04/02/2016

Murder is Easy (by Agatha Christie)

It’s been a while since I read an Agatha Christie book. I have quite a big collection of her novels, but rarely think of picking them up. However, in the mood for something a bit different, I decided to pick one I hadn’t previously read.

‘Murder is Easy’ stars a young man called Luke Fitzwilliam, a policeman who has returned to the UK after a spell abroad. He meets an elderly lady on the train, who spins what appears to be a bizarre story of crimes committed in her village, which she plans to report to Scotland Yard.

The next day, Luke learns something which makes him realise that perhaps there was something in her story… and goes, himself, to stay in the village. He passes himself off as a writer, and starts to make investigations…

While Luke isn’t a particularly strong character, nor subtle about his questioning, he’s quite likeable and good-hearted. That was just as well, because this was rather a dark story which didn’t turn out to be good bedtime reading at all. The village has an atmosphere, and some of the characters are decidedly creepy. I found myself concerned about Luke and one or two others, quite apart from wanting to know ‘whodunit’.

Purists might wish that Miss Marple had been involved; it was the kind of village she would have liked, but it worked well, I thought, to have a young and enthusiastic (if not always very intuitive) detective. I was a little surprised that there was quite a significant romantic thread, unusual in Christie’s novels; some of the relevant conversation was perhaps a bit cringeworthy, but then dialogue wasn’t one of the author’s strong points.

What Agatha Christie lacked in characterisation she more than made up for in her plotting. While this story does depend very much on a small number of people, most of whom are somewhat caricatured, she neatly lays her clues and red herrings, leading me exactly where, I assume, she intended her readers to go. I was pretty sure from early in the book that I had guessed the criminal; my hunch became more and more certain as the book progressed, and I was surprised that Luke had not come to the same conclusion.

And then it turned out that I was wrong. What should have been clear - and the clues were there - was obfuscated by the clever direction in which the story went. The last few chapters are even creepier than the rest, so I was glad that I had decided to finish the book in the daytime.

Recommended if you like this style of mid-20th century light crime fiction. Still in print on both sides of the Atlantic, and also widely available second-hand in many different editions.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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