Here are the last few books that I read in 2010.
The Big Four by Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot pits his wits against The Big Four, a mysterious and powerful crime ring whose goal is to take over the world. Agatha Christie must have been interested in crime rings because they are featured in several of her stories. I don’t share her fascination, however, so this was a tough read for me.
There is a Tide by Agatha Christie
A young widow inherits an enormous fortune while her husband’s relatives, who have come to depend on his money, get nothing. It’s a situation that almost invites murder, and murder is an invitation for Hercule Poirot. Only so-so.
Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
Written late in Christie’s career (copyright 1969), this mystery lacks the charm of her earlier works. Obviously a murder mystery is going to contain some violence, but Christie often managed to write about crime in such a way that we knew not to take it too seriously. This story is too serious. There are no starlets, no heiresses, no glamor. The victim, killed at a Halloween party, is quite young and the whole story bears the taint of lost innocence. Our whole society, Christie seems to say, has lost its innocence, and she rams the idea down our throats by allowing her characters to rant about it. For example, here’s what one character says.
I think there’s more of it than there used to be in my young day. We had our mentally disturbed, or whatever they call them, but not so many as we have now. I expect there are more of them let out of the place they ought to be kept safe in. All our mental homes are too full; overcrowded, so doctors say, “Let him or her lead a normal life. Go back and live with his relatives,” and so on. And then the nasty bit of goods, or the poor afflicted fellow, whichever way you like to look at it, gets the urge again and another young woman goes out walking and is found in the gravel pit, or is silly enough to take lifts in a car. Children don’t come home from school because they’ve accepted a lift from a stranger, although they’ve been warned not to. Yes, there’s a lot of that nowadays.
One wants to reply, “Perhaps true, Dame Agatha, but depressing.” On the bright side, it is always fun to watch Poirot at work, and so I would say Hallowe’en Party is worthwhile reading for fans of the world’s greatest fictional detective.
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
I think I remember this book the least of all my recent reads. Basically, a woman is murdered on a train. Another young woman, perhaps the last person to see the victim alive, becomes a sort of assistant to Hercule Poirot as he investigates the murder. Poirot is always interesting and the young lady is a likable character. As for the rest of the elements of the story, I don’t really recall, and so B seems the safest grade to give, meaning that the book is not bad but neither is it exceptionally good.
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
I cannot separate this book from my memories of the movie, which I watched and enjoyed so many times on HBO as a child, so it’s possible that I’ve given the book an inflated grade. C’est la vie. In this story, murder follows Poirot on vacation. The victim is one of his fellow vacationers, a dangerously beautiful former actress, “perfect as a statue” but also, in the words of another woman, the “personification of evil.” Hardly anyone is sorry to see her go, but still the guilty party must be found, and Poirot is just the man for the job.
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
I have always been fascinated by Egypt, so this mystery set on a Nile River cruise is a favorite of mine.