Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie

I discovered that the library has a few of Agatha Christie's books in audio format so I've been enjoying listening to the familiar tales. I read them over and over when growing up but she still manages to fool me time after time. Quite often I recall the set up but listening makes me slow down and enjoy the small details that familiarity can gloss over.  Just as often I find myself really enjoying a book that I previously didn't care about.

What surprises me most of all, listening as a Christian and an adult, is how very moral the stories were, with many mentions of Christianity. There is nothing odd in that, especially for the time in which most of Christie's stories were written. It was an accepted part of the cultural background, for one thing. But it gives one to think, as Poirot would say.

This book is one such example. I recalled the set up and even caught the big toss-off clue, though I got the murderer wrong.

Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot, #19)Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of a family on vacation in the Holy Land, whose matriarch is a sadistic monster. By the time the mother is murdered we are nothing but thankful because this lady, we think, does not deserve to live. In fact, that seems to be the opinion of the Colonel and doctor who bring the possibility of murder up in a halfhearted fashion to Hercule Poirot. On one hand they don't approve of murder but on the other, they feel the family is much better off.

This book comes after Murder on the Orient Express, which case is referred to several times by various characters. Anyone who knows the solution to that famous mystery knows that it contained an interesting moral dilemma which Poirot handled in a very different fashion than he seems prepared to do here. Christie seems to be exploring the question of whether murder is ever justified.
Poirot said, "The moral character of the victim has nothing to do with it. A human being who has exercised the right of private judgment and taken the life of another human being is not safe to exist among the community."
She also presents us with a vivid example of the danger of turning inward, instead of extending oneself for the larger community.

Naturally one needs a moral view in a murder mystery, but these themes were unexpected and added to my enjoyment of the book.

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