My mother traveled to Europe when she was young and brought back a pile of Agatha Christies from England. I remember reading those fragile books, their pages browned, their spines crackling apart. I fell in love with Christie and re-read the books many times. As an adult, I find Christie mysteries incredibly comforting. I’ve had a full two weeks off for the holidays and it’s been glorious. I had some challenging books to read, but decided to read a slew of Agatha Christies instead. I re-read most of her short story collections and then rooted around Amazon to see if there were any novels I hadn’t yet read. I discovered two.
The first book was Three Act Tragedy. Like all Christies, it’s puzzle/plot-driven rather than character-driven. The story features the usual excessive number of characters, whose names are already slipping from my mind. The novel starts with the baffling death (natch) of an innocuous pastor at a cocktail party. There is seemingly no reason to murder him and there is no evidence of poison or anything else in his drink. His death is followed by several other murders, none of which seem to be connected to the other. Observer Mr. Satterthwaite and famed detective Hercule Poirot team up with two of the party guests to discover the how’s and why’s. The book moved at a brisk pace and had a satisfying ending.
The second book was Lord Edgware Dies. This features Poirot with his faithful, dopey sidekick Hastings. An odious man is killed with a knife to the neck and there are suspects a’plenty. Disguises, drugs and grand theatrics ensue. One of the more unpleasant aspects of this otherwise serviceable mystery is a scattering of Asian and Black racism and anti-Semitism. This is not uncommon in Christie novels, unfortunately, though I suppose it is a true reflection of her views. She is obsessed with pale, fragile heroines with huge limpid eyes, unless she’s describing hearty girls of strong English stock. Throw in a doctor, a commander or two, a young rake, and a hale man of sport and you have a mystery. This one was harder to figure out than the previous one and it had a great ending. One of the best I’ve read in a Christie novel.
I’ve created a robust list of books to read for CBR 14, but I’m glad I started easy. It’s like an appetizer for more complex dishes to come.