Saturday, January 20, 2018

Death in the Air by Agatha Christie (1935)


First American edition
Some Agatha Christie books I read in junior high are gems of my reading history:  I remember them fondly, and re-read them over and over again:  Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, all of the Marple books.  A few, like Crooked House or Cat Among the Pigeons, I remember being amazed by but don't recall ever reading again (I probably didn't own paperback copies of these particular books but checked them out from the library). Then, there were a very few books like Death in the Air that I distinctly remember NOT liking at all (there aren't very many of these that stick out; in fact, I can ONLY think of Death in the Air off the top of my head). I don't remember why I didn't like Death in the Air. I just knew, in my little grey cells, that as I read all of Christie, I would eventually come to this book that I knew I didn't like. So when the time came, and I started and the book, I was pleasantly surprised to discover it wasn't THAT bad.
The edition I read

Not being "that bad" isn't the highest of praise; and this isn't her best book. I think quite likely I wanted the travel books to be as good as Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile - but Death in the Air just can't ever compete. The cast of characters in both of these is so rich; the mystery was so satisfying. That just wasn't true with Death in the Air.

What I did like about Death in the Air was Agatha Christie gently poking fun at herself, her profession, and her husband's profession. This is definitely my 7th grade self was unable to catch on to way back when. The murder weapon of choice in this particularly book was a poison dart blown through a tube - and Inspector Japp, among others, spends some time scoffing at how fantastic this sounds. It does, and Christie knows it. One of the suspects is a mystery writer with peculiar habits; he is no Ariadne Oliver, but he still was amusing. There were two archaeologist on board the airplane; she gently ribs their profession and how engaged they could become in talking about their work. "You can't write anything too sensational,"
cool paperback edition
Christie has her mystery writer say at one point. "Especially when you're dealing with the arrow poison of the South American Indians. I know it was snake juice really, but the principle is the same. After all, you don't want a detective story to be like real life? Look at the things in the papers - dull as ditch water."



Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot, #12)Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not a masterpiece of mystery like Murder on the Orient Express - for starters, it lacks the rich cast of characters and complex plot of that particular book. It's still a reasonably good mystery - I certainly did not know "whodunnit" until Hercule Poirot revealed all at the very end (you would think if you were a murderer, and Hercule Poirot invited you over to "reveal all", you would skip town; but I guess all Chrisitie-n murderers are narcissists who are absolutely secure in their own superiority and ability to "get away with it"). I particularly liked this peak into 1930s air travel - planes had names like ships, and were very chic; I also loved Christie poking fun at her own profession on numerous occasions - including a best selling murder mystery writer as one of her suspects - AND that of her profession of her husband - including a pair of archaeologists. "You can't write anything too sensational," Christie has her mystery writer suspect say at one point. "Especially when you're dealing with the arrow poison of the South American Indians. I know it was snake juice really, but the principle is the same. After all, you don't want a detective story to be like real life? Look at the things in the papers - dull as ditch water." I heartily agree.


View all my reviews


No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Followers