Early Christie

I enjoy Agatha Christie's short stories. Besides being generally crackingly good little gems of crime fiction, they're an interesting insight into Christie's creative process. Murder in the Mews compiled in 1937 is a collection of 4 Christie novellas/short stories all featuring Hercule Poirot - the eponymous Murder in the mews, The incredible theft, Dead man's mirror, and Triangle at Rhodes.

Murder in the mews is a surprisingly sad little tale of murder and attempted murder, it's a neat enough story, but has clues that stick out a mile - easy enough for a complete new-comer to crime fiction to solve. The incredible theft is a fairly typical country-house locked room murder mystery format (but without the murder!), clever enough, but not one of Christie's best stories. Dead man's mirror on the other hand is a clever mystery, and could easily be imagined as a longer more involved novel. The best of the quartet however is the last and shortest tale Triangle at Rhodes.

For aficionados of Christie this is a truly interesting tale. At first sight it appears to be a trial run for her slightly later novel Evil under the sun. Here, as in the novel, there is an eternal triangle, with the woman at the centre of the triangle about to end up dead. But it is actually a much cleverer tale than ...under the sun with a wholly unexpected combination of events (I really can't say clearer than that without giving the game away). This is what I find truly fascinating, watching an author playing with ideas and trying them out in different ways. In many ways this is the better of the two stories, but the way the characters are portrayed in ....under the sun allows Christie to write a novel, whereas here it would be difficult to spin the events out to that length. There are also elements in this mystery that would be re-used in other novels such as Sparkling cyanide. Fascinating stuff, and a great introduction to the short stories of Agatha Christie.


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