Fiction, Recommended books, writing

Agatha Christie Oh How You Make Me Angry

OK, so I just finished reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and it made me oh-so-angry.  (In case either of the two other people who still haven’t read this 100-million-copy-selling book happen to be reading, I’ll try to leave this spoiler free.)

Simply put, no writer should be allowed to get away with writing a mystery in which you narrate from the internal point of view of all the characters and yet still manage to surprise the reader as to who the culprit is.  It’s clearly cheating!  And, yet, you go back and re-read the parts that made you think what you thought, and then you realize, oh, that’s how she did it, it actually wasn’t cheating after all, and then that only makes you angrier…

The technique that she seems to use again and again, to such great effect, is deflection. She puts the answer right in front of you, but arranges such a carnival all around it that you assume that can’t possibly be the answer, until, oh wait, it is.  Which makes the conclusion as superbly satisfying as it is frustrating.  Curse you, Agatha!  And please teach me how you do what you do.

(Side note: there are also all sorts of things going on in the book around race, class and gender – some of which is conscious and much of which probably is not, but that could be a whole dissertation unto itself.)

4 thoughts on “Agatha Christie Oh How You Make Me Angry”

  1. I’ve never been a big mystery reader, but my young adult space opera novel has a bit of a mystery to it so I thought I ought to do some self-education with the masters.

  2. I remember reading this one as a kid and enjoying it. Read all of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes stories growing up, but have barely touched a mystery since, unless you count China Mieville’s latest. Christie’s a great plotter. The first novel I planned as a teenager was a murder mystery. I’ve decided 2010 is a rereading-childhood/classic-books-I-should’ve-read-by-now year… might read this one again.

  3. Yeah, her plots are definitely her strong suit, and her characters are not the most amazingly complex but they’re always interesting and hold up pretty well overall.

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