By Richard York
How comfortable are Agatha Christie's novels? they could appear to depict a sturdy global of recognize for culture, shared tradition, settled gender and sophistication roles, political conservatism and unambiguous morality, within which cause suffices to manage sickness. yet this international is threatened by means of modernity and uncertainty: battle, social mobility, extremist politics, ethical liberalization. popular electorate might be criminals, detectives aren't utterly in contrast to murderers, social lifestyles is essentially theatrical, and violence can lead to concord.
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Extra resources for Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files)
From his final viewpoint, the conspirators have humorously displayed their inventiveness (they could have chosen any other name for the nonexistent character) and crime becomes an act of literary fancy. Finally, a brother to Mrs Harris appears in They Came to Baghdad (xxii). Playfulness does not exclude seriousness; Christie is obviously fascinated by the idea of someone who can act like a person, by for instance booking a ticket, but isn’t one. Criminals and bodies alike can be disguised. In Murder in Mesopotamia, Lavigny is not in fact a highly qualified French archaeologist but a swindler; his whole personality is a disguise (xxvii).
The sense is especially acute when a character sees herself as acted by another person: Jane Wilkinson, the star actress, is profoundly excited by the sight of Carlotta Adams, a fictionalized Ruth Draper, imitating herself. The narrator Hastings expects her to be annoyed; in fact she is delighted and thrilled. We eventually learn that the delight is not simply aesthetic. This is the moment when Jane realizes she can commit a murder while using an alibi furnished by substituting Carlotta for herself.
In the case of Lady Westholme, a good deal of attention is given to making the disguise plausible; she is a tall woman, capable of passing for a man, and attention is drawn to the checked cloth with which she cleans her shoes and which she uses as a headdress in her disguise. In Third Girl, the impersonation is quite absurd; the late novels of Christie contain much that is interesting chiefly because it shows the author’s preoccupations reduced to their crudest level. Here the outrageousness of the disguise intensifies the betrayal of friendship, or more precisely of the tenuous The Wrong Angle 33 co-existence of young women who share a flat for reasons of convenience, which Christie perhaps regards as a typically modern substitute for the real community of family.