I was delighted to pick up a beautiful hardback facsimile edition of Agatha Christie’s 50th novel in a charity shop in Wiveliscombe, when I went down there to be interviewed by the local radio station recently. I loved the vintage design, which will look lovely on my detective bookshelf, and I’ll be on the lookout for more like this.
As to what’s beneath the covers… Living in a small English village, I felt especially attuned to what is the first Agatha Christie novel I’ve read in a long time. It’s set in a not dissimilar village to my own, 65 years ago. The opening chapters, characterising the key players by what newspapers they read, is terrific fun, and I’d love to write a similar story using the papers’ modern day equivalents.
I enjoyed Christie’s characteristic humanity and empathy with her characters, as understanding of those who have gone off the rails as of the unassuaged goodies.
I found especially interesting the social history aspect, exploring a slice of life in post-war austerity Britain, where rationing still dominates shopping habits, and people in the countryside still leave their houses unlocked all day.
Her attitude towards the post- World War II “Mittel Europa” emigrés echoes her sympathy to World War I Belgian refugee Poirot in her first ever novel, gently delving beneath the stereotype while still ever so slightly guying the character. Still a great read in 2015 Britain, and thought-provoking to read when immigration is still a political hot potato.
Having enjoyed this book so much, and being half way through writing a cosy mystery of my own, I’ve now decided to work my way through all of Christie’s books, by way of an apprenticeship. I couldn’t ask for finer teacher.