In re-reading Agatha Christie’s novels I’m listening to them rather than re-reading them. I do have all her books, so re-reading all of the stories wouldn’t be a chore for me (the books are the 1990s Bantam collection in blue leatherette, the collection that is so readily available on eBay, and are the books that replaced my paperbacks whose pages were falling out). Still, it’s so much easier to listen to the books while I’m doing other things — we all multi-task nowadays, don’t we.
The novel I’m listening to now is A Murder Is Announced, a story set in the town of Chipping Cleghorn in which a Rudi Scherz apparently tries to murder Letitia Blacklock during an “announced” murder at Letitia’s house, Little Paddocks. In the story, Miss Jane Marple is informally assisting Inspector Craddock in discovering why (the now-deceased) Rudi would do such a thing.
Even though Mrs. Christie is called the Queen of Crime and her books are well-appreciated by readers around the world, I do listen to books other than hers. One big difference, though, that I’ve noticed between Mrs. Christie’s Golden Age mysteries and many modern mysteries is in reading ease. Mrs. Christie never confuses me, other than in strewing red herrings throughout the story. I always know where I am in the story and who is who.
I’ve read the commonplace criticisms of her work: clichés, cardboard characters, and lack of depth. My own criticism would be the repetition in what the characters are called as she seems to be fond of certain names — Archie Easterbrook in A Murder Is Announced, Mark Easterbrook in A Pale Horse.
Despite the weak spots in the Christie books, a strength I value is Mrs. Christie’s ability to tell her stories in such a way that she doesn’t baffle the reader concerning the story’s narrative, or at least, she doesn’t baffle this reader. Even when I’m not multi-tasking, I appreciate being able to follow a story even if I usually can’t figure out whodunnit.