Agatha Christie: The Unexpected Guest

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There’s no better place for a murder than an old British country house! Christie had the uncanny talent of making violence and brutality something elegant and nostalgic. The Unexpected Guest is a theatre play turned into a novel. It shows in the text, but it didn’t bother me the least. My mind’s eye was already in the darkened theatre watching the play…

 Agatha Christie: The Unexpected Guest

Author: original play by Agatha Christie, script edited into novel by Charles Osborne
Publisher: (Finnish edition) WSOY 1999, Finland
Category: Crime/mystery fiction
Original language: English
Rating: 3/5

HelMet Reading Challenge 2017: number 24. A book about solving a crime.

Michael Starkwedder pops in to a murder scene and a twisted family saga starts to unfold. The victim, Richard Warwick was a monster of a man, and as usual, there are plenty of possible suspects. Michael is the unexpected guest, who is more than willing to help out the poor widow/potential murderer Laura Warwick to mislead the police. As the police finally arrives, the members of the household bring in twist after twist to the plot. Christie is the queen of the plot twists and doesn’t fail the reader in this story either. Even though some of the events come too quick & easy, the final twist once again crumbles all the frail schemes the poor innocent reader has tried to concoct…

I’m usually quite lukewarm into reading novelizations of plays, but in this case it didn’t matter. The mental images of the events were so vivid that it really was like watching the play, instead of reading a play.

Afterwards I started to wonder, whether it’s because I’ve watched so many Christie films and tv-series, that the scenes are already in my mind – to be filled with new characters and plots as needed! There’s very little description of the setting in the book, besides the first page, which puts the reader to the scene of the crime.

I started reading Christie’s mysteries at the age of ten. By that time I’ve pretty much read through the children’s section at my neighbourhood library (even some of the horse girl fiction, but excluding the extreme boyish wilderness/war fiction). Christie was love at first sight. What an earth is it, that makes the British past days of glory (or gory) such a wonderfully nostalgic fairytale land for readers even outside the UK? I don’t have the answer to that question, not even for my own part. There just is something appealing in that setting – the mixture of understated beauty, (mostly) repressed emotions, strict rules of conduct and yet the definite understanding that under all that gallantry and innocent honesty, there are murky waters flowing and no way to stop them.

Susan

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