By Richard York
How comfortable are Agatha Christie's novels? they might appear to depict a reliable international of appreciate for culture, shared tradition, settled gender and sophistication roles, political conservatism and unambiguous morality, during which cause suffices to regulate affliction. yet this global is threatened via modernity and uncertainty: struggle, social mobility, extremist politics, ethical liberalization. fashionable electorate could be criminals, detectives will not be thoroughly not like murderers, social lifestyles is essentially theatrical, and violence can lead to concord.
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Extra resources for Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files)
But, at least until this becomes apparent, there is for the reader the sense of a narcissistic satisfaction in seeing oneself reduplicated. Most acutely of all, perhaps, in Murder in Mesopotamia, Louise Leidner’s husband, who is thought to be dead, remarries her without disclosing his identity, which she never guesses, and then murders her out of jealousy at her relationship with another man. There is an obvious strain on the reader’s credulity, which Christie does something to allay; but the deepest point is that Louise’s husband is purporting to be Louise’s husband; he has both maintained his passionate commitment to her and denied the personality within which that commitment has arisen.
The genre, in other words, is less haphazard than real life; it guides readers as to what they should expect. Christie’s art, in this respect, is to create a coherence that embraces apparent haphazardness or indiscriminateness. All the characters in a railway coach may be guilty of the same crime if they all have the same relation to the victim (they are all members of the household which Ratchett outraged by kidnapping and murdering the young daughter of the family). Three deaths may be related, even if they are not all murders, if they are all responses to the same impersonation (suicide from shame by a false witness, accident in 26 Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion fury at the apparent supplanting of the real heir, murder of a dangerous collaborator).
In Towards Zero, the murderer creates an elaborate series of clues likely to incriminate the innocent Audrey; the generally reliable Superintendent Battle recites the evidence against her very thoroughly a few pages from the end of the book and has actually arrested her (though it later appears that this is a feint) when he is interrupted by a piece of new evidence from the true, amateur detective MacWhirter – evidence which is in fact false, but points in the right direction. A false suspicion, a false arrest, and a false proof of innocence: the climax of the novel is a dense accumulation of illusions.
Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files) by Richard York