Sunday, June 04, 2017

Fortnightly Book, June 4

After such an intensive read as The Complete Old English Poems, I feel the need for something a bit lighter, so I'll be doing some Agatha Christie.

(1) And Then There Were None: This was the first work by Christie I ever read, and it's been a while since I last picked it up. Arguably it's her best work in which neither of Poirot nor Marple appear, and Christie herself regarded it as one of her favorites because of the difficulty of plotting it. The title and song-scheme of the book have always been problematic for it. The original title was based on a blackface song that had become hugely popular in Europe, and thus would have been known by any European readers from their childhoods. The title was utterly unacceptable in America, so the title was changed to And Then There Were None -- certainly a better title artistically as well as morally -- and the song changed to "Ten Little Indians". Starting in the 1960s, American publishers started experimenting with making the title of the book, Ten Little Indians, as well, but this never completely took. Interestingly, the British continued to use the original title all the way into the 80s. And Then There Were None seems to be the title that will stick. Racial issues are at least part of the background of the story, though -- the people in the book all have a rather nasty side to them, which includes considering themselves decent despite the fact that they have lived on the murder of others, for reasons of race, or class, or the like.

(2) Murder on the Orient Express: The Orient Express, of course, is a European rail line, at the time connecting Istanbul to Paris; for most of the novel the train is stuck in Yugoslavia due to a blizzard. It is arguably Christie's most closely researched attempt at verisimilitude, as she attempted to get all the details right down to the right kinds of door handles in the cars. It is one of her Poirot works. And, of course, it is one of Christie's most famous mystery twists.

(3) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Another Poirot novel, this is certainly one of her most influential works, although in it she breaks one of the long-standing conventions of mystery novels.

Those are the three definites. Christie is such a smooth read that I shouldn't have any problem getting through them in a fortnight. But I might well have plenty of time to spare. The following are the other works by Christie I have on my shelves (or at least, have and can easily find):

Murder is Easy
What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (Miss Marple)
13 at Dinner (Poirot)
Appointment with Death (Poirot)
The Tuesday Club Murders (Miss Marple)
The Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple)

Any preferences for which should be the priority, if I finish the three with enough time to add in a book or two more?

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