A provincial village in England (King’s Abbott), a lady suspected of poisoning her husband commits suicide. She leaves a letter for her friend, Roger Ackroyd – a prominent industrialist and self-made man. Things are sinister since he is murdered before he can share the secret.
Poirot has been seeking a retired life growing marrows and is a friend of the murdered man. He gets involved in investigating the crime – the red herrings are plentiful as the house is teeming with people who have their little secrets that they want to hide from the world.
The murder mystery featuring Poirot is Agatha Christie’s ‘top-of-the-pile’ book. Her play, ‘The Mousetrap’, might have earned more acclaim and indeed many other titles are far more popular including ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Death on the Nile’. Yet the novel is gem and one-of-a-kind narrative. Without wanting to spoil the climax, I would like to say that it is a neat surprise and it derives its impact from the narrative style employed by the writer.
Iago: O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss, Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger: But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
Othello: O misery! Othello Act 3, scene 3, 165–171
Agatha Christie’s carefully planned Poirot’s swan song – Curtain was written nearly 30 years ago before it appeared. Christie planned quite a few intriguing aspects – the scene is Styles where Poirot made his debut à la ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, Poirot is reunited with his ol’ companion Captain Hastings who continues to endear us with his Watsonian performance, Poirot appears enfeebled and indeed it is claimed that he can no longer walk and the story does mark the onset of senescence and decay in his long and illustrious career.
Agatha Christie’s celebrated Belgian Private Detective known for his stupendous vanity, ‘order and method’ and li’l grey cells – Hercule Poirot – had quite a few popular adventures. Nearly all of them have been rendered beautifully as televised adaptations featuring David Suchet as ‘Poirot’.
The train based stories make an interesting watch – the crème la crème of society taking their yearly sojourns to Riviera using the Orient Express is a vivid story in itself. Amazing luxury and scenic views dominate these stories, adding an extra zing to them. ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’ are picture perfect. (Viewers may remember ‘The Plymouth Express’ as well – it is more or less a base story reproduced in a more elaborate format as The Mystery of the Blue Train’.
David Suchet is Poirot personified – twenty-five years of his rendition of 70 stories adapted from Agatha Christie’s books is a shining testimony of that. I can think of no other actor in the role now.
A journey has come to an end – her life was a living message that we ought to battle and overcome challenges facing us. And it was a celebration of ageing with grace – she achieved stupendous success as a writer in her golden years and lost none of her prowess while penning her last novel when she was 90 years old.
Like a novel she wrote, she was an original Nightingale – her tones were rich in truth and fidelity. And that is such a rare commodity in today’s world where everyone is trying to manage the optics and a spin is the convenient reality that is fed to the masses.
There is enough that we know and admire about P D James as a writer. Surprisingly she started writing rather late with her first novel appearing when she was 42 of age and was an inspiring tribute to the murder mystery genre in the tradition of Agatha Christie. A bright spark was seen that went on establish her long reign as the ‘Queen of Crime’. Continue reading “Phyllis Dorothy James – an ode to a Nightingale!”
Written well over fifty years ago, the murder mystery is the first novel written by P D James and features her favourite detective Adam Dalgliesh. It is a promising start but obviously is not her best book. Over the years we have grown to love the character of Dalgliesh but herein there is not much of a hint of the iconic character in the making.
Instead we have a proper tribute to a murder mystery novel à la Agatha Christie and Poirot. It just runs over 250 pages, features the landed gentry in a village setting and Dalgliesh brings about the final dénouement by assembling the family council and then revealing the murderer.
Sally Jupp, the apparently ‘unwed’ mother and a maid working at Martingale (the family seat of the Maxies), is found murdered in her bed behind a locked door and an open window. The night before she had mischievously announced much to the chagrin of the family the heir apparent, Stephen Maxie, had proposed marriage to her. The annual village fete had just got over and provided an opportunity for many strangers to complicate the murder scene. Talk about reviving memories of vintage Agatha Christie novels.
“Love, lust, lucre, and loathing can be the motive for murder”. This rather alliterative list of motives is mentioned by Phyllis Dorothy James in one of her books. She is a classic murder mystery novelist who represents the rare combination of style and substance. She admits to have consciously chosen to write as P D James as it may well be perceived by an average reader to have been written by a man than a woman.
Humoring our pet prejudices and playing with our perceptions are not the only things she teases you with – for me a book by her is more than a murder mystery, it can rather be regarded to be a complete novel in itself with complex plot and characterization. It is something like when Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen. Indeed her latest book, ‘Death comes to Pemberley’ is a rich tribute to her favourite writer’s popular novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Since my childhood I was fascinated by trains. The interest went far beyond a childish dream of becoming an Engine Driver that many of us have heard about. I feel it is magical to watch the railway signals and tracks in the late evening as they shimmer in the gloaming light.
As a mode of travel I enjoy it more than taking a flight or travelling by the road. In India train journeys often last well over a day – shorn of options to keep oneself occupied the journey provides great opportunities for amusement as you can read a book, scan the paper, work on your laptop, stretch your legs and have a cup of tea on the various stops that happen intermittently. Continue reading “Trains are so very interesting!”
This is my tribute to the celebrated Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective character created by Dame Agatha Christie. I discovered him in my early teens and of all characters created by Christie, I fancied Poirot the most. Hercule Poirot featured in 33 novels and more than 50 short stories along with 1 play. Well I must have read nearly all of them over the many years that I have read Christie’s books. Continue reading “The ‘Curtain’ falls – au revoir Poirot … I mean David Suchet!”