Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Easy as...

While I do read mysteries on a fairly regular basis - among other things, as variety is the spice of life - I don't gravitate that often to Agatha Christie. And when I do read her it's more often Miss Marple than Hercule Poirot. Nonetheless I did read her Poirot novel The ABC Murders and was glad I did. Notable things about it:

* It was published in 1936 and concerns an apparent serial killer, although not described in those terms. Christie was well ahead of the curve here in terms of cultural obsessions. Classic detectives like Poirot don't generally look into serial killings, although Ellery Queen did in Cat of Many Tails.

* But the case isn't quite what it appears to be. Christie changes things up in the eleventh hour, momentarily getting the reader off-balance perhaps.

* While Christie might have a reputation as something of a snob, that doesn't really come through in this novel. The victims cut across class lines and all are taken seriously. All the families have complex reactions, too.


susan said...

I've always enjoyed reading mysteries too but it's been a very long time since I read any of Agatha Christie's books. Funnily enough, the time when I read most of them, although not all, was when I had an end of the week and Saturday part-time job in a Toronto department as a teenager. Since it was impossible to get closer than fifteen miles to home by subway and city transport, I'd usually go to the bus station and catch a Greyhound bus to Oak Ridges where my father could pick me up without making a long drive. Just like now, or recently in any case, the bus station had a little bookshop where I could buy something to read on the way and Agatha Christie's novels were among my favourites. I almost always finished them before the rise was over too, but I did read much faster than I do now.

Anyway, sorry for the digression, but the only way I could remind myself of this one was to have a quick peek on Wikipedia where I stayed to read the entire plot. I see what you mean about the killer, who was a real enough serial killer in practice, did the deeds to hide one crime in particular - and he had what was for him a good reason. But murderers are always terrible people who ought never to profit from their crimes. Too bad we can't hold certain politicians and others in positions of power to the same standard.

I guess Agatha Christie may have been a snob in her personal interactions but perhaps she was one of those who don't tolerate fools. It's amazing enough she still has an attentive and intelligent audience all these years later.

Ben said...

I remember when they still called it Oak Ridges. Apparently it's been administratively part of Richmond Hill since 1971, but they were more specific about the name for a few years after that. Anyway, it was still pretty rural, and you must remember it being even more so. So it's not too surprising that transport to and from Toronto presented some issues. At least it gave you some good reading time.

In TV Tropes terms it's Serial Killings, Specific Target. An early example, I'm pretty sure. Ellery Queen used a more genuine serial killer MO in Cat o' Many Tails as I recall. Whether or not a killer had an initially sympathetic motive, knowing that they've done it changes them in your eyes.

I like that: A snob who didn't tolerate fools. It's nice when that's the dividing line for a snob, the criteria that they use to judge.