I rarely ever read a book in a day. I make an exception for Agatha Christie.
In fact, I spent such a good proportion of yesterday reading ‘Death in the Clouds’ that I thought there wasn’t going to be a post today; reading leaves me so ungrounded, distracted and airy.
But, as I tossed the book away and stretched the crick out of my neck at 11pm with a satisfied sigh – satisfied, though not entirely pleased (whodunnit was a character I was hoping it wouldn’t be, sir) – I knew exactly what I was going to write about.
When a French moneylender dies in-flight on the Channel Crossing, her murder seems impossible: she was surrounded by empty seats. But murder it has been – of that Hercule Poirot is certain, especially when police discover the murder weapon, a tribal blowpipe and poisoned dart.
But Poirot knows the case is not as simple as archaeological obsessions and petty loans; and his interests turn to three clues: a stray wasp, a second teaspoon, and a mysterious piece of luggage he will tell no one about.
(Summary by me)
Christie’s distraction techniques. She had a uniquely simple way of creating mystery, and this novel is no different in its depth of complexities. It’s the fact that her distractions possess distractions themselves – the red herrings ate red herrings, so to speak. And, whilst I saw into one level that Japp and French detective Fournier didn’t, the deeper level and the real clue(s) I missed.
Characters – including an eccentric mystery writer (is there any other?)! It amuses me to think that Christie is portraying and parodying herself there; after all, she did the same in the character of Poirot’s good friend, Ariadne Oliver. This just proves that every writer has the motive and opportunity to cameo themselves into their novels!
I read the book in a day to satisfy my curiosity – no mystery left unsolved, and all that – but I could have put it down around the middle chapters, which dragged a little, especially those not centred around M. Poirot.
Third person omniscient. I honestly have no issue with Christie’s style as a reader, but, now that I’m a writer, I can see that people would take issue with her broad, brash use of third person omniscient. Indeed, even in the very first chapter, we are treated to a go-around of the thoughts of each suspect prior to the murder. Later, there is a chapter called ‘The List’, which lives up to its title by being, almost entirely, comprised of a list. Using my amateur sleuth eye, I found it fascinating and sprightly: “Handkerchief (stained). Fountain pen (leaking).” but I can see why we are advised away from that sort of writing.
As much as I love Christie’s plots and tone, I wonder if she’d get a publishing deal with the business nowadays.
I’d never say no to reading an Agatha Christie novel – indeed, I’d definitely read ‘Death in the Clouds’ again, because of all its idiosyncrasies and unique twists. And Poirot is spectacular as ever! Most characters are vivid, the plot is sensible, yet fantastic – and, of course, it was the mystery that held onto me into the night.
“Agatha Christie! I was just talking about you the other day. I said ‘I bet she’s brilliant.’… What a mind! You fool me every time. Well, almost every time. Well…once or twice. Well: once. But it was a good one!”
I couldn’t find the exact video clip to the quote (which I happen to know off the top of my head like the Doctor Who and Mystery nerd I am), but here’s Ten getting excited at solving a mystery with Agatha Christie:
The Agatha Christie Reader gives a tidy review of ‘Death in the Clouds” #7th place.
Now to find the television/film adaptation (apparently broadcast before I was born)…
21 thoughts on “The Thrill of a Good Book”
I’ve only ever read And Then There Were None, but that was an awesome novel. It’s encouraging to hear the rest of Christie’s work is just as great.
And Then There Were None is brilliant, though I think Death in the Clouds trumps it. I grew up watching Suchet’s Poirot, so my heart goes towards more of the Poirot novels.
Which is the one where the narrator turns out to be the killer? I’d want to read that one as well. The best mystery novels are the ones with strange twists.
Um, not sure. You say narrator, but (as far as I know) Christie has written in third person, and, as I said above, this means that we do see from the POV of the murderer several times. Of course, we don’t know he/she is the murderer, which makes it all the more interesting (hence the ‘oh, I liked that character, but it turns out he/she was the killer…’)
The Mousetrap (stageplay) has one of my favourite Agatha Christie twists.
It’s called the Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and it’s narrated almost entirely by the murderer. Except you don’t actually find out he’s the murderer until the end. Before that you just thought he was Poirot’s assistant.
Oh woah the Mousetrap’s twist is great. Christie was really good at writing trick endings like that. Did you know she once almost got her husband framed for murder?
Ah, very interesting. I mean, I’ve seen the television adaptation of the Murder of Roger Ackroyd – twice – but I’ve not read the book…yet. I shall put it on my list. I’d be interested in the style mentioned in that Wiki page.
Really? 😮 I’m guessing her first husband, right? I can’t see why she would frame her second husband…. *slightly creeped out*
Yeah, see, when her first husband announced he was leaving her for another woman, Agatha was all ‘oh no you did-in’t!’
She actually faked her own death, set up the husband as the killer, and took a vacation. A week later she was spotted at a hotel by a fan and recognized, but by that point her husband had been arrested by the cops and everything.
She said she had amnesia and didn’t remember anything… I suspect her husband didn’t buy that excuse for a second.
I love murder mysteries with unique styles. That’s why And Then There Were None appealed to me so.
I mean, I knew about ‘the mystery of Agatha Christie’ where she disappeared. I don’t doubt she needed time away from her cheating husband. I just wasn’t aware that she would want to get him done in for it.
Ugh, even seeing Ten breaks my heart a little because I miss him so much. Can’t Matt Smith just regenerate back? Pretty please! I love in the clip when he says, “Not yet,” and clamps his teeth. Eleven is at times way too neurotic for me, like he needs his meds with his fingers always curling. I did like him better in series 5 & 6, but 7 is kind of meh for me.
