1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 62, 63 and 64: Three Novels By Agatha Christi (Spoiler Alert!)

 

Murder On The Orient Express

 

Though the travelling season is generally slow, Inspector Hercule Poirot finds it difficult to get a spot on a train, for it seems that though the trains in the winter season are as close to empty as they can possible get, all the world has decided to travel on the same evening. And there lies the biggest clue, for Poirot insists that there is no such thing as a coincidence, and so, when one man turns up murdered, it becomes clear to the reader at once that everybody outside of Poirot is likely in on the murder together. The only surprise is that the superintendent and Poirot are not. Christie’s novels work on the assumption that there is no such thing as coincidence, but the fact that the train’s superintendent and Inspector Poirot both happen to travel aboard the Orient Express on the evening in which a murder plotted by a dozen people takes place, seems to be an inexplicable coincidence in and of itself. Still, the dialogue, character development and narrative make for a delicious read, and one is compelled to finish the novel just make sure that their intuition proves correct!

 

The Clocks

 

The narrative within The Clocks seems to provide more of a challenge than did Murder On The Orient Express, but also relies more heavily on coincidence, and Poirot’s presence is ever so slight, one would find themselves almost disappointed had the British spy and police detective who do most of the investigating didn’t prove to be as interesting as Poirot himself is. A young woman is called on assignment to take dictation from a woman, and finds herself the first witness at the scene of a murder which has taken within the home of a blind woman who happened to be out. A spy by the name of Lamb, looking for a soviet spy, runs into the screaming woman and the mystery begins to unravel. Shelia Webb, the young working girl on call, has questions about her parenthood, while Lamb is on the look out for a spy and an inspector Hardcastle is on the look out for a murdered. Are they all one in the same? No. And here is where the narrative again relies on coincidence. Shelia’s boss is an accomplice and sister-in-law to the murderer, who is neighbours with the blind woman, who turns out to be both the spy in question, and the long lost mother of Shelia Webb. The narrative would have left all coincidences behind had the blind spy been the murderess, but the fact that the two narratives are so intertwined, and that an accomplice unbeknownst to the facts, sends Shelia Webb to her own mother’s house, just makes up for far too many coincidences. Up through until the novel’s climax though, the novel is a treat to read, the investigators prove to be as interesting as any archetypical detectives on contemporary police drama, and the fact that they work with far less evidence than the science driven police dramas on television today makes the fact that they can still find solutions all the more impressive.

 

Elephants Can Remember

 

Gone are the cumbersome coincidences that hold back the narrative continuity of other Poirot novels, and in their place a far more compelling detective story whose conclusion does not appear immediately at the surface of the narrative, though as soon as mention of a twin is introduced the chronology of deaths as reported at first, come immediately to light, but the why behind the deaths are not known until the novels final chapter. Christie’s plot outline is working at its best in this novel, but the read, though still entertaining, doesn’t seem to carry the same appeal as The Clocks and Murder On The Orient Express, illustrating that it is as much about character as it is about plot when it comes to a good detective story. There is a passage early on in this work as well that left me a little unimpressed when one of Christie’s characters uses a pejorative ’racial’ slur to describe a dark shade of brown. Had racial/ethnic tensions played a role in the novel, I would have understood using such a heavy and jarring word, but as it stands, it had nothing to do with the narrative and her inclusion of the word really put me off to the work from the onset, and left a bad taste in my mouth for pages afterward.

 

Christie’s writing is more about problem solving than content. It is about the mystery and digging for the truth. It is about the riddle, not about themes or theory, though any good reader can bring interpretation to even the most poorly written texts. For me though her work is more like candy, to be enjoyed as a stylistic brain teaser, and not a weighty, post-modern challenge. We all need a break from the contemplative, philosophic work of literature from time to time, and Agatha Christie serves as a fun and refreshing break that is not without its own merits.

 

If you like this try: Raymond Chandler.

 

Up next: Tell All by Chuck Palahniuk

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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