Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5 Things You Can Learn From a Dame

Especially if the dame is Dame Agatha Christie. Okay, so I blogged about 5 tropes that chap my hide in mysteries. Now it's time to feel the love. See, there is bad familiar--that brother-in-law you will smack if he says "You gonna eat that?" one more time. Then there is that good sort of familiar--Mom's apple pie. You know how it will taste, but you love it. What tried and true favorites still make my tastebuds tingle?

1. The Locked Room Mystery: I love a good puzzle and nothing is better for me than the How Dunnit. I think my favorite may be Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun. Then again, you can't count out the ABC Murders (originally published as Who Killed Roger Ackroyd). Nobody does it like the Dame.

2. The Big Speech: The one where Charlie Chan lays out exactly what happened and how he deduced the solution. Then the lights go out. A gunshot rips through the darkness. *happy sigh* Yes, it's cheesy, but I love it. Just in case I missed something, it's reassuring to know all the answers. Monk also does this and Hercule Poirot was another master of the explanation. It's all in zee leetle gray cells, Hastings.

3. The Romantic Crimesolving Duo: In movies the king and queen were Nick and Nora Charles of the The Thin Man series. In TV, it was Jennifer and Jonathan of Hart to Hart. In literature, Tommy and Tuppence were my favorite romantic duo in all of the Agatha Christie novels. Even as a married pair, the sizzled with attraction for one another and the smart repartee kept me grinning. Nothing spices death like a pinch of love.

4. Exotic Locals: Remember the Carribean in Sparkling Cyanide? Or the gorgeous visions of Egpyt in Death on the Nile? I want to go someplace when I read and nothing appeals to me more than these exotic settings. Mysteries seem more mysterious, romance is more romantic, danger is more dangerous. It takes the known and familiar and sweeps it away. I can be completely immersed in the alternate world of fiction. For a bonus, anything written by M.M. Kaye can do that for you. I've recently decided to purchase (I've lost my old copies somewhere in a move) all her books and reread them. I can't wait.

5. It was nice knowing you: Mr. Redshirt extra guy from the away team. Mr. Bit Player who dies only to serve as exposition. In Agatha Christie, this was usually a maid or handyman who snoops too much and falls prey to the murderer. She made this work so well for her. That's what makes Miss Marple so cozy. A nice safe murder of a minor player. Lovely.

So those are some of my favorite Agathaisms. What makes you smile in a good sort of familiar way?


Dwriter said...

I loved the veiled Star Trek reference! We referred to those as "disposable crewmen" in our die-hard Star Trek household.

Someday I will own the entire collection of series. For now I live and breathe Voyager. (Sheesh! A grown woman with TV series addiction. Almost as weird as as Barkley's holo-addiction.)

Thanks for the interesting read.

Feel free to check out my blog for writers at:


AC said...

I love M.M. Kaye! I found her when I was a teen and was so hooked. Even though most all of her heroines were beautiful, intelligent, polished, attractive, etc., I didn't care.

And I'll confess to loving the tried-and-true "This is Why I Did It" speech from the villain at the end, right before he almost kills/outwits the sleuth. I love that moment!

Kim said...

One of my favorites is the "How the @%#%@ did I NOT see it?!" such as in And Then There Were None.

I don't read many mysteries, but I've read just about every Agatha Christie in print, and read them more than once. Some of my favorites are the ones I pull out when I'm sick (The Mirror Cracked, At Bertram's Hotel, Nemesis....)

No one does it like Christie did...

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
Stopping over from AW.
Fun post! I love Christie.
My fave couple is Bundle Brent and Bill Eversleigh from, "Seven Dials Mystery".

Can't name all my fave novels, but some are: "And Then There Were None", "Crooked House", "The Hollow", and "A Holiday for Murder".

If you like Locked Room Mysteries, you may want to try John Dickson Carr. His works are a lot of fun, but he's unfortunately overlooked nowadays.

Linnea said...

I have an enormous collection of Agatha Christie's books - a beautiful hardcover set I bought years ago that includes a volume entitled 'The Mystery of Agatha Christie'. It's a biography with pictures and features an account of her disappearance. Very cool.
Although I write historicals my favorite reads are murder/mysteries.
And speaking of disposable characters, I can't help but remember Galaxy Quest and the poor crewman who figured he was marked for death because he didn't have a last name.

Marian said...

I love the Christie mysteries that are set in locations she actually visited on archaeological expeditions - like Murder in Mesopotamia. They weren't just a nice change from Ye Olde English Settings; they had their own backgrounds and cultural flair.

Sometimes I'd try (knowing Dame Agatha's style) to outguess her. For instance, when I read Death in the Clouds, I thought, "OK, young couple in love. They should be fine." Dame Agatha had a real soft spot for young lovers. Wouldn't you know it, though, I was wrong.

mscelina said...

sFor me it's the "I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't have been for these stupid kids/cops/detectives/big purple dinosaurs." I live for Scooby Doo moments.