Seriously under-rated Christie must-reads

September 15th being Agatha Christie’s 128th birth anniversary , I  revisited the Christies’ in my bookshelf over the previous week . It might sound a bit odd to revisit mystery fiction when you would already know the culprit but trust me , rereading Christie did not prove to be dull . She managed to throw the spotlight on some of the storytelling elements which had gone unobserved during the fast & furious one sitting read .

Sans the pitfall of too-descriptive / metaphorical  language or other innovative narrative elements/styles of today’s thrillers or the “psychological” elements of the psychological thrillers Christie’s straight narrative still had us hooked to the book even more than books with the above mentioned fuss n feathers . When we hear the name of Christie , some of the most popular titles like And Then There Were None , The Murder of Roger Ackroyd need no introduction for readers .  So , here today, I have a list of some of the most underrated Christie titles which most of us tend to miss out with all the noise the popular titles are making.

sad cypress

#1 Sad Cypress

Elinor Carlisle and Roddy Welman , an engaged couple ,  arrive at Hunterbury Lodge , Mrs. Welman’s estate on receiving an anonymous letter accusing someone of taking advantage of their aunt . Both are looking forward to a substantial inheritance on Mrs. Welman’s demise who is now an invalid following a stroke . Unfortunately , Rodney falls in love with Mary Gerard , the lodge-keeper’s daughter  whom Elinor suspects to be the person whom the anonymous writer meant . Elinor breaks her engagement to Rodney .

When the story begins Elinor is being tried for the murder of Mary Gerard – did rivalry in love prove to be a compelling motive for Elinor as everybody believe ? As Poirot tries to save Elinor from the gallows he uncovers several startling truths ….. Is Elinor truly innocent or a cold blooded murderess?

The solution to the puzzle simply left me speechless . I would strongly urge you to pick up this one .

#2 Sleeping Murder

sleeping murder

Miss Marple’s last case involves solving a ‘sleeping murder’ – a murder that has evaded detection for 18 years . Gwenda and Giles Reed  move into Hillside which turns out to be Gwenda’s childhood home . An evening at the theater triggers a childhood memory of being a witness to a murder – but where? .Who was the victim ? Who was the murderer ? Gwenda draws a blank for these questions except for a single name that she gives for the victim . As  they start piecing together the past they seem to get too close to discovering the murderer’s identity . For somebody who has committed the ‘perfect’ murder , the past should not be dug up and he/she will resort to anything to keep it so – including killing again .

Like  several amateur detectives , the Reeds are gung-ho about snooping around and do not realize the dangers they put themselves into . So, enter Miss Marple , ‘ the perfect Victorian piece ‘  to ‘ look after them ‘ ( to quote her ) . As a crime – Miss Marple realizes the dangers of delving too deep into the past – a murder , more so . But , an unsolved and ( unsuspected ) murder from the past proves to be too intriguing even for Miss Marple ( and not to mention , definitely dangerous )….

#3 Why Didn’t they ask Evans ?

evans

The last words of a dying man ” WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS ” spur Bobby Jones and his friend Frankie into  snooping around  trying to find the identity of the dead man and also , what did he mean by those words ….

Again we have two amateur detectives  here but what made the duo lovable was the fact they did had a good amount of luck in stumbling upon clues and they were like two kids playing the guess-who game – bringing in some good humor , at times  bungling up just like an amateur would ,  putting together pieces when there is a sudden brainwave –  I especially loved Frankie . Let me put it down here that amateur detectives don’t mean no logical explanation to their deductions .  What I love specially about them is that you get a good dose of drama and a change from our very business like Poirot or astute Miss Marple – but still Christie makes sure there is one of the pair who is bright enough to provide the readers with the logical explanations to their findings . The fun-loving sleuths meet their match in a villain who is all at once – suave , diabolical  and blessed with ( equally ) good humor who comes up clean in a most characteristic way … After reading the villain’s confession , I was equally amused with the villain too -we don’t comes across such interesting and if I may say , charming villains often….

#4 Death Comes As The End

the end

Set in 2000 BC Thebes, the story follows a spate of murders in the house of Imhotep, the Ka mortuary priest. It all began with the death of Nofret, his young concubine from Memphis. Her arrival at Imhotep’s house had not been without some animosity . She antagonized Imhotep’s sons and their wives – only the threat of disinheritance seemed to keep Yahmose and Sobek’s wives from bullying her any further. Her death seemed to bring everything back to as it was before Nofret’s arrival –  BUT IT WAS NOT SO .

Soon , as Renisenb , Imhotep’s daughter witnesses , the family members become victims to the unknown murderer one by one – Or is it the vengeful spirit of Nofret exacting her revenge on the family?

Christie puts together a really convincing ,  racy thriller in a timeline that we don’t have much idea about .  I think this book alone can establish  Christie’s unsurpassed mastery in crime fiction writing – I can’t recommend this enough .

Let me know in the comments section which books you loved from the above list if you have already read them or which books are you planning to pick up ? I would love to hear from you guys about your thoughts on the Christies you have read too . I am planning to have the entire month for Agatha Christie themed posts.. Stay tuned !!

