(Photo credit: Qfwfq)

How charming are these inside covers!

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The Agatha Christie Adventure

As I read The Big 4, I am going to be commenting on my thoughts, first of all the cover is bizarre: I have older versions of most of the novels and they look so classic. Christie always knows how to draw the reader in, with some odd hook that one would not expect. I guess after 80 some novels, one learns a few things…

“A little man with an egg-shaped head and green eyes–Hercule Poirot!”

Well thats not such a pleasing description, is it? Regardless, Poirot never ceases to interest me. As I am starting this novel, Agatha Christie has really built up the mystery. We have a mysterious figure just pop into the bedroom, acting all crazy, Poirot and Hastings almost missed each other coming from different continents. Luckily they don’t and they go off together to Rio. Things accelerate quickly, Poirot is soon to announce that it is Hastings and Poirot against the Big 4, to the death. It gives me the vague impression of Angels and Demons, because before this mystery guy died, he left a sign in the clock. The number 4!!!! (the destroyer ahhh)

“‘For you, Hastings,’ he said, ‘everything is far-fetched that comes not from your own imagination; for me, I agree with this gentleman”

The relationship between Hastings and Poirot, to me, has always seemed very father-son. Poirot is a very specific character, and though they are great friends, it is clear that Poirot is superior. Its amusing in the dialogue, but I can’t understand how Hastings wouldn’t get tired of it. Hastings and Poirot meet with an expert on China, John Ingles, who weaves a tale about a man in China, Li Chang Yen, being responsible for all civil unrest in the East (of the world). A neat idea, one that we see consistently in TV shows. Ingles decides to go along with Hastings and Poirot. I will be so angry if he ends up being Li Chang Yen. They soon visit a friend, who is dead at the scene. Poirot saves the day, but not without this great exchange:

‘As clever as Hercule Poirot?’ [Hastings] murmured. My friend threw me a glance of dignified reproach. ‘There are some jests that you should not permit yourself, Hastings'”

This novel is very fast progressing. Poirot and Hastings go to investigate the whereabouts of a lost scientist, whom they find in the possession of the Big 4. We see some of our old friends come back into the picture, which is pretty fun. It is interesting to see the Big 4 as a match to Poirot. I guess his brain is worth four people! The speed makes the dialogue all the more interesting, especially because each character seems to be desperate to solve the case. In a great twist, (SPOILER) the scientist, Madame Olivier is the Freshwoman, part of the Big 4!! She kidnaps Poirot and Hastings, but Poirot is armed with a dart disguised as a cigarette. They escape, and discover the last two identities of the Big 4 (I keep wanting to call them the Black Hand). Poirot becomes obsessed with the mystery, so he decides to take on another case, completely different. I think Christie’s descriptions of crimes are quite fantastic. They are life-like, as well as interesting. Poirot thinks quite logically and in a way that is interesting. This novel has many, many twists, with many interweaving mysteries running through it. The real game is being played between Number 4 of the Big 4 and Poirot. They keep evading one another, but it should not be long now. I suspect Poirot and Hastings will be captured once more (I am only at page 100 thus far). Wow!! Another twist, Cinderella (Hasting’s wife, also known as Dulcie Duveen) has been kidnapped, and Hastings must go to the Big 4. Poirot does not know. I found it a very moving scene, when they are threatening to kill Hastings, but he does not budge. He states that he is not a brave man, but he is brave to protect his closest friend Poirot, and that is quite admirable.

I’m not braver than most men, I admit frankly that I was scared to death, and in a blue funk. That Chinese devil meant business, I was sure of that. It was good-bye to the good old world. In spite of myself, my voice wobbled a little as I answered. ‘For the last time, no! To hell with your letter!’

Sadly, they threaten Hastings’ wife, and he complies, but warns Poirot at the last second. The character Hastings has displayed throughout this novel is really quite beautiful. Luckily, Poirot saw Hastings’ sign before and he had everything prepared. He has even had Hastings’ wife in hiding! (maybe he should have told him that before….) I love this little exchange though:

You like not that I should embrace you or display the emotion, I know well. I will be very British. I will say nothing–but nothing at all. Only this–that in this last adventure of ours, the honors are all with you, and happy is the man who has such a friend as I have! -Poirot

Awh. Hercule!

‘My dear Poirot,’ I said, ‘you know what the enemy thinks of us. He appears to have a grossly exaggerated idea of your brain power, and to have absurdly underrated mine, but I do not see how we are better off for knowing this’

Reading every quote in a British accent simply makes all of the already good quotes, 20 times better. Poirot and Hastings try and identify the fourth member of the Big 4. They meet with a woman Poirot thinks might know him. She gets shaddyyy I feel like Poirot and Hastings are in for another kidnapping or something… Ack never mind, apparently I am no better at predicting the great Christie than I was at novel one! Regardless, Poirot and Hastings have found the identity of the fourth member. It is at this point that everyone is getting very scared of the Big 4, and Poirot tells the government, who of course does not believe him. He then announces, he has a brother!

You surprise me, Hastings. Do you not know that all celebrated detectives have brothers who would be even more celebrated than they are were it not for constitutional indolence?

I did not know that. They are twins so I suspect a switch will be coming between the two of them, or something. Is that not what twins do all the time? They escape another plot of death, only to be “killed” when Hastings lights a match. I am almost certain that Poirot has faked his death, I am more than certain actually. I wonder if his brother was in on it?

(The Parent Trap style)

After Poirot’s “death,” Hastings sets out to solve the mystery himself. He is warned off twice, yet they think he is so dumb. I feel bad for both Cinderella and Hastings! Hastings goes back to South America (because of a note from Poirot) and yes, we discover that Poirot is still alive. Oh Hastings, you really are a bit daft, and I feel bad saying it, for not seeing that one coming. I guess it is different if you are truly living something, rather than me… just reading this from a book.

