Reviews

‘I opened this book with high expectations. They have been admirably fulfilled.  Here we have a stand alone thriller about two lonely people who pursue a relationship of monthly weekends together in remote spots.  Suddenly one of these two fails to get to the rendezvous-vous and the other realises how very limited her knowledge of her  companion is . . . Gradually the reader pieces together some of the facts as an atmosphere of rising tension envelops everything. The intelligent way Jay, Lisa and others plan their actions is enjoyable and the suspense of the tale is palpable.’

- MYSTERY PEOPLE

Christie’s Death Comes as the End

UnknownAfter I’d seen the splendid Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs at the British Museum, I went to the London Library and got out Agatha Christie’s Come Tell Me How You Live. She published it in 1945 under her married name of Agatha Christie Mallowan, and it is an account of the trips to the Syria that she undertook with her archeologist husband before the war. It is in the tradition  of light-hearted travel writing that goes back to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. She doesn’t at all mind telling funny stories at her own expense – but all the same, what a trooper she was, putting up with food-poisoning, primitive living conditions and at one point, a near riot among the workmen. Her love of Syria, the land and the people, come over very strongly. I was amused by her description of her husband’s ability to ignore everything except his work (I too am married to an academic – and I’ve been one myself).

It was strange reading about Aleppo and Raqqa, knowing what is happening there now. There is a terrible irony in the epilogue where she explains that she wrote her memoir as an escape from war-time London: ‘for it is good to remember . . . that at this very minute my little hill of marigolds is in bloom, and old men with white beards trudging behind their donkeys may not even know there is a war. “It does not touch us here . . . “

Reading Come Tell Me How You Live put me in the mood to read Christie’s Death Comes as the End (also 1945) set in Ancient Egypt. The copy I read was one of my mother’s collection of Christie novels and has the splendid Tom Adams cover. It was engrossing and I am guessing that the fascinating historical detail is accurate; it’s certainly convincing. But I was disappointed by the solution to the mystery which I guessed, because it involved a device she’d used in at least one other novel. I’d like to know how other Christie fans rate it.

4 Comments

  1. Martin Edwards
    December 8, 2015

    For me, this one is not among her best, but I do think it’s competent. And also very revealing, because it illustrates the universality of what I am tempted to call Christie Country. Her stories work in the same way whether set in St Mary Mead, on the Blue Train, or in Ancient Egypt. And I think that helps to explain why her books appeal so widely to people whose lives and experiences are very different from hers.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      December 9, 2015

      I agree: at this point in her career she was never less than competent. But really, as you say, it could just as well be the Home Counties or St Mary Mead as regards the dynamics between the characters.

      Reply
  2. moira @ClothesInBooks
    December 9, 2015

    So glad you enjoyed Come Tell Me How You Live. I find myself thinking about it quite a bit, obviously partly because of the news, but also it did immerse you in a world. And you do admire her.
    As I said on FB, you have inspired me to re-read Death Comes as the End. I suppose this one is unlikely to turn up in a BBC adaptation….

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      December 9, 2015

      Now there’s a thought: a time-travelling Poirot or Miss Marple! Will be interested to have your view of the novel.

      Reply

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