Classic Christie Usually Delivers

There is a reason I read Agatha Christie: both my wife and my mother love these books, so there are always a bunch of them within reach, and I sometimes drop them into my TBR pile.

The other reason is that these are comfortable books to read because they take us to a place–early-to-mid-20th century Britain–which is utterly familiar and, to use the overused word, cozy. A third reason is that they almost always deliver an entertaining mystery. If Poirot or Marple are involved, you can change ‘almost always’ to ‘invariably’. If Ancient Egypt is involved… it’s iffy.

Cards on the Table is a classic Poirot. That automatically puts it among the best of the Christies. As always, there’s some kind of twist and in this one, it’s one I enjoyed: all four of the possible murder suspects are already identified, as soon as the book starts, as people who have killed before… and gotten away with it.

The plot advances as Christie’s plots do, with Poirot asking seemingly unrelated questions which turn out to be the key to figuring everything out. Of course, he solves not just the central murder, but also the killings of people who never even appear onstage. A performance worthy of a master detective.

I often read difficult texts, and one of the nice things about a Christie is that you fall into it and are essentially absorbed. You never worry about what page you’re on, and at the end of it, your first thought is: oh, no, back to the real world. A book like this one makes you understand why Christie sold so many: picking up another immediately upon completion of the last is an utterly natural act.

Not many authors manage this exact sensation, that of wanting to be in a soft-focus Britain. Of the ones I can recall off the top of my head, only Wodehouse does it better.

I suspect that even non-anglophiles would fall under this spell. It’s just such a beautiful feeling to be drawn into a world where life moves at a more leisurely pace and where the only problems people have are with the help… and occasionally getting murdered (or, in Wodehouse, having your prize pig kidnapped or your cow creamer stolen by Bertie Wooster).

When reading Christie, one has to wonder if it might not be worth risking murder to live that country-house life.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest book is a dark fantasy novel set in Etruscan times. You can check out The Swords of Rasna here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s