When a Dame wrote about a Murder….
Talk about resolutions. I make an entry on August 1 about half way milestones and then did not write for nearly 20 days…so much for perseverance. Having confessed to my errors, one may ask, what kept me away – many things and nothings – too much work, too many parties and one too many weekend getaways! Basically, I have been living it up, though I feel so in the hindsight and not when I was actually indulging in these activities…..
Nevertheless, I am back and I here to talk about an extremely clichéd author, whose work has been appreciated and abused and whose work’s reproduction has become hackneyed and trite in all media forms. After this long eulogy, there only remains for me to state the name of this author –Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie
While in my personal hierarchy of crime and detective series, Sir Author Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes reign’s as an un-parallel ruler (Yes! I know and am aware…I am drowning in a veritable ocean of banalities…but what can I say, when you like em, you like em!); Ms Marple and Hercule Poirot and all her minor characters remain absolutely wonderful in their own unique ways and the tales are as wonderful and novel as you had read them the last time.
Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and from her biography it can be deduced that she a reasonably peaceful, albeit adventure less childhood. She served as part of the Voluntary Aid Department during World War 1 and married Archibald Christie in 1914 and with whom she had a daughter. She published her first novel, incidentally, her first work featuring Hercule Poirot, in 1920, called The Mysterious Affairs at Styles. In 1928, she and Archibald Christie divorced, following his declaration of infidelity and her infamous disappearance for 11 days. In 1930, she would marry archaeologist Max Mallowan and would follow him around the world to various archaeological expeditions, which would also act as settings for her many works. In 1971, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 3 years after her husband has been knighted. She died at the age of 85 in 1976, having written 66 detective fiction, 15 short stories collections and several romances that she wrote under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott.
Most of her works revolve around English protagonists, who call upon Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, because they are in the vicinity or because they have been referred to by the Scotland Yard, through Inspector Japp or Sir Henry Cleethering. The detective then goes around finding clues and at times even losing his/her way before organising a grand closure by summoning all parties together and compelling the criminal to give himself/herself away.
What I really like about her writing is her sense of fun and romance that goes beyond your average whodunits. While murder and crime always are the primary events of her books, there is always a gentle narrative behind them. For instance, In Nemesis, one discovers that Verity was murdered she was in love with Michael Rafiel. Or in the The Mysterious Affairs at Styles, Poirot lets John Cavendish take on the blame for the murder of his stepmother Emily Inglethorp, to bring forth the romance between John Cavendish and his wife. Her sense of fun and irony is also all prevailing – for instance, when her brilliant nephew offers Miss Marple a “modern work” to read while on her vacations, the author gently mocks the free for all culture of 1960s by making Miss Marple read an extract from the “modern work” –
Her glance strayed for a moment to the book on her lap lying open at page twenty-three which was as far as she had got (and indeed as far as she felt like getting!). “Do you mean that you’ve had no sexual experience at ALL?” demanded the young man incredulously. “At nineteen? But you must. It’s vital.”
The girl hung her head unhappily, her straight greasy hair fell forward over her face. “I know,” she muttered, “I know.”
He looked at her, stained old jersey, the bare feet, the dirty toenails, the smell of rancid fat . . . He wondered why he found her so maddeningly attractive.
Miss Marple wondered too! And really! To have sex experience urged on you exactly as though it was an iron tonic! Poor young things . . .
Of course, there are moments, when even a great author like Dame Christie fumbles….Can anyone explain to me why Bryn Martin goes to Hercule Poirot at the beginning of the novel to plant an idea so destructive to the character of Jane Wilkinson when he had actually no idea about who the culprit was …just to get petty revenge? That’s from Lord Edgware Dies. She is also not the most politically correct or sensitive when describing populations that did not confirm to being white, Protestant (Or Church of England) or not belonging to the English upper or middle class. However making allowances for that era, one must give her credit that in almost all her books, her protagonists are driven by a strong sense of justice, even if it means letting the murderer go!
Read her for the gentle pleasure of good ripping yarn! She never lets one down! Vi Va Dame Christie!