Reviews and commentary on the works of Agatha Christie, best mystery author of the "Golden Age".

Agatha Christie Reviews

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Death On The Nile

Linnet Ridgeway has it all: brains, beauty, bucks - and she's only twenty. A very mature twenty at that; she could easily have been ten years older. Linnet's unusual in another way, too. Unlike many Christie victims, she doesn't die in the early pages. We get to know her quite well before the end comes.

Linnet is renovating her new country home when her old friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort shows up, with fiance in tow. Jackie is terribly in love with Simon Doyle, and they're both poor. She wants Linnet to give Simon a job as land agent for her new property. Then everything will be wonderful.

Jackie's rosy future turns black, however, when Linnet ends up falling for Simon herself and marries him. The newlyweds go on an extended honeymoon, which quickly goes sour for them, as Jackie turns up wherever they go.

Things come to a head on a cruise along the Nile. Jackie, in a moment of passion, shoots Simon in the leg. Later that night, Linnet herself is murdered as she sleeps in her cabin.

While Jackie appears to be the obvious culprit, there is no lack of other suspects. The American lawyer, who may have been dipping into Linnet's inheritance; the engineer whose bigamous marriage was thwarted; the undercover terrorist; the jewel thief who made off with Linnet's fabulous pearl necklace.

Hercule Poirot, having yet another busman's holiday (he just can't take a vacation without a corpse or two showing up), with some help from Col. Race (who's after the terrorist), handles matters with his usual aplomb.

Typical in a Christie novel, there is much underbrush to be cleared away before the truth is revealed. Not quickly enough, though. This is one of her more bloodthirsty works, as five bodies are taken off the steamer Karnak at the end.

Speaking of Nile trips and Egypt, the book gives wonderful background color. You get a really good feel for how the country was back in the 1930s, when Egypt was one of the places for the upper class to visit. You almost need sunscreen while reading it.

Most interesting, perhaps, is that any number of minor crimes are dismissed as Poirot and Race search for the killer. Then again, neither man is "official" (Race is Secret Service), and they can afford such latitude.

In some ways, this book is reminiscent of Murder On The Orient Express, with everyone in one small, enclosed location. All the detection and murders take place on the Karnak. A number of passengers have some connection with Linnet, although, unlike MOTOE, none are hidden.

Dame Agatha spreads suspicion with a deft hand, and the solution comes as a dazzling shock. Few readers are likely to anticipate it. This is Christie at her best.

Death On The Nile is a tour-de-force not to be missed. It is also, in some ways, a sad book...but you'll have to read it to find out why. So go read it!

Technorati Tags: