RSS

AGATHA CHRISTIE. Towards Zero (1944).

26 Dec

Murder comes late but with shocking force in this compact puzzle about a gathering, over the course of a fortnight in September, at Gull’s Point, the seaside home of Lady Camilla Tresillian. The long setup enables Christie to dwell more extensively than usual on the knotty series of relationships that bind together her principal characters. TowardsZero.jpg Among this group are Nevile Strange, a callow sportsman who seems to have all that a man could want, including a beautiful wife and no less beautiful ex-wife; Audrey Strange, the ex-wife, whose ethereal presence haunts the scene at Gull’s Point; and Thomas Royde, a tight-lipped colonial planter who has spent the long years of his Malayan exile nursing an unrequited passion for Audrey. In revealing just enough about these people to allow for the play of potentially homicidal motives—and, equally important, for the camouflaging of motive—the author puts her artistry in high relief. Yes, artistry. The rules of the detective-story game keep its practitioners from delving honestly into the minds of suspects, and that circumstance in turn keeps the genre from earning the respect that accrues to so-called serious fiction. Yet art and artifice go hand in hand, and in this instance the art takes the form of carefully blending revelation with concealment. Christie practices this kind of literary magic with an adroitness that few highbrow writers could match, even as she displays (within the limits of the whodunit form) a fine knack for the exploration of character. Who committed the brutal bludgeoning that takes place shortly after the book’s halfway point? Superintendent Battle sifts the clues, both physical and psychological, and comes to a solution that is not just clever but also meaningful.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 26, 2018 in British, Novel, Puzzle

 

2 responses to “AGATHA CHRISTIE. Towards Zero (1944).

  1. Richard Robinson

    December 28, 2018 at 8:13 AM

    Perhaps it’s that long lead-in, but I found this to be one of her weaker novels.

     
    • Mike

      December 30, 2018 at 10:32 AM

      Thanks for the comment, Richard. I think that Christie reached the apex of her career in the 1940s, when she found ways to give psychological depth to the traditional puzzle format. All the same, works like “Towards Zero” always make me miss the presence of Poirot or Marple.

       

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: