Tuesday, February 8, 2011

3rd Whodunit book!

Curtain is not my first Agatha Christie novel. I remember having read a couple back in grade school when I read ravenously and indiscriminately, but they apparently did not make an impression on me the way Nancy Drew did.

Curtain is the last novel in Christie's mystery series where the protagonist Hercule Poirot, a Belgian ex-police officer, summons his long-time friend and sidekick Arthur Hastings to a guest house in Styles to help him solve an extraordinary case. There were five previous murder cases wherein there was but one clear suspect for each, and where each suspect was arrested or admitted openly to the crime, and was charged or acquitted. But in all five cases, there was an "alien note" which had not escaped Poirot's near-omniscience: a person who was somehow connected to the suspects and was in the vicinity of and at the time the murders were committed. As if the case wasn't difficult enough, the absence of a motive rendered it virtually impossible to crack.

It is a fitting culmination to a popular series. There are numerous plot twists, distracting clues and characters who are all potential murderers. The reader is led to draw false conclusions and it's a wonderful guessing game until the end. It has all the ingredients for a successful murder mystery, including an aging detective who has unwavering convictions, sharp wit, charm for the ladies and an authoritative air for the rest of humanity, a good command of French, knowledge of almost everything that happens within a 2-mile radius, and plenty of hot air; and a kind, morally upright, eager-to-please fan masquerading as an assistant who does the senior detective's bidding cheerfully, and takes all his disparaging remarks in stride.

What makes Curtain even more interesting is that Poirot is old, weak and, for the most part, confined in his room from where not much detective work can be done. Hastings is fooled into thinking that he plays a major role in the resolution of the case when in fact, as Poirot reveals in the end, Hastings is merely being educated. Poirot, as it turns out, was still quite capable. I feel almost sorry for Hastings, if he weren't such an emotional, gullible, clueless, bumbling idiot throughout the novel.

Curtain was written in the early 1940s but was not published until 1974. It's unputdownable still, 70 years hence. 



dementedchris said...

Great review! It's been more than ten years since I last read an Agatha Christie book and you have just made me long for something of hers. :)

mental wayfarer said...

Thank you, dementedchris! Next up's Sherlock Holmes. I'm loving this Whodunit reading challenge!

Sana said...

I read Curtain looooooooooong time ago. Agatha Christie is one my fave whodunit mystery novelists. But sadly she had a very sad life.

Thanks Ajie for bring back lovely memories of my childhood =)

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Hello Ajie, I found this line from yours interesting:
"I feel almost sorry for Hastings, if he weren't such an emotional, gullible, clueless, bumbling idiot throughout the novel." - wow! what a description! Haha.

It has been such a long time since I've read an Agatha Christie novel - I'm glad that the Whodunit Reading Challenge has provided you the perfect excuse to revisit her novels yet again.

I must say, they're classics indeed. =)

mental wayfarer said...

I'm really having a blast with the Whodunit challenge. So glad Gathering Books thought of it.:)

Liane said...

I cannot fully express my devotion to Hercule Poirot.

Ajie, wish I could read books everyday for the rest of my life and have that be my job/career/livelihood. I think it is amazing that you are doing what I've been dreaming of doing for the last N years. Writing, writing about books, and writing. :)