Monday, 5 November 2012
Murder is easy
Alfred Hitchcock was once asked what was the best way to commit murder. His reply was "Do it with scissors" - the implement used in Dial M for murder when the heroine did indeed get away with murder, although admittedly it was in self-defence. Writers on film have often commented that Hitchcock's quote doesn't just apply to murder. His films are what they are because of the way they're edited; he does indeed do it with scissors.
The Hitchcock quote occurred to me when I was reading Agatha Christie's Murder is easy. As Christie could as well be talking about her own facility in creating murders as the abilities of the villain in this piece. To start with she constructs a series of crimes that appear to be undetectable - a series of deaths in that most murderous of places the sweet little English village. However when one resident begins to suspect that the mortality rate is appallingly high, and confides her fears to a friendly policeman recently returned from an outpost of empire, Christie has to swiftly unpick her perfect crimes and find a way in for the resolution of the mystery.
It's not one of her best. Although as usual it's very clever (perhaps a little over-clever) there's a flaw in the policeman's reasoning right from the start that any sharp-eyed reader should spot, and instantly light on the villain of the piece. The villain however is suitably villainous, the lovers suitably lovable, and the arty types suitably weird (unusual clothing and sacrificing cockerels in the midst of an orgy are de rigeur). If ever you wanted to know what influenced Caroline Graham in writing Midsomer Murders you need look no further.