Ah! Here comes the switch… Poirot and Hastings are in the Big 4 headquarters, but it is not Poirot but his twin brother! He announces that he would give his life for the world, to which Hastings thinks,

It struck me just then that although perfectly willing to lay down my life I might have been consulted in the matter

You are quite right Hastings, I think that I would have wanted to be consulted as well. But oh! The twin brother was always a trick, poor Hastings, he simply believes everything. It was really Hercule Poirot the entire time. He found the countess’ lost son, and traded their way to freedom. Apparently the four died in an explosion, but they could not see the 4th member’s face (that definitely means he is coming back!!).

Small men always admire big, flamboyant women

Thank you for the wisdom Hercule 😉

Good luck on the “retirement.” Wow, what a roller coaster that novel was. I completely forgot The Big 4 but thoroughly enjoyed it. Agatha Christie is a magician in the real sense!

Let’s Get Married*

Christie, as a woman, has a unique view experience writing in the mid-1900s. It seems ironic for example, when in the Murder on the Links, she creates a narrator that “prefers traditional women.” This post also shows how Christie discusses other antiquated traditions with gendered issues, like arranged marriages, and navigates them deftly.

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Arranged MarriagesIn Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly, Hercule Poirot travels to Nasse House, in Nassecomb, to help his friend, detective story writer Ariadne Oliver. She’s at Nasse House on commission from its owner Sir George Stubbs; her task is to create a Murder Hunt as a part of the festivities for an upcoming fête. But Mrs. Oliver suspects that there’s more going on at Nasse House than preparations for the event. Poirot has agreed to look into the matter with her. On the day of the fête, fourteen-year-old Marlene Tucker, who was playing the part of the victim in the Murder Hunt, actually is killed. Poirot and Inspector Bland investigate to find out who was responsible. As a part of that investigation, Poirot wants to get to know the members of the household as well as possible. So he has a conversation with Amy Folliat, whose family used to own…

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Agatha Christie, a selection

As a child, I read a few Agatha Christie books until I fell into the void that is young adult fiction. They were about the only books that my mom liked, so I have a ton of them (though currently I only have three). But I haven’t read them in so long, and forgot about them (as I don’t have a huge propensity for mystery novels these days), so discovering them again was a great present. I always knew that I liked them, but they are the books that need to rest on ice for a few years before you pick them up again. If you’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel, shame!

Christie = Witty

I wished that rhymed, but sadly I lack the same wit. Agatha Christie always makes me laugh. Her repeated style doesn’t really get old for me. For example, in the book I just finished (The Murder on the Links) the reader is introduced to Hastings, the roommate of Poirot. He is a traditional man, and disapproves of this woman cursing on the train. She immediately notices and makes a fuss. At one point she cries that she is a disgrace, boo her, she should just go into the grass and eat worms. Lol. Of course (spoiler) at the end of the novel, the two of them fall in love.

In another scene, Hastings declares that he would fake a witness statement for his lover, and Poirot unfettered. He states that they should go to England, of which Hastings is shocked (because he thinks that he is foiling the investigation). But Hercule Poirot just says that Hastings would follow him anyway, except with a bad mustache and wig, so he should just come with him to save the trouble. lol.

The Twists

You can expect that you probably will be wrong about whoever murdered or committed the crime. Christie likes taking the reader through twists and turns, some of them are a bit ridiculous, but Christie writes in a style that it is easy to go with it. Some people might find this frustrating, because the twists can take really odd turns, and some stories are so complicated that I would never be able to explain or completely get what really happened. But personally, I read it more because I like the character Poirot. Though he is similar to Sherlock Holmes, he has a lot more appeal (to me at least) than the characters in like, Sherlock, or the modern versions. Poirot is an older, retired detective. He is very calm, and despite the often frustrating people that he has to work with, he remains cool and of course, always solves the crimes. I like this better than the traditional Sherlock character, who is very abrasive (though I like Sherlock Holmes too!).

These are just some thoughts about Christie as an author, and why I think people should read her novels! (even if you don’t always like mysteries that much)

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

“I’ve now decided to work my way through all of Christie’s books”
🙂 🙂

Debbie Young's Reading Life

cover of A Murder is Announced Beautiful cover of a reproduction of the first edition hardback

I was delighted to pick up a beautiful hardback facsimile edition of Agatha Christie’s 50th novel in a charity shop in Wiveliscombe, when I went down there to be interviewed by the local radio station recently. I loved the vintage design, which will look lovely on my detective bookshelf, and I’ll be on the lookout for more like this.

As to what’s beneath the covers… Living in a small English village, I felt especially attuned to what is the first Agatha Christie novel I’ve read in a long time. It’s set in a not dissimilar village to my own, 65 years ago. The opening chapters, characterising the key players by what newspapers they read, is terrific fun, and I’d love to write a similar story using the papers’ modern day equivalents.

I enjoyed Christie’s characteristic humanity and empathy with her…

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What I’m Reading Now

Between analyzing The House of the Spirits I actually still read! What am I reading now? So I have a terrible habit of reading multiple books at the same time, maybe its more fun, or maybe I am just indecisive about books.

Currently I am reading:

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino, one of my all time favorite novels. Calvino is a master, and I worship him.

(I have the copy on the left)

And I am reading Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie. If you have not encountered Agatha Christie before, do it. She is hilarious and has a great style for keeping her readers enraptured but not bored. The book covers are positively fantastic: