Book #27 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Category: A book set in Europe
Apparently Dame Agatha herself considered this one of her weakest efforts. My guess is that she felt like she was cheating a bit by up-cycling “The Plymouth Express,” a short story published in 1923, when she needed some quick cash. Okay, so maybe it’s no masterpiece, but I can’t bring myself to judge this book harshly. While “The Plymouth Express” was a little on the predictable side, it was clever in its own way, and Christie took this opportunity to let that bud of a plot bloom into a novel with enough intertwining subplots that there was room for some nice red herrings. Had I not already read the short story, I’m not entirely certain I would have been able to figure this one out.
I liked the Lenox character, and I really enjoyed the Riviera high-society scenes. Not because the lifestyle appeals to me, because I’m sure I’d hate it. But because it’s so visually rich and colorful. Sort of like Vegas, but classier. And it’s always interesting to get Christie’s contemporary perspective on that way of life. I have to admit, though, that some of the ethnic references, while I doubt they were intended as slurs, were off-putting.
I’m also not sure what to make of Miss Grey hailing from St-Mary-Mead in Kent. (Miss Marple’s St-Mary-Mead is not in Kent.) My guess is that Christie was working on Miss Marple’s world-building but hadn’t really gotten to that level of detail yet and thus did not really pay much attention to it. But there are various other explanations as well.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting point for reading Christie, but all the same, I don’t think it’s a bad starting point. Just not ideal. And if you are already a Christie reader, you’ll have to determine for yourself if first reading “The Plymouth Express” is a good idea. It does spoiler the novel pretty thoroughly, but it’s also interesting to compare as you go. Only you know which approach you’ll like better.