#771: Spoiler Warning – Coming in April, July, and October…

A quick recap for the unfamiliar: every three months, Moira, Brad, and I read an Agatha Christie book, discuss it in full spoiler-rich detail, and post a recording of that discussion here. I tell you in advance which book it is going to be, and you are invited to read along at home and then listen in to agree or disagree with our feelings.

In January, all y’all had voted for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and, as part of that post, the three of us selected three books each for a further vote — the poll was open for a month, and the top three titles will be the books we read and discuss in April, July, and October of this year. The options were:

Cards on the Table (1936)
The Moving Finger (1942)
Towards Zero (1942)
Death Comes as the End (1944)
Sparkling Cyanide (1945)
The Hollow (1946)
Crooked House (1949)
A Murder is Announced (1950)
After the Funeral (1953)

And here’s how the poll turned out:

Since I’m such a big fan of chronology, we thought we’d read these in order of publication, and so in April we shall discuss Cards on the Table, July will be A Murder is Announced, and After the Funeral will rear its head here in October.

Further reminders will go out closer to each discussion going up, but assume for the time being that Mr. Shaitana’s bridge-playing coterie will find itself under the microscope towards the end of next month. Thanks to all who voted, and here’s to some great reading ahead.

33 thoughts on “#771: Spoiler Warning – Coming in April, July, and October…

    • Well, thankk cripes for that. The idea of you being sulky and unhelpful thoughout these over the next nine months would be quite off-puitting.

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    • I can’t deny that I’m pretty chuffed to see CotT in the mix. I am pretty desperate to reread that and discuss it with someone. Though I promise I didn’t suggest the chronological ordering just so that one could be first…!

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  1. Honestly I would have been happy with any of those winning. What a list of great books.

    That said, AtF and aMiA are my two favourite Christies having read those each at least a half dozen times. I have only every read CotT once so will dig that one out for a re-read. It is an inspired choice to review in depth. Hope the three of you are brushing up on your Bridge playing skills 🙂

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    • I like AMiA, but I feel everyone else likes it lot more than I do. Still, the whole point of revisiting Christie is that I read her over a 20+ year stretch while also coming to terms with GAD in general, and so a review of her work is always going to be in order.

      I’m very much looking forward to these, which I would have said whatever three won. Even The Hollow, following Brad’s fulsome praise a little while back, though that appears very much the poor cousin from the way the votes worked out…

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    • Scott, you have wonderful taste: AMIA and AtF are my favorite Marple and Poirot, respectively. As for CotT, it took me forty+ years after reading it for me to take up bridge, but I sure was happy to re-read this after I learned the game!! (See response to AB/rebuke to JJ below . . . )

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    • Yeah, I agree it would be an interesting discussion; it was one of my choices for the poll — however, I’m sure we’ll get there, if we continue this endeavour as planned.

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      • I guess I’m just looking for an excuse to reread DEATH COMES AS THE END. It really has been a very very long time since I read it. It was one of the first Christies I ever read. I think I was about fourteen at the time and I can distinctly remember buying it and being terribly excited that it was about Egypt.

        Maybe I should stop making excuses and just order myself a copy!

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  2. Cards next, you say? Now I call that a grand slam of a result. Thats an episode I will be listening even more intently than usual, it being my favourite Christie. And most influential, too, responsible as it is for my acquiring the rather all consuming hobby that is Bridge.

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      • As a bare minimum. I expect you to go further and join a club, spend weeks in the company of life-long players, conduct interviews to investigate the game’s timeless appeal and evolution down the years, really breathe in the culture and finish by picking up a copy of the genre classic that is “Play Bridge with Omar Sharif” =)

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    • Ignore JJ, AB . . . saying that bridge plays a minor role in CotT is like saying that being on an island doesn’t matter to those pesky And Then There Were None folks. I didn’t learn bridge till many years after I first read this, but after I took it up I re-read the book, and I marvel how effectively Christie wove the psychology of bridge into the puzzle plot! Can’t wait to talk about it and TRUMP JJ’s dismissal of the game as a “minor” thing. 😉

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      • That’s a great analogy and I couldn’t have said it better, Brad. I chose to overlook the minor role remark and attribute that to many years having passed since JJ’s original read through.

        SPOILERS

        As on the contrary, short of the backdrop of the book being the world Bridge championships, I’m not sure how the game could have played any more of a role than it does, so fundamental is it to the commitment of the crime and, from a reader perspective, in the clewing. So much that anyone with a decent knowledge of the mechanics of the game can confidently identify the culprit by the halfway point of the novel, going by the score cards and one key conversation.

        /SPOILERS

        Indeed, I can’t wait to hear you hector him on that point until he capitulates haha.

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        • That’s lovely and all, but — in all seriosuness — the book can be read and understood with a complete ignorance of bridge and its workings. I read it 15+ years ago and understood it.

          The game and an understanding of the rules might help the bridge aficionado, but it can’t be key to the plot or the rest of us would have no hope of ever understanding it. Chrisite was too smart to limit her plots like that, their accessability is the very reason she’s been so damn huge in the genre for so long.

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          • Bridge knowledge is certainly not a prerequisite for being able to follow the overall gist of things. I enjoyed it originally while being utterly mystified by the Bridge references, on the strength of the premise alone. That being said, it kind of IS key to the plot.

            It provides the milieu for the crime, is a principal and recurrent thread in the ensuing investigation, the focal point of the denouement and also the one tangible clue given to the reader in the form of the score cards. All of that amounts to more than a bit part.

            And that’s all we’re contending – that Bridge can play a significant role in the story (and it does) without compromising said story’s readability to the GAD fan who doesn’t also happen to be a fiend at the game. The fact that the two aren’t mutually exclusive is only testament to what a judicious writer Christie was.

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    • Well, given that the majority of Christie’s work is one of arguably four series — Poirot, Marple, T&T, and Battle — and that most of her weaker books are atandlaones (Baghdad, Unknown, Frankfurt, etc.) I suppose it could be seen as inevitable that we’d start in the series books.

      I would like to get back to those early standalones — Evans, Sittaford, Brown Suit, etc. — before too long. Maybe the poll for next year can be split into decades…

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      • Evans? Really?? Why not Crooked House, or The Pale Horse, or Towards Zero, or, yes, Sittaford?? And then there’s that island tale that’s pretty good, too . . . There are plenty of terrific stand-alones to talk about, but I will point out that your listeners are the ones that voted!!

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  3. I was hoping that Cards on the Table would be one of the three chosen. It wasn’t my first Christie (I think it was second), but it was my first Poirot and it’s still one of my favorites. I saw my copy just a couple of days ago, and I was thinking it was about time I reread it. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it.

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    • Well, I’m delighted that this had fallen so well for people. I may even get some music for this episode, seeing that there’s enthusiasm for it already 🙂

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      • When we record this, you will begin with the comment “I will insert the music here . . . ” and then when I listen to it, the first thing I will hear is that comment. Start looking for the music NOW, bub . . . . .

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