Saturday, February 12, 2022


From a review of Jeremy Black’s The Importance of Being Poirot:
...Christie’s fiction, like all good detective novels, are ultimately stories about good and evil, sin and virtue, crime and justice. And good always prevails. “The detective fiction of the period presupposed a providentially governed universe that could provide meaning,” says Black. Even readers disconnected from traditional, Christian-influenced conceptions of morality yearn for this, because the human heart craves stability, especially in our time of distemper. ....

Yet it is not only Christie’s moral conception of the universe that draws us in. It’s also her ability to convincingly describe so many different periods and events in twentieth-century British history. Her very first story, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, written during World War I, features a Belgian detective who fled to Britain following the German invasion of Belgium in 1914, and was inspired by her interactions with convalescing Belgian soldiers while serving as a volunteer nurse.

Post-war works discuss social and political turmoil, such as the importance of inheritance (a frequent motive for murder in fiction) in preserving or procuring status. Christie’s characters express concern over communist-driven societal unrest, especially among the labor class. “There is nothing of the Socialist about Poirot,” says his companion and assistant Captain Hastings. Right-wing extremism is similarly condemned, with Poirot’s sometime collaborator Inspector Japp excoriating fascism in a 1940 novel. ....

Christie could be direct in censuring not only modern architecture, but modern art and literature, which she found vapid and uninspiring. A character in Murder Is Easy considers disguising himself as an artist but admits he can’t draw or paint; someone responds: “You could be a modern artist… Then that wouldn’t matter.” In another story, Poirot examines a piece of modern art and finds that the contrasting images contained are incoherent and meaningless. ....

There is thus a profound continuity spanning more than half a century of Christie’s impressive literary corpus: she never stopped believing that evil existed, or that goodness and justice would prevail over it. .... (more)
When I was growing up Agatha Christie was still writing at least one mystery a year and I anticipated buying a "Christie for Christmas."

Casey Chalk, "The deep conservatism of Agatha Christie," The Spectator, February 10, 2022.

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