“There is a Tide” and “Passenger to Frankfurt” by Agatha Christie

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.

Passenger to Frankfurt cover 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.

Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
Collins Crime Club, 1970 | Buy the book

There is a Tide by Agatha Christie
Dodd, 1948 | Buy the book

“A Sickness in the Family” by Denise Mina and Antonio Fuso

A Sickness in the Family coverI’ve had the flu for the last few days, and consequently have been asleep for a large portion of them. I’m still really excited about reading the 25 books mentioned in my last post, so today I pulled them all out and made a couple of big piles in my room. (I also found some additional books that I haven’t read, but more on them in the future.)

I’ve been going a bit stir crazy, so despite being really woozy, I decided to make a start on the pile, and read the shortest book – A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina (illustrated by Antonio Fuso.) (In fact, I’m still pretty woozy, so this entry might be even more disjointed than usual.)

I discovered this book on Blogging for a Good Book (run by the Williamsburg Regional Library) and bought it when I was on a “I really need to branch out and not read so much young adult/fantasy”/”I should read mystery authors other than Agatha Christie”/”I should read more graphic novels” kick.The book is about a normal family (or so you think) whose members are being killed off one-by-one. The house might be haunted, but it seems far more likely that a member of the family is the killer.

Even though this was a pretty quick read, the players in the murder mystery (i.e. the Usher family) are set up really well and the setting (their perhaps-haunted house) is definitely atmospheric. The Ushers are all thoroughly unlikeable, and I don’t think anyone is really unhappy when they start dying off. The book is pretty fast-paced, and the twists and turns, although not entirely unpredictable, are pretty fun (especially the end.)

The WRL review of the book describes it as a “delightfully nasty little graphic novel”, and I absolutely concur. My only complaint is that it was so short.

This is book 1 of 25 of my Dec 11, 2011 book challenge.

A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina & Antonio Fuso
Vertigo, 2010 | Buy the book