Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie — book review

Death on the Nile is one of Agatha Christie’s most ingenious mysteries. While Christie has definitely penned more ‘twisty’ whoddunits, the shifting dynamics between the book’s various players make for a suspenseful story.
With the exception of our wonderfully punctilious Poirot, Death on the Nile is almost entirely populated by unlikable characters (who are either blatantly racist or express misogynistic and classist sentiments). While Christie’s characters are in essence stereotypes—the self-centred socialites, the oppressive mothers, the vociferous communist, the self-effacing plain-Jane, the vengeful scorned woman—to dismiss them as ‘shallow’ or ‘caricatures’ is rather unjustified. Through her sharp-wit, Christie observes how duplicitous her characters are, regardless of their class and gender. The murder victim is initially presented as heroine of sorts: admired for her beauty, wealth, and altruism. But, here and there, we see glimpses of her flippant and selfish nature.
Throughout the course of the novel, Poirot, as per usual, demonstrates the power of his little grey cells. His denouement, however, wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed how enraged the suspects became once Poirot confronts them about their lies (I mean, they had it coming).

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie — book review

51Cf9ajBQ3L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd is an excellent example of why I consider Agatha Christie to be the Queen of Crime.

“Fortunately words, ingeniously used, will serve to mask the ugliness of naked facts.”

It’s curious that one of the most influential crime novels ever written came about by accident. The idea for this novel was given to Christie by her brother-in-law (she states as much in
her autobiography). Still, I doubt that there are many authors who could have pulled it off as Christie does. Now that I have finally re-read it I can also confirm that knowing the twist did not deter my reading experience…if anything I was able to appreciate just how clever a twist it was.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is in many ways a very Christiesque type of book.
While the story implements a lot of the established conventions of the detective novel (the countryside setting, red herrings, the eccentric and brilliant detective and his intellectually inferior companion) it is also cleverly and unexpectedly subversive.
Once again Christie plays around with themes of justice and good & evil. Poirot calls into question the morals of the people connected to Roger Ackroyd (his family, friends, and employees). Thanks to his little grey cells he’s able to disentangle the truth from an increasingly intricate web of lies…

My rating: ★★★★✰ 4.5 stars

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Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie

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“Who is there who has not felt a sudden startled pang at reliving an old experience, or feeling an old emotion?”

Curtain bids a bittersweet farewell to the one and only Hercule Poirot. While I know that by this point Agatha Christie feelings towards him were less than amicable, her novel doesn’t convey its creators impatience. Rather than hurrying Poirot off from the stage, Christie grants him one final performance.
I will admit that seeing the formidable Poirot altered in such a visible way did indeed affect me. Still, in spite of his physical appearance, his mind remains as sharp as ever and he is, as per usual, always a mile ahead of his naïve friend Hastings (who is yet again played like a fiddle). Surprisingly Hastings was not as irritating as he could usually be, and while his younger self was more of a stick-in-the-mud kind of chap (at times acting like little more than disgruntled child), this older Hastings seems far more genial. Hastings’ feelings mirrored my own ones: being at Styles again brings about a bout of nostalgia, and his reunion with Poirot reveals that underneath his somewhat priggish British exterior, lies a deep affection for his Belgian friend.
Their banter was as amusing as ever, especially in those occasions when Poirot teases Hastings about his partiality for redheads.

While many of Christie’s murderers are often motived by financial gain, in Curtain our ‘X‘ is driven by much more fiendish impulses. Suspecting this, Poirot is forced to act fast. Sadly, his failing health does seem to disrupt his investigation so much so that Poirot finds himself seeking once again Hastings’ assistance.
The group of people residing in Styles offer us with interesting little portraits of human nature: a domineering spouse, an ambitious doctor, a womaniser…some of these have indeed in some form or other in previous works by Christie but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. Christie, as per usual, demonstrates that she is perfectly attuned to capture certain personalities—their attitudes, moral and political standpoints, as well as their fears and desires, their strengths and weaknesses—and the way in which they talk—through different word choices, expressions, and turns of phrases—so that each character leaves a vivid impression in the readers’ mind.

“As my taxi passed through the village, though, I realised the passage of years. Styles St Mary was altered out of all recognition. Petrol stations, a cinema, two more inns and rows of council houses.”

Christie’s own nostalgia is apparent in this novel, and Hastings, similarly to his creator, perceives the changes in his world with an uneasy acceptance. There are quite a few works by Christie that express uncertainty over the modernisation and rapidly changing social norms of her country, and these feelings particularly suited the story of Curtain as much of it seems to be a dialogue between the various cases that have shaped Poirot’s career.
The mystery was skillfully executed, and I enjoyed reading of the way in which seemingly small events and exchanges seemed to alienate the characters from one another. The reveal was both clever and effective, bringing light to the whole affair.
I thoroughly recommend this one to fans of Poirot. Sad as it may be it demonstrates Christie’s greatest strengths (wit, murder, drama). And while the novel might be presenting us with Poirot’s final case, I am eager to be reunited with him in his early adventures…

My rating: ★★★★✰ 4.5 stars
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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie — book review

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I can definitely see why many consider And Then There Were None to be Agatha Christie’s magnum opus. Over the past year I have read—or listened to—approximately 30 works by her. With the exception of one one or two anomalies, her books have never failed to entertain me. And I agree with those who call her the queen of crime fiction. Most of her murder-mystery stories implement literary devices that are now considered to be conventions of this genre, and while readers are duped by red herrings and false leads, her professional, or amateur, detectives always manage to extrapolate the truth. The guilty parties are punished, justice is served, and everything is well in the world.
In And Then There Were None she disrupts her usual form, as she challenges her readers expectations by providing us with a cast of quite likely guilty characters. Justice in And Then There Were None takes a sinister role, as we become invested in the lives of the people it seeks to punish.
A rhyme also acquires a dark and deadly significances as Christie uses the ten little soldiers rhyme to create, maintain, and build tension. As the story progresses, and the number of soldiers dwindles, this seemingly harmless rhyme seems far more terrifying than it first appeared to. Christie almost seems to be making a game out of this rhyme, one that is guaranteed to captivate her readers’ attention.
As per usual Christie demonstrates a shrewd insight into human nature. Cut off from the rest of society, the guests soon realise the direness of their situation…soon they fall prey to suspicion and an ever growing sense of uneasiness. The crimes they may, or may have not, committed will arouse further mistrust among the already divided group. Readers too will find themselves questioning the reliability of these characters, and depending on our feelings towards them, we will hope for their innocence or guilt…
With a few singularly effective descriptions Christie breathes life into her characters and their personalities. The changing dynamics between these various characters also provide us with yet another source of excitement. While their various exchanges and discussions do demonstrate Christie’s wit, I had the distinctive impression that this time around Christie had reined in her humour.

When reading crime fiction we often expect the naming and capturing of a criminal. This is usually followed by a restoration of both a moral and a social order…in And Then There Were None it is not the case.

A note on the audiobook edition:
Dan Stevens is such a charismatic narrator. His performance make for a highly engaging experience.

My rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars

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THE MOVING FINGER (MISS MARPLE): BOOK REVIEW


The Moving Finger
by Agatha Christie

★★★★✰ 4.5 of 5 stars

It seems odd, now, to remember that Joanna and I were more amused by the letter than anything else. We hadn’t, then, the faintest inkling of what was to come – the trail of blood and violence and suspicion and fear.

The Moving Finger reveals a more mature side of Christie’s writing. While the narrative showcases her well-known traits, her wit and her amusing characters, underlining this story is a serious tone not often encountered in Christie’s mystery.

“There’s too much tendency to attribute to God the evils that man does of his own free will. I might concede you the Devil. God doesn’t really need to punish us, Miss Barton. We’re so very busy punishing ourselves.”

On a superficial level this is due the terms some of her characters use, but if I were to try and pin point the reason why The Moving Finger seems different from Christie’s usual, is the letters that set in motion the narrative. These vicious and insidious letters that bring about anger, shame and suspicion. These childish yet insidious letters make the mystery of this novel more likely, more real. Rich American millionaires and diamonds seem to belong in far off realities. These letters instead seem all too likely. They also reminded of a short story by Shirley Jackson (which was published in 1965), called The Possibility of Evil.
The narrator was a bit arrogant but I loved reading the scenes between him and his sister. Christie has mastered writing the ‘bickering’ siblings.
Overall, this was incredibly entertaining. The mystery wasn’t convoluted and I, for one, enjoyed reading about the various characters.

“Mrs. Dane Calthrop is a very remarkable woman, you know. She’s nearly always right.”
“It makes her rather alarming,” I said.
“Sincerity has that effect,” said Miss Marple.

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