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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

By ScienceGeek | Books | February 3, 2010 |

By ScienceGeek | Books | February 3, 2010 |

In recommending this story to your friends, please do not hint at anything that might spoil their pleasure in reading it.

This is the request printed inside the book jacket of The ABC Murders, and it tickles me. I picture Ms. Christie herself penning it, worried about the Spoilering of all her carefully crafted plot twists.

I just can’t refuse such a polite request. So, I will limit my descriptions to only what is found above that little message on the book jacket. A maniac is working their murderous way through the alphabet, starting with Mrs. Ascher of Andover, followed by Betty Barnard at Bexhill, then Sir Carmichael Clarke of Churston. And, from the very beginning, Hercule Poirot is involved.

I seem to have developed a bit of a gift for choosing books by Christie with plots that have been rehashed in a dozen different ways. This time, it’s the ‘hunt for the mad serial killer’ done do death (pardon the pun) by everyone from Dean Koontz to “CSI.”

This time, however, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. The ending delighted me, which is about as much I am willing to say. I’ve read less than half a dozen of Christie’s books, mostly Poirots, and I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s very clever in separating the styles of her two most famous creations, despite the fact that both examine the psychology of the killer rather than collecting physical evidence. Miss Marple is an old woman full of stories; she operates on the idea that all humans behave the same way when influenced by the same motivations. There’s no unique little snowflakes in Miss Marples’ world. Poirot is sneakier; he’s echoed, in many ways, in shows like “The Mentalist” or “Criminal Minds.”

If I have a complaint about her work it’s that sometimes it’s a bit too ‘stiff-upper-lip’. The characters are believable, but they can be a bit dry. The secondary characters can blend into the background, or one another, and you end up wondering if the Determined, Honest Brunette is the sister of the second murder victim, or is she the niece of the first? Then again, that may have been my own fault — I read this book to fill in time while my car was being serviced, in a room with a TV blaring some inane morning television show clearly designed for retirees with low standards and stay-at-home mums or dads too broken by sleep deprivation to demand better viewing material.

Christie deserved her crown as High Queen of Mysteries. If you haven’t read this book, please do. I recommend it highly, and I hope I haven’t hinted at anything that might spoil your pleasure in reading it.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of ScienceGeek’s reviews, check out the blog, Suburban Scientist

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.