When is a podcast with a focus on impossible crimes not a podcast with a focus on impossible crimes? Well, frankly, today.
With Brad and I having looked at Agatha Christie’s impossible crime novels last week, this week Dan joins the fray and we have a bit of a general discuss about Christie and her impact on our own reading. Widening our purview to include all her works, not just the impossible crime tales, this is the personal exploration of Christie you never knew you needed.
Do you want to know how Brad, perhaps the biggest Christie nerd on the blogosphere, first encountered Dame Agatha and her books? Or which Christie work Dan would take to a desert island? Are you curious about what I could possibly see in a body of work of over 70 books that keeps bringing me back for more, even as their quality degrades?
If not, I cannot stress just how much this isn’t the podcast for you, since that’s exactly what we discuss — and more! — this week. It’s all spoiler free, of course, so even though we cover a vast range of titles, and you’ll arguably get much more out of this if you’ve read a bunch of Christie, too, it’ll spoil nothing and hopefully whet your appetite for the Queen of Crime and her criminous (written) wares.
And so, on with it…
The podcast, while remaining a lot of fun, is proving increasingly difficult to find common time to record, and so — while it’s most certainly going to be a running concern, and not folding any time soon — neither Dan nor I can guarantee when the next episode will come out. That next episode should be a look at the “rules” of impossible crime stories as promised before (we broke from the planned schedule to record these two episodes on account of Brad’s presence in out midst) but whether it’ll be out in September or sometime in 2023 I can’t say as yet.
This news will not, I’m sure, ruin anyone’s day, but we appreciate having anyone at all listening and wanted to put you in the picture as fully as possible.
6 thoughts on “#567: The Men Who Explain Miracles – Episode 10.2: Partners in Crime, or: Some Personal Reflections on the Work of Agatha Christie”
Wow! What a beautiful podcast! You guys perfectly captured the thrill of experiencing Christie’s work for the first time. I found myself nodding my head in agreement with nearly all of the choices, and recognizing many common experiences.
I come back to Christie for the power of the moments of discovery. I must admit that I rarely reread a Christie novel from the beginning— I open a book and hunt for a remembered moment of frisson. Though it’s not one of my favorite Christie novels, like Brad I have a moment from Death Comes as the End that always stays with me— for me it’s the rather understated, almost arch announcement of Ipy’s death.
Carr is my favorite as I feel his ingenuity is even greater than that of Christie (that’s a tribute to him, not a knock at her). But despite the power of such works as He Who Whispers, I find that Christie far more frequently hits me at an emotional level. Carr’s plot often turn my world upside down intellectually, but Christie far more frequently makes me feel differently— about the world, about my relationships, about my path in life. Few would peg Christie as a deeply philosophical writer, but Christie has more than once made me consider how I should face my future course in life.
I don’t think much of Christie as an impossible crime writer— not only are her impossible crime plots infrequently, but very few of them are among her best works (though I think the brief impossibility in And Then There Were None is one of the greatest jewels of the Impossible Crime genre). But at the core, I think Carr, Christie, Chesterton, Brand, Queen, and a few others ultimately offer the same commodity— the pleasure of surprise inevitability, or as I usually refer to it, sudden retrospective illumination. Aristotle’s anagnorisis, 2000 years later.
One more thing— the idea of a work putting one off a writer (or a genre) for a prolonged amount of time. When I was at the height of my Christie reading fervor in my early teens, I heard many recommendations of Carr and The Three Coffins. I took a go at it and found it heavy going. I don’t know how to explain this, but beyond more challenging prose (as much as I love Carr I still find Christie much more my speed in terms of readability), I felt the whole story was written “at a distance”— as if it were a film shot entirely in long shots. I don’t know if that makes any sense to you, but I felt that I couldn’t get close to any of the characters. Badly explained there, but everything seemed remote, alienating, and ultimately a bit confusing. I adored the almost Sphinx-riddle aspect of “I was one of the two who didn’t escape,” but otherwise the whole thing alienated me. I wasn’t even sure I understood it (I do appreciate it much more now, though it’s still not among my top favorites).
It wasn’t until about 15 years later that I tried another Carr. It was He Who Whispers, and the effect was quite different. Soon after I read Till Death Do Us Part (still probably my favorite), The Burning Court, and so on… a Carr fanatic was finally born.
It’s due to that experience that I’m always wary of someone facing the wrong gateway drug. The whole “it’s her most successful play and therefore it must show her at her best” reasoning is one of my reasons behind writing Kill A Better Mousetrap (and similarly, when MGM Marx Brothers films show up on TCM, I post on Facebook, “Pleeese, watch Paramount Marx films first!”).
Okay, enough. Congrats again, all three of you, on a particularly compelling podcast.
I loved listening to this conversation and hearing you all sharing your passion for Christie. I had forgotten Murder in the Mews and now feel compelled to go dig out my copy!
I can certainly relate to a lot of Brad’s origin story – well, perhaps not And Then There Were None as a bedtime story but the joy at finding someone who shares the passion…
I don’t recall exactly what my first Christie was but I did spend a lot of my youth listening to the BBC Radio Christie adaptations. I still will typically listen to these once a year and, for me, June Whitfield is whose voice I hear as Jane Marple.
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Excellent discussion and brings back memories of our all too short time in the pub after Bodies from the Library.
Very interesting to hear how you all came to Christie, especially Dan as being a non-reader for pleasure until adulthood – how may more Christies do you have left to savour?
My route into Christie is most similar to Brad’s. Being a voracious reader from a young age I had read a lot of mystery/adventure fiction including the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, the Famous Five and a few Five Find-Outers. My parents had at least 20 Christies on their bookshelves and around the age of 13 I asked if I could borrow one. This was Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (in retrospect an odd starting point) but The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was next, and fairly early on Peril at End House which is probably my desert island Christie. As JJ says it is full of tropes, but if you are reading that kind of book for the first time the reveal is brilliant.
I love Brad’s analysis of why Miss Marple’s late appearance into The Moving Finger is so necessary – the idea as JJ summarised it of an inside-outsider.
Looking forward to a locked room “rules” podcast at some future time – keep up the good work!
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