But we’re talking about Agatha Christie. I really should read more of her stuff too. I think I’ve only read And Then There Were None too.
Haha, yeah. Sads. I like Ten for those quirks of his speech, his repetitions of ‘well’ and coordination between speech and action – I love that bit you mentioned, too! You can hear his teeth.
It’s weird that, even after two and a half series, I don’t know how to feel about Eleven. I don’t know what it is that I don’t like about him, but it feels like there’s nothing that defines him, except the odd hats and bow ties. But those quirks don’t work as much as Ten’s quirks.
To be fair, I’ve only read five or six of her books, so I can’t exactly call myself an expert.
I’ve been pondering on this since you wrote “I don’t know what it is that I don’t like about him.” Is it that he’s kind of bratty? Kind of selfish or self-centered? Plus he’s been written kind of mopey lately, and pathetic characters are often boring. I’m just doing a mental comparison of 11 with 9 & 10. Even 9 seemed more definable, don’t you think? I guess the Doctor doesn’t always have to whimsical like 9 & 10 were (each uniquely though). Maybe it’s Steven Moffat? I thought him taking over the series would be the best thing ever, but so far it’s been lackluster. There have been decent episodes, but nothing quite as good as what he wrote under Russell Davies. What do you think?
Hmm, I agree: Davies had the right mix of sci-fi and human emotion in his writing, whereas, I think Moffat tends to be overdramatic and TOO complicated. Yeah, I like complicated, but I think he might be trying to create contrived scenarios.
I agree with the start of your comment as well. My father recently made the comment “it’s becoming too soap-like,” referring to the fact that 11 gets possibly too attached to his companions and spends too long brooding over their absence. Like Rory and Amy… They all have to leave someday.
9 was the first Doctor I saw, so he might stick out in my mind for that reason – I think he also was, as you say ‘more definable’; he had more of a presence, a “I have to do this to save the world and sometimes it’s not quite right”. He was quite…grounded compared to the other two as well. He had the leather jacket, but that was really the only physical defining element – Eccleston used his voice and actions to make his Doctor.
“Soap-like.” Exactly. It just doesn’t feel as genuine as it did with 9 & 10. Interestingly enough my Whovian group has finally finished off Tennant and we watched the first episode with Matt Smith last night. 11 was better than he is now at the beginning of series 5. It was refreshing in a way, since series 7 is not my favorite. Matt Smith can be an interesting Doctor, I think the problem, unfortunately is Stephen Moffat. I guess it comes back to that old adage about complete power corrupting… I wonder if because no one says no to him anymore that things have gone too extreme.
Either way, thanks for fascinating conversation. 🙂
Isn’t it just! I love discussing Doctor Who. Because my dad likes sci-fi but not the touchy-feely-ness of shows, he has quite an objective opinion, whereas I’ve always leant towards being lenient with things I’ve seen…
I know exactly what you mean. Genuine is a good word to describe 9 and 10.
Hmm, maybe it is Moffatt, then, if Matt Smith has proved that his Doctor can be good. I remember I did quite like him at the beginning – the whole fish-fingers and custard thing is very Doctor Who – but something happened. I mean, I’m not against characters changing other characters, of course, but Rory and Amy changed him into almost a new personality. Talking of complicated with power, what did you think about River being their daughter?
I think my favourite series was two. There’s one episode early on where the Doctor is still getting used to his new self, and so is Rose, and then last human Cassandra goes and inhabits his body. It was comedy, sci-fi, serious ‘we might die’, and personal discovery all at the same time. Nowadays, there are rarely many episodes/plots that hold my interest as much as that and series 2.
(Sorry, that was a longer comment than I intended. I’ve got to stop writing them on Word first)
I haven’t seen any of the most recent series of Dr. Who, but I really liked nine, and it took me a while to transition to liking ten…I know that sounds pretty crazy. Once I transitioned, though, I totally loved him, and I’m still deciding on eleven as well, although he’s grown on me a bit.
As for Agatha Christie (had to get the Dr. Who speak out first 😉 ) I’ve also only read “And Then There Were None,” plus I listened to the audio version of a few of her short stories when I was a kid. There’s this one where a woman realizes she’s married to an axe murderer, and she knows he’s planning on killing her, but she manages to convince him she poisoned his tea and he dies of fright. I can’t remember what it was called or anything, but that plot was so well executed that it’s stuck with me twenty years later. I really should pick up some of her books…thanks for the tip! 🙂
That’s true. I was all “whoa, the Doctor changed into some rude-and-not-ginger strange guy,” but then I did love him. I guess I had the same reaction as Rose 😉
Yeah, And Then There Were None is great. I’ve read the playscript version as well, which has a slightly different ending. I’d like to see that one day.
That sounds a creepy plot… 😛
I don’t think it’s crazy at all. I was 100% in 9’s court and when they switched to Tennant I was extremely unhappy. I folded my arms and watched him poutingly, but he won me over pretty fast. 11 has yet to do much winning over. 11 is better earlier on though. Lately I’m bothered by him. I sort of wish he hadn’t signed on for series 8. Might be nice to get some new blood in there.
I agree to that!
That… is possibly the strangest book cover I’ve ever seen.
There’s a whole set of them done by the same artist commissioned by Christie. The Hallowe’en Party one has a carved apple that looks like a skull (or is it a skull that looks like an apple? 😮 )