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Re: Christie: The Nursery Rhyme Murders

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  • Wyatt James
    All three books were lacking in the detection department and do not really depend much on presentation and analysis of clues. Pocket Full of Rye was
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 7, 2004
      All three books were lacking in the 'detection' department and do not
      really depend much on presentation and analysis of clues. "Pocket Full
      of Rye" was actually excellent in the TV version with Joan Hickson,
      with the then popular Aled Jones doing the choirboy song. Still, there
      is little detection in it apart from a waffly bit about the identity
      of the person seen on the grounds about the critical time. Also, the
      villain turns out to be someone I DIDN'T want it to be but somehow
      knew would be (Agatha shouldn't p-o her fans, or end up not surprising
      them, although how could she have known?).
      "Hickory..." is just plain dull, and it involves smuggling and 'real'
      crime, which is always distracting in a cosy writer like Christie
      where you expect the mayhem to be strictly amateur. Here is where I
      both agree and disagree with Raymond Chandler: Christie books are not
      BAD because they DON'T go down the mean streets, but when they do go
      bad it is when she DOES go down the mean streets -- she was never,
      never convincing when she tried to bring in professional criminals,
      except in rare cases like "Bertram's Hotel" where the criminality
      depended on the illusion of middle-class propriety.
      "Crooked House" is still the best of these (and it was one of the
      author's own favorites). The flaw you mention, that there is a long
      dull middle part, is actually pointed out by the bratty little
      grand-daughter when she keeps saying 'another murder should happen at
      this point in the story' and doesn't until far too late in the game.


      --- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, Nicholas Fuller <stoke_moran@y...>
      wrote:
      > Dear Wyatt,
      >
      > I have my doubts about Crooked House, not because of the solution
      (which is quite effective, and a good example of Christie's belief
      that nobody was immune from evil, although it was used--with less
      conviction--by Doyle, Allingham and Queen) but because of the body of
      the book. It's all motive-building without any proper detection or
      clueing, as if Christie had the opening situation and the solution,
      but couldn't really be bothered about the middle. It certainly feels
      much hollower than any of her post-1934 works. Still, the
      characterisation is good--in fact, throughout the 1940s, Christie
      became more and more concerned with character and psychology,
      resulting in some interesting failures (The Hollow, Sparkling Cyanide)
      and some notable successes (Five Little Pigs, Towards Zero). The
      1950s, on the other hand, show a return to the classic puzzle before
      her decline into rambling diatribes against EVIL (The Pale Horse,
      though, is brilliant, but hardly a classic puzzle).
      >
      > A Pocket Full of Rye, on the other hand, was one I thoroughly
      enjoyed; it's one of the three good Miss Marples (heresy, I know, but
      don't the Marples seem rather insignificant compared to the Poirots?
      The Body in the Library is ingenious but extremely short, The Moving
      Finger relies on no less than three romances to reach its length, They
      Do It With Mirrors has a good Carrian trick but feels mediocre, 4.50
      from Paddington is dull and devoid of detection, and of the later
      ones--well, the least said, the better!). Several good, unusual
      murders (the murder of the maid was very well done in the Joan Hickson
      TV programme, probably the best of the lot); competent detection (Miss
      Marple contributes to the policeman's detection and doesn't dither);
      and a good solution. Also interesting is how unpleasant everybody is:
      with the exception of a daughter-in-law who doesn't figure much, the
      most sympathetic family members are an extremely eccentric religious
      maniac and a sexually frustrated
      > Girl Guide. The atmosphere, in fact, is one of Christie's darkest,
      and closer to Carr or Punshon's world of psychologically abnormal
      gargoyles and grotesques than the clean in wind and limb world of the
      1930s.
      >
      > Haven't read Hickory Dickory Dock since the age of eleven, so can't
      comment. The critics all seem to loathe it, though: have you read
      Barnard?
      >
      > Regards,
      >
      > Nick
      >
      >
      > 'There is no past tense in the conjugation of genius, especially
      when it has left us whatever of itself can be conveyed by the printed
      page.'--Gladys Mitchell, Death and the Maiden (1947).
      >
      >
      > ---------------------------------
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    • Nicholas Fuller
      Dear Richard, The Mirror Crack d from Side to Side is one of her better post-1960s works, but hardly one of Christie s best. Excessive coincidence (the number
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 8, 2004
        Dear Richard,

        The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side is one of her better post-1960s works, but hardly one of Christie's best. Excessive coincidence (the number of foster children and ex-lovers is hard to swallow), an obvious murderer and a highly stereotypical treatment of Hollywood: all drug-crazed adulterous egomaniacs. Miss Marple is not involved in the action at all--she's become an armchair detective like Dr. Priestley. 3.5/5.

        A Caribbean Mystery is good fun, although it seems like a short story expanded to novel length: characters aren't treated in as much detail, and the plot is rather thin. Christie reuses some of her old gimmicks (including a certain poisoning device that recurs throughout her late works), and the solution is, as Barnard points out, not entirely fair. On the plus side, though, is an exotic setting, Miss Marple as main character, and some rather bizarre sequences (the Major's eye, the creek sequence). The Hickson film is excellent.

        Sleeping Murder is decidedly average. The first few chapters are excellent (especially The Duchess of Malfi), setting up a rather unusual plot, but the explanation of the 'haunting' is decidedly anti-climactic. Detection rather dull and plodding (the amateurs aren't up to the level of earlier ones--c.f. The Sittaford Mystery for Christie's best treatment), and Miss Marple does little.

        Nemesis is, like Hallowe'en Party and Elephants Can Remember, a wasted opportunity. Many of the ideas are good: polygonum baldschuanicum, the three sisters, Nemesis, but the execution is bad: the prose is rambling and incoherent, the plot is disjointed and meagre, and the dialogue and characterisation rather flat. Had she written it a decade earlier (in 1961), or had her editors been more severe, it would probably have been a masterpiece.

        I haven't read At Bertram's Hotel since late 1996, although I believe Christian read it in the last year or so. I can remember not being particularly impressed.

        Regards,

        Nick

        (who holds that being extremely opinionated is one of the privileges of youth!)


        'There is no past tense in the conjugation of genius, especially when it has left us whatever of itself can be conveyed by the printed page.'--Gladys Mitchell, Death and the Maiden (1947).


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