RARA-AVIS: Re: Agatha Christie

From: Steve Lewis ( stevelewis62@cox.net)
Date: 16 Oct 2004

At 07:00 PM 10/13/2004, you wrote:
> >
>Re Christie, I just wanted to mention I'm a huge fan of her books.
>I've read most of them (although it's been some time), find them
>hugely entertaining, and whether you like the hard or soft stuff
>you can learn a ton about plotting from her books...
> > J
> > http://www.jasonstarr.com
>Like Jason, I have read lots of her stuff and mainly for the plots.
>She *also* had an unlimited reservoir of nasty, dislikable
>characters. While she worked the traditional detection mystery,
>many of her books are bleak about the human animal. For me,
>Christie is definitely not light entertainment.
>On the other hand, her characterization is not very deep, probably
>because characters had to serve her devilish plots and her
>rhythm requires quick rotation of characters.


I disagree in part. Here's an excerpt of my review of Remembered Death, which appeared in a recent issue of Mystery*File

         .... You have read Agatha Christie, haven't you? Disaster happens. If this is a cozy, it's a cozy with a sharp, wicked edge to it.
         Nor is all what it seems, as I probably needn't warn you, and as an "impossible crime," which this very nearly is, it's one that just might, maybe, work. And not too many readers are going to outwit Ms. Christie, and maybe that's why, of all of the many, many practitioners of mysteries from the Golden Age, Christie is the only one whose books you will find on the shelves in Borders, Walden's or Barnes & Noble today.
         And not only is Christie a master of deception, she has an exceeding observant eye when it comes to people, and she can take what she sees and convert it into words. (I notice that I'm using the present tense. I think that's because I sense that as long as her books are alive, so is she.)
         With just a bit of a dialogue of one of characters, she can match him perfectly to her description of him later. George Barton is talking to his wife's younger sister on page 17, and a few lines later Iris thinks of him to herself as "kind, awkward, bumbling." And he was. Exactly. A stereotype, perhaps, but even stereotypes are based on reality.
         And what I understand now is that it's Christie's keen eye into character that makes her mysteries work, with all of the intricate machinations inherent thereto, and somehow I don't think I realized that back when I was reading her books for the first time. Back then it was the cleverness of the plot, and that only, not thinking, or caring, that it's that way that people act and react that's equally essential, if not - dare I say it? - more so.



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