13 April, 2009

Book 7 - Evil under the Sun, or: Mrs Peacock had nothing to do with this one

Kind of vaguely related link of the day: Bow Street Runner. Prostitutes! Hangings! Illicit gin stilleries! This game has it all. You play as a 'runner', a kind of early policeman, in 18th Century London, tracking down murderers and other villains. The game is pretty intense - in one episode you get to perform a rough autopsy - but that's what I like about it! It's pretty historically accurate, and has awesome graphics, and I can't beat the last goddamn level.

The People Have Spoken: The results of my last poll are in, and it turns out that pretty much everyone wants to see more Muppets-inspired politi-thrillers. I can only approve: the Muppets' version of any thriller would be safe from weirdoes. And they'd be professional about it, too!

This weeks' poll honours both today's book choice, a classic whodunnit, and one of my favourite board games ever. In case you're wondering, it was in the library with a lead pipe. Just in case that influences your suspicions.

And now, to business: I actually meant to write this up yesterday, but I accidentally spent most of the day eating chocolate-marshmallow easter eggs and watching the extras on my Return of the King: Extended Edition DVD. I now have no more chocolate-marshmallow easter eggs and an unreasonably large crush on Elijah Wood.

I couldn't find any pictures of my copy of this book, and am currently sans scanner, so please to enjoy this picture of David Suchet as Hercule Poirot instead (thanks, Wikipedia!)

Poirot: owner of the sexiest moustache ever?

Title: Evil Under the Sun (1941)

Author: Agatha Christie

Why this book?
I've always loved mystery/detective stories, and Agatha Christie still reins supreme as Queen of the Whodunnit, so when I came across this book going cheap at my favourite second-hand store I just had to buy it and read it immediately.

What's it all about, anyway?
Poirot is an internationally renowned detective who, we learn as the story opens, is treating himself to a holiday in a secluded resort near Devon. Amongst the other guests is Arlena Marshall, a former actress who is known for her beautiful looks and flirtatious manner with men - even married men. Poirot senses that the scene is already set for tragedy, and his instincts prove right when Arlena is found, strangled to death, on an isolated beach. Poirot takes on the case, sure that everything is not as it appears - not even Arlena herself

The suspects include:
  • Captain Kenneth Marshall, Arlena's husband, who claims to have seen nothing untoward in his wife's conduct but who has obviously noticed it on more than one occasion.
  • Linda Marshall, Arlena's step-daughter, who hated her step-mother with a passion, and who acts increasingly confused and suspiciously after her death.
  • Patrick Redfern, who was carrying on an affair with Arlena, right under the noses of the other hotel guests - including his own wife.
  • Christine Redfern, a mousy woman who is very hurt by her husband's infedelity and lies
  • Rosamund Darnley, a childhood friend of Captain Marshall who obviously still cares for him very deeply
  • Reverend Steven Lane, a priest of the fire-and-brimstone variety who claims to sense great evil from Arlena
Then there's the Gardeners, an American couple with a very odd dynamic to their relationship, and Mr Horace Blatt, a nouveau riche yachtsman with his own secrets to hide - such as why, exactly, he spends so much time out sailing by himself.

Naturally, no one is prepared to tell Poirot the whole truth, scared that their own discretions will impliment them in the murder; but Poirot is nothing if not persevering, and he slowly but surely sorts through the lies to find the truth - but will he be in time to stop another innocent dying...?

The good and the bad
OK, I'll admit it: this is the first Agatha Christie I've ever read. Why, I don't know - I suppose after a childhood of reading Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys mysteries I expected her books to be horribly formulaic. In my opinion, there's a place in this world for books in which you can guess the ending before you are halfway through, but that place is not for whodunnits. And that's not a place where Agatha Christie lives, either. Every time I started to suspect I really knew who the murderer was, a new piece of evidence would drag my suspicions in a whole new direction.

Christie walks that fine line between "wow, this is an intricate plot" and "wow, this plot is so intricate it's not at all believable" without once putting a foot wrong. Her characters are deceptive, but humanly so - some seem good but are bad, some seem bad but are good, some are exactly as they appear but have their own, understandable reasons for being the way they are. Poirot's incredibly ability to solve this case - any case, in fact - could have rendered him almost too perfect, but for all his dedication to pursuing truth and rationality, he is capable of succumbing to emtions; and this, coupled with his sometimes eccentric behaviour, make him thoroughly likeable as well as completely believable.

So should I read it or what?
For the love of God, yes! Better yet, get yourself a copy of the very first Poirot book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which is available from Project Gutenberg here.


Anonymous said...

I love Agatha Christie. If you're looking to read more, I suggest The Man in the Brown Suit. That one is my favorite.

HelenB said...

Ooooh, thanks for the rec! I am definitely looking to read more - like I said, I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to start reading her in the first place!

Kerrie said...

You might like to submit this review to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival.
http://acrccarnival.blogspot.com/ will explain all

Sadako said...

I used to love reading Agatha Christie. Sometimes they did get a little out there.

These days, I really love Josephine Tey, Ruth Rendell, and P. D. James. All British female writers as well!

HelenB said...

Thanks Kerrie - your Agatha Christie Challenge sounds pretty mean. If I can track down some more of her novels I might be tempted to join in :)

Sadako - I know Rendell and James, but Tey is a new one on me! Clearly it's time for a visit to my local library.

Sadako said...

Oh, Josephine Tey is great. I found out about her b/c they mention one of her books in a Ruth Rendell novel. The first one I read was the famous Franchise Affair. Other good ones are Brat Farrar and Miss Pym Disposes.

Shaon Saleh said...

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