By Richard York
How comfortable are Agatha Christie's novels? they might appear to depict a solid global of admire for culture, shared tradition, settled gender and sophistication roles, political conservatism and unambiguous morality, during which cause suffices to regulate affliction. yet this international is threatened via modernity and uncertainty: conflict, social mobility, extremist politics, ethical liberalization. sought after voters could be criminals, detectives should not utterly in contrast to murderers, social lifestyles is essentially theatrical, and violence can result in concord.
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Additional resources for Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files)
The star actress Arlena Stuart in Evil under the Sun is certainly a woman with lovers: but is she an active seducer or a victim of male domination and exploitation? The second view is the right one and gives the solution to the mystery; the first one is allowed to prevail through much of the novel, and the author’s description does little to dispel the illusion. The strategy is repeated in Sleeping Murder: Helen Kennedy is not a victim of her own ravening sexuality, as many of the characters imply, but is the victim of a perversely jealous brother as she attempts a normal marriage.
But we should perhaps not assume too confidently that she was hostile to criminality and impropriety; these are the things that make life – and fiction – colourful, dynamic, surprising. A crucial issue is that of inheritance. Inheritance of money is likely to be determined by biological links, as when in Sad Cypress Mary Gerrard is persuaded by Nurse Hopkins to leave her money to her long-lost aunt in New Zealand. It only emerges at the end of the novel that Nurse Hopkins is the long-lost aunt, and therefore guilty of Mary’s murder.
Actors are employed as tools of investigation: in Sparkling Cyanide, George Barton reconstructs the events of a year ago, when his wife Rosemary died during a restaurant meal, and surreptitiously hires an actress to represent the dead woman. The preoccupation with illusion and unreality in They Do it with Mirrors culminates in Miss Marple’s realization that the whole setup of the handsome building and the study within which its head is closeted is a stage set and that the people apparently quarrelling behind locked doors are actors (xvii).
Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files) by Richard York