by Agatha Christie
First sentence: “In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in the Times.”
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Content: Well, there are murders, but all are off-screen, and none are grisly. There’s no swearing. It’s in the mystery section of the bookstore.
This is one book I remember reading as a kid. I was probably 12 or 13, and I discovered Agatha Christie, and thought that she was just brilliant. Such a great writer! Such a clever mystery!
I haven’t revisited it in years, and with the “classic mystery” square on my book bingo I thought I’d take the time to revisit it.
The writing’s okay. Christie does have a knack for moving the plot along (thank you!), with lots of dialogue and without a lot of exposition (which really comes at the end). But it’s not brilliant writing. And the characters are all kind of stereotypical (the nervous younger woman, the prudish old woman, the handsome young man, the nervous doctor, the bullish judge). There’s no time to connect with anyone (perhaps that’s the point?) so you don’t really feel any shock at their deaths.
But the thing that bugged me was that I couldn’t figure it out. She made a completely unsolvable mystery (perhaps the point, again), and then hands you the solution at the end: Aha! Here it is! You missed it! I felt cheated that I couldn’t figure out WHO was behind this. There were really no clues. And I found that irritating. (I like to think that if I were a smarter reader, I’d catch all the clues, and maybe I just missed them, but I really don’t think so in this case.)
So, while I liked it well enough, it didn’t live up to the hype that I had built up in my own mind over the years. Which is too bad.