occasionally think about a re-read, but a) time and b) I'm afraid I'd be disappointed & it would spoil the memories.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 11:03 am (UTC)
Adam Roberts wrote a interesting appreciation of this book: "This is not to absolve Ten Little Niggers of its horrible title, or Christie's work generally of its ubiquitous though low-level racism. On the contrary; it is to highlight the way that this novel — not to labour the point, but a book published in 1939 — is precisely about an ingenious though sadistic plot to isolate a number of clever, mostly affluent but fundamentally wicked people on an island, and dispose of them."
Jul. 22nd, 2013 12:57 pm (UTC)
I love Christie because of how it puts me right in the mind set of her crowd (or the kind of people she knew about) so well. It's often racist, sexist etc but I find it interesting when it isn't - when someone or some groups opinions are less blinkered than others... Or when the wars get mentioned - I find those throw light on them apart from the drier historical perspectives..

But then I have a soft spot for detective stories written from before the first world war to after the second...come to think of it, school stories from around then too. And SF..
Jul. 22nd, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
I was terrified by the film version of "Murder on the Orient Express" when I was about 12. My sister collected Christie books and it was several years before I could bring myself to read them.

We've just watched the episode of "Red Dwarf" where Holly asks Lister to erase his memory of the novels of Agatha Christie so he can read them all again.
Jul. 24th, 2013 07:59 am (UTC)
I was confused by your reference to the racism of the original title. It took me some hours to work out why. In North America the original title was "Ten Little Indians".
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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