By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
(Here’s the next installment in my Bookshelf series on Agatha Christie’s mystery thrillers. Read the first one, “Intro to Christie,” here.)
In her first few novels, Agatha Christie has this thing with young, spunky women. It may be the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, when females broke from Victorian restrictions.
Sure they’re romantic and swoon for “strong, silent” men (Romance is never lost in the stories).
But Christie’s heroines are into the chase less for the sake of finding out who did it, and more for the thrill of experiencing something new.
Likely they are also strong pegs for Christie’s female readers, who at the time were slowly embracing a bigger part in society.
Murder on the Links (1923)
She intrigues returning character Arthur Hastings when he meets her on a train in France. Then she springs up much, much later at the scene of a murder.
Yet Hastings and Cinderella are just side stories to the investigation by the also-recurring Hercule Poirot.
Poirot brought Hastings along to aid a Frenchman who, fearing for his life, asked for the detective’s help. The day they arrived at his home, the man had been found stabbed and his wife knocked out and tied to her seat.
The sleuth thinks there might be a different culprit other than the apparent.
The suspects range from the Frenchman’s son to an enigmatic mother and daughter who live nearby. The reasons–inheritance to an affair.
Even Cinderella has a surprising connection.
Following the suspicions lets the reader meet some piquing female characters. And as much as Christie presents many of them as strong, she also hides some sappy sparks just behind the whodunits.
The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)
Anne Beddingfield, the lead of this story, is less the smoking, outspoken gal like Tuppence Crowley-Beresford of The Secret Adversary. But they share the smarts and derring-do of amateur detectives in the making.
Newly-orphaned, Anne wants to see the world. Her first adventure? London.
There she witnesses a man fall to his death at the underground rail. Then a lady is killed at a house for rent, the last person seen with her a man in a brown suit.
Police and the public dismiss any link between the two events. Anne is convinced they are connected. All she holds are some scribbles on a piece of paper and some snooping of her own.
With some license from a newspaper she promised a story, Anne follows the trail of the paper and uses her remaining money to board a ship leaving for South Africa.
The novel pieces Anne’s first-person reminiscences with excerpts from the diary of another character, Sir Eustace Pedler, a rich man who owned the rented house where the lady was killed.
As in The Secret Adversary, the reader looks for a hidden antagonist who here just might be one of the people in the boat. Is it indeed the man in the brown suit?
While less political than the Adversary novel, here Anne also learns she is up against an organized group. But she’s not short of allies she’ll make.
The change in perspectives at blocks throughout the novel might leave the reader either wanting more or just restless to go back to the other narrator.
It has the typical Christie resolution owing to keenness and a little luck. And again, one can expect another romantic swoon just to keep those interested readers happy.
Yes, Christie’s heroines are spirited, but can go sweet. Is that something I should also expect from the next 40-plus stories? Why not?