Classic Christie

Three Act Tragedy is a classic Agatha Christie novel from 1934. The basic plot line is one that she will re-use again later on in Sparkling Cyanide The fact that she re-uses plotlines though doesn't really matter, as she handles them extraordinarily cleverly.

Three Act Tragedy is a typical Christie with an un-doable murder, a cast of weird and wonderful suspects, secret passages, a dodgy butler, and at the centre of it all the imperturbable Hercule Poirot. It does have the feel of a 1930s murder mystery play, but that actually turns out to be an important element in the plot, and it works well, especially as she gently pokes fun at the classic crime genre, and so also laughing at herself - it takes a great author to be able to do that, and get away with it without either appearing arch or conceited. The first murder is admittedly the weak point, however it efficiently lays a large red herring across the murderer's trail.

It's not one of Agatha's best, but it is classic Christie, and sets the standard for many of her later mysteries. I like Christie the best when she's away from her comfort zone, in her more off-the-wall mysteries such as And Then There Were None or Death Comes as the End, but this novel is a great introduction to Christie at her best, and to that golden age of British detective fiction from the 1920s-'30s.


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