I read two Agatha Christie mysteries yesterday, and will review them both in this post.
There is a Tide (also sold as Taken at the Flood) is a Hercule Poirot novel. It’s a pretty typical (I mean that in a good way) Christie book, following the devious plots of the Cloade family and interested parties.
While in a club to escape an air raid in World War II, Hercule Poirot overhears a story claiming that a man, Robert Underhay, who has been reported dead was actually intending to fake his own death and live a new life as Enoch Arden. He files it away in his brain as being interesting, and years later. something actually comes of it. Robert Underhay’s young widow, Rosaleen, has married Gordon Cloade, who is an incredibly rich man. Unfortunately, he is also soon dead, killed in an air raid. The Cloade family has been dependent on Cloade’s money (with his encouragement), and now all of it goes to Rosaleen. Things are complicated by a man named Enoch Arden turning up at the Cloades’ home village, Warmsley Vale.
This book has a million twists and turns, most of which I didn’t see coming. I read somewhere that Agatha Christie often pulls up new evidence that explains everything at the end – I have never found this to be the case. Every time a new revelation was made, I realised that I should have connected the dots, but of course, my little grey cells are not Poirot’s. Each clue is definitely foreshadowed. There are also plenty of red herrings, motives for murder, false alibis… everything that makes a Christie novel fun. I also enjoyed the look at post-World War II British hardships. Definitely recommended.
In There is a Tide, Poirot remarks to Superintendent Spence that it’s always the human interest that gets him. I think that is what I like so much about Agatha Christie’s books – her incisive and almost brutal analyses of all the people in her books. This is especially well achieved in her books about murders within families. Unfortunately, that’s also what this book lacks.
Passenger to Frankfurt seems to be Agatha Christie’s attempt to write a thriller. I am not sure how many of these non-murder mystery books she’s written; this is the first one I’ve read. It follows a global conspiracy to control the world, reviving Nazism along the way. The protagonist is a British diplomat, who is aided by a beautiful female spy.
The book features some traditional Christie trademarks, like the couple falling in love, and some incisive commentary about the players in the conspiracy. However, most of it felt muddled and incomprehensible, and a little dated. I think Christie’s brand of sensationalism works really well for small towns, but doesn’t translate well to global events. I also didn’t really understand how each event led to the next, and there were way too many characters introduced, so I couldn’t keep track of who was who. The narrative wasn’t cohesive, with viewpoints being switched erratically.
I’d stick to Christie’s murder mysteries.
- “River of Gods” by Ian McDonald
- “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson