What Longinus said eons ago is after all true. Often 'tis much later that the true realization about a story strikes home. Though one has been badgered by theory, a really analytical, perspicacious understanding of a book has happened only now.
Agatha Christie always meant a truly gripping story which can't be put down till one reaches the final full stop. many a time one has wondered open-mouthed at the sheer brilliance with which the dame arranges the plot, the crime, the way Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot reaches the conclusions. recent reading of two her her murder mysteries -- The Murder on the Orient Express and The ABC Murders -- opened one's eyes to the subtle social criticism enmeshed in an intriguing plot. this particular social critique pertains to a certain sense of xenophobia that the English harbour. This is particularly felt in The Murder on the Orient Express where the train presents a host of people of different nationalities. The English characters seem to be apprehensive about the Americans and vice versa, almost bordering on mutual dislike. also, there is a mild satire on strong beliefs in stereotypes -- as in when Poirot's friend is quite certain that it is the Italian passenger who committed the muder 'coz only Italians stab ! However, as is usual with Christie, the story takes a rather unpredictable turn, which only Poirot could have guessed !
This xenophobia is more manifest in The ABC Murders, wherein the killer openly states his dislike for the Belgian Poirot. However, the plot is more gruesome given the fact that the crime was prompted by personal grudge. Again, true to her style, Christie works up a series of murders, alibis and an almost graphical representation of how Poirot thinks up his unmatchably brilliant conclusions.
Self also happened upon two non-crime fiction by Christie -- The Harlequin Tea set and Other Stories & The Rose and the Yew Tree. the former is an excellent collection of short stories with the characteristic unpredictability and as unputdownable as the crime mysteries, and proves that 'tis not crime alone that can thrill the reader. If the short stories were supremely interesting, the latter one is a romance which is not all that great an entertainment. Self picked up the book sans perusing the blurb and thought 'tis gonna be another thriller. At every turn of page self kept thinking somebody will get murdered now, but was sorely disappointed to know that the story is all about a wounded soldier who falls in and out of love, and always finds himself in company of either too fussy or too calm women. There is a death of course, but there is no wild guesses to be made, in other words, no unpredictability: the lady merely puts herself in front of bullets to save her lover. No wonder Christie wrote it as Mary Westmacott; most people won't expect that story from the name Agatha Christie. Now, that is one stereotype nobody would want to break !
Well, such analysis of Christie's cultural perception might be stale; self understood it only now though. So time for yet another mystery . . . here self goes . . . .
** coming up next -- two books that assure one that being single is not such a bad idea :)