Agatha Christie


N or M?


I read so much crime, so I thought I had to get around to her one of these days. My first Christie, and in an audiobook format.


Probably a bit unusual for her – written in 1941, so it revolves around eking out a spy rather than finding a murderer – but I dare say the characters, dialogue, settings and much of the plot devices would be similar.


I enjoyed the opening, although partly because I have been reading some pretty dodgy books lately, so it was a refreshing contrast to have an author at least evoking a few different characters. I thought she did pretty well with catching contrasting mannerisms and speech styles, showing a moderately Lively level of perception. The situation was fairly implausible, but you can cut her some slack for the sake of the story. There is charm in the affection between Tommy and Tuppence, and it’s nice to have something wholesome in this frequently dark, obscenity-ridden genre.


However the more the book went on the less I was enjoying it. The initially tongue-in-cheek dig at glib twenty-somethings automatically dismissing their still shrewd and able parents as past-it became laboured. The supposedly sharp hero and heroine were often quite dull, as were their endless musings about this or that suspect: that the (spoiler) total giveaway of a crack marksman shot from a supposedly clueless, traumatised mother who’d never handled a weapon wasn’t a giveaway to our two detectives keenly on the hunt for anything vaguely hinting that someone might not be as they seem was painful to bear. As was the dramatic revelation of the enemy’s base – a total, random, ludicrously implausible accident – this is not what I want an entire story to hinge on. And the overwhelmingly condescending presentation of the almost literalised depiction of a working class servant as a dim but loyal dog can’t be excused as a blindness of the time: if PG Wodehouse can offer butlers with higher IQs than their masters a generation before, so can Christie. OK, there was a war on, but, in the face of some far more perceptive musing on how the everyday people of Germany had far more in common with those of Britain, but demonising is just part of war, the twist that our love-interest the refugee German had to, really, be public school British, was insulting.


Maybe someone can recommend better places to start with Christie, but based on this outing, I won’t be rushing back.


May 2014