Inspired by Lucy’s recent Agatha Christie fest, I took to my bed over the weekend with a steaming mug of tea, a stack of toasted crumpets and a couple of dusty disintegrating Christies of my own. My daughter, a fellow bookworm, followed suit, and apart from her stealing the lion’s share of the crumpets and hogging the quilt, we spent some happy hours immersed in our books while my husband pottered about in the rain outside doing useful things like clearing the gutters, and collecting kindling.
It’s been years since I’ve read any Christie – possibly not since my teens, now I come to think of it, and as I like to think I’ve grown a little more discerning as a reader, I didn’t know if I’d find Christie as appealing as I did way back then. I needn’t have worried. If anything, I was dazzled by her writing – the tension, intrigue and tightly structured plots, all delivered with deliciously snappy prose. I started off with 4.50 From Paddington (1957) for no other reason than the fact that it had the marvelous Margaret Rutherford emblazoned across the cover. I don’t usually approve of film tie-in book covers, but this was a definite exception to the rule.
Including both a murder on a train and a body being discovered in the grounds of a stately home, I felt like I was being thoroughly spoiled. As the murder was witnessed by a close friend, Miss Marple has a personal interest in the case. She manages to collect clues and learn more about the suspects from her eyes and ears on the ground, Lucy, who she has hired to take a post as a domestic servant in the house and secretly report back on her findings. It was utterly gripping and enjoyable and I was totally fooled until the very end.
As soon as I finished 4.50 From Paddington, I couldn’t wait to get stuck into another and Sparkling Cyanide (1945) didn’t disappoint. This time, the plot revolves around a murder of a young woman, masked as a suicide that takes place in public in a restaurant. After receiving an anonymous tip-off that his wife’s demise was not by her own hand as was initially thought, George Barton invites the same guests to the same restaurant a year to the day of his wife Rosemary’s death, with a plan in place to shock the guilty party into giving themselves away. Alas, the plan goes awry and the death toll rises. This was another tense whodunnit, with the question of how the murders were committed in such a public place adding to the intrigue. This time I was on the right lines with my guess-work – hooray! but both books were utterly satisfying.
I’m keen to read more Agatha Christie novels in the near future and plan on raiding the library for everything they’ve got in the new year. Until then, I’ll be getting festive and choosing my crime fiction from chillier climes. After all, nothing says Christmas like murder and snow.