Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Tuesday Night Bloggers: An Agatha Christie list




Agatha Christie portrait
Agatha Christie in her prime



Curt Evans is a passionate crime fiction fan and expert, and has a great blog over at The Passing Tramp. And he came up with this plan:
I want to announce the formation of The Tuesday Night Bloggers: an international blogging "club" comprised of myself, Bev Hankins, Brad Friedman, Helen Szamuely, Jeffrey Marks Moira Redmond [that’s me, Clothes in Books] and Noah Stewart.
Each of us will do a Christie-related post every Tuesday night for the next six weeks (or so the theory goes).
I will post links to everyone's pieces
here, so make sure you tune in on Tuesday and see what's being discussed!
I’ve just come out of my blog’s Agatha Christie Week to mark the 125th anniversary of her birth. It lasted 8 entries and two weeks, and I still think I have plenty to say, so am very glad to be taking part in this project. My entries might be about individual books, or might be posts taking an overview.

Curt collected together his own and many others’ lists of favourite Christie novels, and you can see one of his posts here with links to others – it’s most interesting to see which of the books make the cut, and which have unexpected defenders.

Chrissie Poulson and I did our own lists of her books – links here and here – though my top 5 varies from day to day and week to week.

And this is my entry for this Tuesday:  

My good friend Margot Kinberg, of Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, did a wonderful post on her ‘Margot’s Agatha Christie’s Mosts’ – Most ingenious plot twists, Most memorable lines etc. Inspired by that, I’m offering some highs and lows - carefully spoiler-free:
 
The most unusual way to administer poison I consider to be in lotions, through the skin – two different books, at least.
Runner Up: You can’t underestimate the importance of hat paint – see blog entry here – but it is a poison in itself. Housemaids commit suicide with it.
(The most ordinary way to administer poison is via food - always beware the liqueur chocolates, and cake can be doubtful too.)

Best name: my favourite name in all Christie is Claude Luttrell. He is the archetypal lounge lizard/gigolo in the Parker Pyne stories, and I think it is the perfect name. I was reading a book about the poet Philip Larkin, Zelig to this blog, and was delighted to find that in the second half of the 20th C there was an academic at Leicester University called Claude Luttrell – he would have been a colleague at the English Dept of Larkin’s long-term partner Monica Jones. (And he sounds a most respectable man, not at all a lounge lizard.)

Party you would least want to attend Either of the two disastrous celebrations in Sparkling Cyanide. Beware the table, the evening bag, the waiter and the moment when, ironically, health is being drunk. (I almost said 'toast' but then it sounds like the category above.)


 
Tuesday 1


Best fashion makeover (this is Clothes in Books, after all) is in The Moving Finger – Megan must stop being ‘so slack’ and become a beauty. Runner up: Mystery of the Blue Train, where Katherine comes into money and is enabled to buy dresses with names like Soupir d’automne.

Funniest Christie: Contrary to some opinions, I find her a very funny writer – clever and witty. Mrs McGinty’s Dead is full of good moments, and so are The Man in the Brown Suit and Cat Among the Pigeons.

 
tuesday 3
Linnet Doyle, the richest girl in England



Strangest Moral Framework One of my favourites is Death on the Nile, and in this book Hercule Poirot shows much sympathy for the murderer – see my blog entry here. He also uses a Biblical story with heart-stopping effect. I have often said how affecting and surprising this is – Poirot and Marple very rarely show the slightest concern for murderers. I stand by the impressiveness of the moment – one of her finest endings - but when you think about the morals of the person concerned, I’m not sure the sympathy is warranted…

The most heartless moment in all Christie – comes after the culprit has been found in one of the books mentioned above:
‘I really do think – don't you? – that everything turns out for the best.’
Just for a fleeting moment I thought of X and Y in their graves in the churchyard and wondered if they would agree, and then I remembered that X’s boyfriend hadn't been very fond of her and that Y hadn't been very nice..and, what the hell? We've all got to die sometime! And I agreed that everything was for the best in the best of possible worlds.


Most ridiculous plot. Fictional murders are almost always crazy in this sense: however they pan out, would anyone actually sit down and plan to commit a murder in that way? – why wouldn’t they just find a quiet moment and hit the victim in an alley? Of course we as readers want the details that make the books such fun – the overheard conversations, the blackmailers who know something, the phonecalls with the speaker saying ‘I will tell you something important when I see you – oh the doorbell is ringing’. So I don’t really mind those elaborate plots – but for Christie surely The Body in the Library takes some kind of prize for bizarre planning. Who in their right minds could possibly plan a murder that way? It is completely unworkable, and ridiculous, and would actually have gone wrong in several different ways.

Great book though.
 
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I’m hoping readers will make their own suggestions in these categories below….

Photographs of Agatha Christie, above and in previous entry,  are used with the kind permission of the Christie Archive Trust. There is a small but wonderful exhibition of her personal photos which has now left London and moved, appropriately enough, to Torquay.






