 

Wuthering Heights-Getting answers for some questions…-Part 2

The way Wuthering Heights panned out with Heathcliff on an avenging mission, I have often wondered that who had a major role in advancing Heathcliff’s schemes(knowingly or unknowingly) on both the families.Was it Hindley’s alcoholism cum gambling mania that made him a debtor to Heathcliff or Isabella’s attraction towards Heathcliff?If it had been only Hindley,the scene of action would have been only Wuthering Heights .But Isabella too comes in and Thrushcross Grange-the Lintons’ happy and normal home becomes a setting for the climax-the climax that preceded the story of avenging one’s love .There is one person who connects both the houses-Catherine Earnshaw,the ‘tragic’ heroine of the novel. Throughout the entire first half of the novel, there is ample evidence that Catherine Earnshaw’ s actions and words played a major role in setting up Heathcliff in his avenging mission.

Firstly,there was nobody to hinder Catherine from choosing Heathcliff over Edgar Linton-a proud (and definitely uncaring) brother definitely did not stand a chance against Catherine’s strong-willed nature. It was only Catherine’s pride and fear of poverty that made her choose Linton over Heathcliff. She could comprehend her feelings towards Heathcliff even then when she says-

“This [the acceptance of Linton’s proposal] is for one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself.[…]my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained ,and he were annihilated ,the universe, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger;[…]My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware; as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath-a source of little visible delight but necessary.

This alone says it all-her marriage to Linton is chiefly out of selfish motives for herself primarily despite her saying “The others [motives] were for the satisfaction of my whims and for Edgar’s sake,too,to satisfy him” and for Heathcliff chiefly.The only thing that sets apart Catherine (who caps even  all the Brontes’ unconventional heroines) from the rest of the Victorian heroines  is that she is very vocal about her factors(however despicable) that influenced her course of action.With the Lintons pandering to every whim of hers, she soon forgot about the only living person “who was her great thought in living” until the day he made his reappearance.While Heathcliff had come only to pay back Hindley, Catherine’s rapturous welcome of him showed him plainly that he had not lost Catherine’s love. Edgar Linton’s evident discomfort at his wife’s attachment towards Heathcliff, made it a sport for Heathcliff to repeat his visits to the Grange.

When Isabella confesses her admiration for somebody whom she perceived Heathcliff to be, Catherine plainly puts forth Heathcliff’s failings to make Isabella see sense.

He’s not a rough diamond___[…] he’s a fierce,pitiless,wolfish man.[….]I say ‘Let them alone, because I should hate them to be wronged’; and he’d crush you like  a sparrow’s egg,Isabella,if he found you a troublesome charge. I know he couldn’t love a Linton, and yet he’d be quite capable of marrying your fortunes and expectations___avarice is growing with him a besetting sin. There’s my picture; and I’m his friend -so much so that had he thought seriously to catch you, I should, perhaps, have held my tongue, and let you fall into his trap”

Despite knowing enough about the Heathcliff who had returned [no guesses there-Heathcliff laid bare his desire for revenging himself upon Hindley during their long rambles], she still reveals the girl’s fancy to him “to punish her for her sauciness” which seals Isabella Linton’s fate. Heathcliff had to just step up his revenge on Edgar with his marriage to Isabella Linton.Catherine Earnshaw knowingly not only betrayed her husband but also his beloved sister despite declaring that her intentions were otherwise.Even if she was honest in her intentions towards Isabella Linton,her betrayal towards Edgar Linton gives her fallacies that would make her an “anti-heroine” just like Heathcliff becomes an “anti-hero”.

I can go so far as to say that Catherine Earnshaw’s presence in the Lintons’ home was a luckless one. And Ellen Dean says that it was Heathcliff who was the “luckless presence”, a bird of bad omens”(Duh!!) .She does get very good adjectives but she did not use it to describe the correct person.

Catherine kept her word assiduously when she said

“I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.That will be a prompt way of finishing all when I am pushed to extremity!”

If Catherine, alive and headstrong could inflict only this much damage, a delirious Catherine Earnshaw in her deathbed, with her words, destroyed any happiness that everybody could have had, if Heathcliff had been given a chance to move on.

I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings […] Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, ‘That’s the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her long ago, and was wretched to lose her: but it is past. I’ve loved many others since; my children are dearer to me than she was, and at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her. I shall be sorry that I must leave them! ‘Will you say so, Heathcliff?

Even when Heathcliff for once speaks his heart at the very moment when he says “Do you reflect that all those words will be branded in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? [..]Catherine, you know that I could as soon forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?”. But this anguished plea  falls on deaf ears and she again wishes to never be parted from Heathcliff and rambles on about how she expected Heathcliff to wish to be near her always.Knowing Heathcliff unlike any other person,and her hold on his heart,if her marriage was a betrayal,her confession about her undying love for Heathcliff during her final moments was even worse.

That day,the “anti-hero” Heathcliff emerged when he says-“I forgive what you have done to me.I love my murderer-but yours!How can I?“Although he clearly perceived Catherine’s fallacies,the intense grief totally eclipsed every other notion of reason/moving on-and The Hate Story started from there.