Saturday, March 27, 2010

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

Appointment with DeathAppointment with Death by Agatha Christie
1938, 214 pages

I've been wanting to try reading mysteries for a while, and I figured what better way to start than with the 'Queen of Crime' herself, Agatha Christie. I picked this one up on an impulse in the bookstore, mostly because I liked the setting and thought the plot sounded interesting.

In this book, Christie's beloved detective Hercule Poirot is on vacation in Jerusalem, and during his first night's day he overhears part of a conversation in which someone says, "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" Not long after that, Poirot is asked to look into the murder of Mrs. Boynton, the controlling matriarch of her family, who by all accounts is better off dead. Poirot perserveres in his investigation regardless, and in time virtually everyone comes under suspicion for the murder of Mrs. Boynton.

I didn't quite know what to expect coming into this novel. I think I may have watched a few too many procedural tv shows, where the story starts off with a body being found, and the investigation takes center stage. In this book, Christie spends over 80 pages setting the stage before the murder even takes place, and where Poirot was barely featured. I was surprised by this and, as I was reading, almost wished that the murder would happen already, since you know who's going to die before you even open the book. After finishing the book, I can see why this build up was important and understand why it's there. But I'm curious - is this long buildup before the crime typical of mysteries? Just trying to manage my expectations ;)

Anyway, I really liked the premise of this book - the question of whether Mrs. Boynton deserved to die, and the fact that virtually every character has some motive for wanting her dead. The resolution was a surprise to me, but it made sense in hindsight and I really liked the way it played out in the end.
"There is no doubt that her death was--how shall we put it?--beneficial to the community. It has brought freedom to her family. They will have scope to develop--they are all, I think, people of good character and intelligence. They will be--now--useful members of society! The death of Mrs. Boynton, as I see it, has resulted in nothing but good."

Poirot repeated for the third time:

"So, are you satisfied?"

"No." Dr. Gerard pounded a fist suddenly on the table. I am not 'satisfied," as you put it! It is my instinct to preserve life--not to hasten death. Therefore, though my conscious mind may repeat that this woman's death was a good thing, my unconscious mind rebels against it! It is not well, gentleman, that a human being should die before his or her time has come." (p102)
This book definitely makes me want to pick up some more mysteries in the future. The jury is still out on whether I love Agatha Christie's mysteries - I thought this one was enjoyable, but not quite what I expected.


  1. Dana, I wouldn't say this one is necessarily typical of mysteries or Christie in particular. Sometimes the body appears right away. Sometimes the crime is set up like this and it doesn't come for a while. Some mysteries don't even have a body. :-)

    I do think you will find that Agatha Christie has a lot of dialogue and most of the time she spends some time introducing the characters. She was great at portraying the average setting, a village or such, and then adding an air of menace as the story went on.

    Good luck with your quest. Depending upon your violence tolerance, I could suggest some contemporary authors to try. Christie wrote what is called a cozy mystery and of course most were written decades ago. Even though there is definitely violence, the description of it is minimal.

  2. I agree with Kay that this isn't the typical Agatha Christie mystery. She has such excellent variety to satisfy every kind of mystery reader :)

    Persist with Christie for some more time, I'd say. Try books like 'Murder on the Orient Express', 'And Then There Were None', 'Why Didn't They Ask Evans?' etc. Christie really is 'The Queen of Crime' :)

  3. I agree with the two commenters above. Christie's fame is due to the fact that her plots are often so different. You should read 10 Little Indians (And then there were none) or The ABC Murders.


  4. I love Agatha Christie! Like the other comments say, she has an extremely wide variety of novels. Each one is different and (usually) ingeniously put together. I suggest you continue reading her books. Try "Evil Under the Sun" or "The Hollow". Those are my faves!

    from Une Parole

  5. I've only read one Christie mystery myself- And Then There Were None. I enjoyed it, but I haven't read any more. I hope to finish Heyer's mysteries first and then do Dorothy Sayers and THEN (whew!) I'll hit up Christie.

  6. It's very typical of Christie to build up to the murder. She's all about introducing you to all of the characters first. I haven't read any of her stuff in so long; I need to remedy that!

  7. I don't read many mysteries, but have been thinking of trying Agatha Christie. Very interesting post... and I'm learning a lot from the other comments!

  8. Ive read this one and I really really like it!!

  9. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions! You've definitely given me some new choices for my TBR!

  10. I've read a couple of Agatha Christie books, but I forget the names. I do remember enjoying them though. But at the time I read the books, I was too young to "take part" in the investigations and come up with my own guesses, so I couldn't totally relate with it. I do want to read more Agatha mysteries, probably try it some time. Good review.

  11. Still Alice was an amazing book. To me it read like non fiction. I'd love to read Keeping the Feast.

  12. this one if definately not typical of the Christie format - and there are a few in her catalogue where she plays sround with the format in this way. there are some really wonderful Christies - have you read "A Murcder is Announced"? or "Lord Edgeware Dies"? I love those

    Lovely post - thanks for sharing


  13. I used to read alot of her mysteries, not all of them take so long to build up. I always enjoyed the twists and turns her stories took.
    Murder on the Orient Express is a favorite.
    Great review ;)

  14. I read several of Agatha Christie's books when I was in high school and remember enjoying them, but I don't actually remember anything about the particular plots. I think I'll have to re-visit at least one of them at some point.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  15. I agree with Kay, this is not a typical Agatha Christie mystery. She has such a good variety to meet every mystery reader.

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