2008: 208-215. Eight more Agatha Christie novels

“Fasten your seatbelt, please.”  The diverse passengers in the plane were slow to obey.

~First Line of Passenger to Frankfurt

Eight Novels by Agatha Christie

Ok, I need to power through these seven books, or I will NEVER finish my 2008 blogging.  I read eight Agatha Christie novels in a row, including the absolute worst book she ever wrote.

Passenger to Frankfurt, Agatha Christie

Ok, this book is terrible.  Terrible, terrible, terrible.  The only excuse I can make for it is that it was one of the last books she wrote, and she was an older lady when she wrote it, but seriously, this book is NOT good.*  It is about a master plan to take over the whole world by a group of conspirators that (might) have something to do with the Nazi’s and something to do with 1960’s & 70’s youth movements.  And there is a romance that starts when the young lady convinces the hero to switch places with her on a plane (yes, evidently they look enough alike that this will work, which frankly makes their romance sort of creepy), which isn’t that bad, except that it sort of disappears half way through the book only to return at the end.  And there is a scientist who gave up science because he had invented a mind altering substance worse than the bomb (see, it makes you happy but it takes away your self) and I don’t know what else.  The real problem is that there all these strands that in no way cohere into a whole that makes sense.  I usually think her spy novels are sort of crap (though some are fun), but this one takes the cake.  I could barely finish it.

Although, to be totally fair, there was one part that was memorable - there is a villainess, an ancient obese wealthy German countess who is such a striking and crazy figure that you wish she’d been put to purpose in some book that made a lick of sense.  But otherwise, this is book is worthless.

*And yet, that excuse is no good, because it was published before Nemesis, which is quite good.  Sorry, AC.

Date/Place Completed: 12/15/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project

 The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories, Agatha Christie

This is a collection of short stories that were previously uncollected and published recently (c. 1997).  Some of the stories are actually just slightly different versions of other published stories - there is a “Mystery of the Spanish Chest” that I know I read in a different version as “Mystery of a Roman Chest” or something (I can’t remember what nationality) - same story, different chest.  But the other stories are quite good - “The Edge” is a nasty little story about a woman blackmailing the husband of the man she loves, and how that action ends up ruining her own life, and we get a new Harley Quin story with “The Harlequin Tea Set” (and I do always like those).  A fun little collection.

Date/Place Completed: 12/17/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project

A Murder is Announced, Agatha Christie

This is a Miss Marple novel, with a clever premise.  The local paper states that a “murder” is announced at Little Paddocks (the home of Miss Letitia Blacklock), and that all her friends are invited.  Assuming this means a game of murder (and being generally nosy) all the local families show up.  Only there is a real murder that day, and it turns out that Miss Blacklock knew nothing of the announcement.  Who set up the scheme that led to death - and who is responsible for the deaths that follow?  A pretty good mystery (with a very clever solution, and one that Miss Marple would be particularly good at solving, by which I mean one that requires an old lady to know about other old ladies).  My only complaint is that there is a character who is a refuge from postwar Europe who everyone treats shockingly.  She is supposed to be a bit of a braggart, but for everyone to casually refer to one of those typical “Mittel European” types when its clear that she lost her whole family in the war (maybe even in the camps?), seems pretty cruel...  The whole racism/cultural chauvinism aspect of these books is such a drag - its subtle enough that you don’t notice it in anyone book, but over tens of books, it begins to drag a bit...*

*And yet, there are two characters in the book who are clearly lesbians (I mean, its a little coded, but just barely) and are treated with sympathy.  I guess people are just complicated...

Date/Place Completed: 12/18/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project 

211. Destination Unknown, Agatha Christie

This was a hoot, because it was a Christie I had never read before.  It is another goofy spy story, although (unlike Passenger to Frankfurt) the plot at least hangs together, even if its totally ridiculous.   It’s another story with a SPECTRE like organization plotting world domination and all that jazz, nothing too original.  One part that was a little different is how the heroine gets involved - basically, she was going to commit suicide and is convinced instead to take on an extremely dangerous mission by the British government - since she has nothing to lose! A variation on the plucky Christie heroine, for sure.  Not a great novel by any stretch of the imagination, but an interesting curiosity for a Christie completist.

Date/Place Completed: 12/19/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project

 Funerals Are Fatal, Agatha Christie

This is yet another Christie that I am super familiar with, having read countless time, and thus is more a comfort read than anything else.  It is (like all the Christies I keep returning to) a “domestic” murder. After attending the funeral of her brother and suggesting that he was murdered (“He was murdered, wasn’t he?”) elderly Cora Lansquenet herself is hatcheted to death.  The police suspect a maniac, but the family’s solicitor can’t help but wonder if the two events are connected - Cora was famous for making tactless, yet true remarks.  And so he calls upon Hercule Poirot to investigate which of the family might be responsible for these murders.   A good story, with good and varied characters.  The actual solution, I am not so sure about - it is clever but I am not certain that it would actually work out (and that even if it might have worked, if anyone would actually risk such a thing.  But the answer isn’t the point as much as the storytelling which is quite fun.  One of my favorites.

Date/Place Completed: 12/2o/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project

The Witness for the Prosecution & Other Stories, Agatha Christie

I cannot honestly even say that I “read” this book, since I realized, after I ordered it from Amazon (it was one of the few I didn’t already own), that in fact, every story in this book can be found in other Christie story collections - either The Golden Ball, The Listerdale Mystery or The Hound of Death.  And since I had read all those collections recently, I just flipped through this one to see if there was anything new, which there was not (except, maybe, “The Second Gong” a locked room mystery I didn’t remember reading recently.  It is pretty good, I guess).

Date/Place Completed: 12/21/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project

 Lord Edgeware Dies, Agatha Christie

This is a Poirot mystery, one in which a seemingly impossible thing happens.  Lady Edgeware (the beautiful dim former actress), walks into her husband’s home and murders him.  However, at the same time, she is eating dinner with twelve others (the alternate title is Thirteen at Dinner).  How is such a thing possible? Only Poirot can solve it - and he is particularly inclined, to because he suspects that Lady Edgeware (who previously had asked him to convince her husband to grant her a divorce, only to find that she had already agreed to do so) is using him in someway - only she is stupid (beautiful, but stupid), how could she have planned such a clever crime?  A basic fun mystery - not one of the great ones, but good enough.

Date/Place Completed: 12/22/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project

Absent in the Spring, Agatha Christie

This is a little bit different - it is one of the novels that Christie wrote under another name, Mary Westmacott.  It isn’t a mystery, but is more of a character piece (the back of my copy calls it a “novel of breathless romance, intrigue and danger” which couldn’t be further from the truth, funnily enough). It is the story of Joan Scudamore, who is taking a train home from Baghdad, where she has been visiting her married daughter.  She misses a connection and is forced to spend the time thinking about herself for the first time ever (it was a chance meeting with an old friend that made her start to examine her life).  She starts to realize just how empty it is - how wrong she has been about her choices.  But will she be able to take her new knowledge home and make a difference in her life?  

I really enjoyed this - some of my favorite Christie books I like because of the characters, not the mystery, and I think Joan is a believable (if horrible) type.  I want to seek out her other “romances” and see if they are as enjoyable!

Date/Place Completed: 12/20/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-Read, Agatha Christie Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017