24 comments:

  1. As always Moira a great post that gets me thinking. I'm not nearly familiar enough with Christie to do a full post of my own but I would nominate for "Most Racy Moment in a Christie" the point at which a young secretary declares that nothing is more dull than dull pornography in THE CLOCKS

    I agree that the plot of THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY is preposterous but I think I'd nominate THIRTEEN AT DINNER/LORD EDGEWARE DIES in the same category - talk about unnecessary and implausible complications - there have to be easier ways to knock off your husband :)

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    1. Yes, excellent point about Lord Edgware Dies - I think there is considerable competition in this particular category. I think it is a measure of Christie's skill just how much she does get past us.
      And I will now have to re-read The Clocks to find that bit!

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  2. Oh, Moira, this is wonderful! I absolutely love your categories! And I couldn't possibly agree more about your 'best fashion makeover,' and strangest moral framework. I'm with you on several others, too. This is priceless! And thank you for the very kind words.

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    1. Thank you for the great idea! And I think there will always be room for more lists - both of you will be able to think of more categories.

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  3. I'm not sure if you'd count it, but my vote for best fashion makeover comes at the end of the film of Evil Under The Sun, when Jane Birkin comes down the stairs ... and Maggie Smith's jaw drops.

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    1. Of course I'd count it, though it's a long time since I saw this - I must watch it again. Dame Agatha did like a makeover.

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    2. Noah, that is a brilliant offering for best fashion makeover!

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    3. Moira--great categories! Unfortunately, I have a mind like a sieve and the finer details tend to slip out after enough time has lapsed. I'll go off and have a good think--then maybe I can come back and offer up some suggestions.

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    4. I'm really looking forward to seeing this scene. And, Bev, I think I remember details too much, and don't see the big picture enough. So it's swings and roundabouts....

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  4. Ah, Claude Luttell, quite enjoyed him in the Agatha Christie Hour show, have you seen it?

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  5. Cannot resist telling you that I was taught by Claude Luttrell (and by Monica Jones, come to that) at Leicester University and he couldn't have been less like his Christie namesake. A nice man.

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    1. Oh that's amazing Chrissie, I am so impressed! Funnily enough, when I was writing this piece I had a sudden panic: I thought 'am I absolutely certain that this Claude is male? might it not be a woman, and I had wrongly assumed...?' - and it took a surprising amount of research to confirm it. If I'd only known I could have checked it with you...

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  6. This was wonderful from start to finish, Moira!

    Let's see, my favorite name in Christie (at least this week) is Mabelle Sainsbury Seale. Poor creature!

    I like the thallium slipped into common household products trick! That's a nice way to poison someone! Has ANYONE ever received candy in the mail? And if so, didn't they at least check for hypodermic needle marks in the candy bottoms before consuming?? Really!!

    I love A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, but the murder plot is quite ridiculous! If the killer had just met that louse Rudy Scherz in London for lunch, far away from Chipping Cleghorn, then pushed him over an embankment into the Thames, three respectable old ladies' lives would have been saved!

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    1. Oh great thanks Brad, you have really entered into the spirit. And absolutely - I think Murder is Announced (which, again, I love) would compete with Body in the Library for ludicrousness. As if anyone could possibly think 'I need to get rid of X. Now, what is an obvious way to do it....? Aha.''

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  7. I think Claudes in GA mysteries are always gigolos. And Raymonds. Wasn't that the name in The Body in the Library, Raymond Starr?

    Christie can be rather, um, bracing. I remember being rather shocked as a kid about how casually she disposed one not one, but two, young children in Hallowe'en Party.

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    1. Yes, I thought it was interested that the gigolo shared a first name with Miss Marple's nephew. I do remember being quite shocked regarding him - not by bodies but because he did a number about how he had come down in the world, and in the very last page he said something that revealed that it had all been an attempted con trick...

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    2. Yes, well we must assume that Raymond West was never a gigolo, but maybe he had his youthful flings. I think the Claudes and Raymonds have a certain sophistication that lends itself to the gigolo trade, or, in Raymond's case, impenetrable novels.

      I thought Raymond Starr was a splendid character in Library, loved what Christie did there.

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    3. Yes, absolutely, Raymond Starr an unexpected joy in BitL.

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  8. Lots of interesting books discussed here, most of which I have not read. I have read The Moving Finger recently but not reviewed it. I enjoyed it very much, but I did have some reservations. I agree that The Body in the Library was very bizarre, but I enjoyed it very much regardless.

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    1. Such a classic situation, and really a bravura performance.

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    2. Yes - I simultaneously hold the view that it is a ludicrous and a wonderful book.

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  9. Tuesday night's choir practice otherwise I'd be sure to join you...

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    1. There could easily be murder at choir practice you know.

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