Spoiler Warning – After the Funeral, a.k.a. Funerals Are Fatal (1953) by Agatha Christie + Vote for Future Episodes

Slightly later than planned — er, sorry about that — let’s see what Brad, Moira, and I made of Dame Agatha’s After the Funeral, a.k.a. Funerals Are Fatal (1953), shall we?

You hopefully know the drill by now, but let’s have a recap for anyone new to this: we read the book, we discuss the book without having to tiptoe round spoilers, and I’m frequently told how wrong I am about most of the opinions I express. So be aware that the spoilers will start without any warning…this series is called ‘Spoiler Warning’ after all, which should suffice, and if you complain about stuff being spoiled, well, what do you expect?

Right onwards:

The titles for these posts are decided by a poll, and a new year means a new poll for the next tranche of spoiler-heavy discussions. So, with Moira, Brad, and I selecting three titles each, you are invited to vote on the following list for which Agatha Christie novels you’d like to listen to us pick through in April, July, and October 2022:

  • Peril at End House (1932)
  • Death on the Nile (1937)
  • Murder is Easy, a.k.a. Easy to Kill (1939)
  • The Body in the Library (1942)
  • The Moving Finger (1942)
  • Five Little Pigs, a.k.a. Murder in Retrospect (1942)
  • Towards Zero (1944)
  • The Hollow (1946)
  • Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (1952)

I’ll leave this up for just under a month, so feel free to ruminate and cast your vote(s) later. You can technically vote for all nine, but that would be ridiculous as only the three most popular titles will be selected for future Spoiler Warnings.

And, look, I know you’re all going to vote for Death on the Nile, especially with the movie allegedly out soon, but why not diversify a bit? I promise that, if Death on the Nile is not in the top three titles, the three of us will — at some future point, TBD — sit down and do a full spoiler discussion comparing the movie and the book. Sure, we could do that anyway, but since I don’t know how long it’s going to take my anxieties about crowded spaces to recede, there’s a very slim chance I’m going to watch it until I can hire it on DVD from my local library (because I’m cool and up with the times). So, please? For me? And, hell, Brad and I have already discussed the book anyway…

The poll will close on Friday 4th February, with results announced on Saturday 5th. Bonne…voting?

~

This should be the return of podcasting on The Invisible Event, with In GAD We Trust now producing one episode a month rather than one every fortnight. That is very dependent on me finding people to talk to, but we can be reasonably assured that a monthly podcast episode is a fair expectation for the next little while at least.

52 thoughts on “Spoiler Warning – After the Funeral, a.k.a. Funerals Are Fatal (1953) by Agatha Christie + Vote for Future Episodes

  1. Great news about the return of you three and of IGWT. Since this is a Christie I haven’t yet read, I’ll have to do so first, but I’m going to have fun anticipating your various reactions!

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  2. A great job again, you three!

    A few thoughts!

    Spoilers!!!! SPOILERS!!!!!!! SPOOOOOOOOOIIILLERRSS!!!!!! MAJOR SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I too think After the Funeral is absolute top-tier Christie, always in my top five (and usually in my top four). And it’s one that I believe that even a great level of experience with Christie or other GAD greats is unlikely to make transparent (which I can’t even say of a cleverly carpentered work such as A Murder is Announced). Indeed, I believe in many ways, Funeral’s particular example of “primary murder decentralization” may be the cleverest idea Christie ever devised.

    Even many of its possible flaws have an intricacy that makes them somewhat elusive to clearcut critical indictment. For instance, the whole family tree question, which brings to mind the very real distinction between the signifier and the signified, all too easily ignored in most aspect of life. After all, an object called three different things in three different languages is not three separate entities, but merely one entity referred to by three different names. Likewise, if I changed my name tomorrow to Gaston Monescu, it would not change who I am, only what I would be called. Which is why self introduction in many languages is related in some form of ‘I call myself…..” or “I am called……” rather than “I am…..,” and rightly so, because a name is just a group of letters employed to indicate the human being whom we are.

    So, was not the woman at Richard Abernathie’s funeral indeed Cora Lansquenet merely because she referred to herself by that name? For if not, is it not also a problem that the narrator does not refer to “the woman who called herself Laetitia Blacklock…” every single time she is referenced in that book? Or that there is not constant reference to “the woman who was known as Caroline Martha Hubbard….”? Once or twice might work, but after a while it might give the savvy reader a subtle clue to the fact that there’s some nomenclatural trickery afoot.

    I don’t really know the answer here. Of course, one way to remove the problem is to eliminate third person narration, but even this might not resolve things. After all, the innocent Hastings might be justified in writing “Mrs. Hubbard came into the compartment”— but aren’t these stories generally thought to have been written after the fact, when even he should know the truth of the matter? (After all, Hasting is presumed to be writing accounts of cases, not turning them into mystery stories). The stage and screen have it easier, where we learn people’s names from words that come out of their mouths, and they may very well be lies. The only disadvantage these forms have in that regard is credits and theatre programmes, and even there there is room for some clever “Witness for the Prosecution-ish” cleverness.

    As for the merit of the opening chapter, I really can’t say. I have a tendency to side with Jim’s view here, but that may be because I’m a particularly impatient reader. I think I initially found it hard to get through, but I’m not a good reader, and I find practically everything hard to get through!!

    I think the biggest weakness in the book is Cora’s self-attack (the cake). It is consistent with her character— exactly the type of thing she’s try— but certainly threatens to raise correct suspicions from readers familiar with that shopworn misdirection technique. Fortunately the central deception of the plot is so clever as outweigh that problem.

    One other flaw that some else noticed, and I must be,steely agree with: There must be a much easier way to steal an item from a person you’re living with who doesn’t even recognize its value than go through that tremendously complex and risky rigamarole. Hell, the way it sounds, she probably could have hidden it one night and it’s absence might never be noticed! I realize the general argument is that you have to accept that kind of illogic from the genre, but I don’t buy it. And indeed, Christie was often very good at justifying what might seem very complex and ornate plans. Murder on the Orient Express might seem very baroque, but if you were a group of people who required revenge in a way that risk and ethical responsibility would be shared among all, and that no outsider would ever suffer for your actions, the plan they came up with was just about the only answer. And Then There We’re None has been accused of being an artificial setup, but that’s the point— it’s the careful artistic design of a madman. Even setting Linnet’s Death on the Karnak actually makes more sense than in the Ridgeway mansion, where Simon would be the only suspect, and there wouldn’t be others to possibly be blamed. So, I find it hard to justify Miss Gilchrist’s plan— something Christie could have found an answer for.

    One last thing, the Poirot series adaptation. I agree they screwed up a few of the characters. But I’m not at all convinced that the disguise aspect is nearly as transparent as Brad suggests. The fact of the matter is that none of us who knew beforehand can ever be a judge of its effectiveness. What psychologists call “the curse of knowledge”— we simply can’t place ourselves in a position of innocence. I have a feeling it’s rather deceptive for those not looking for it. Indeed, I suspect it’s more deceptive than the Dietrich disguise (and at least Dolan doesn’t have an internationally famous and distinct speech impediment). But again, the only way to know is from the response of people who have no foreknowledge.

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    • So, was not the woman at Richard Abernathie’s funeral indeed Cora Lansquenet merely because she referred to herself by that name?

      No. Next! 😄

      The opening chapter pains me, too, because of how it messes with the structure of the plot — it makes much more sense for the shocking line to fall at the end of the first chapter, rather than being hidden away in the second. I’ll never believe someone with Christie’s skill wrote the book this way originally. John Curran will, in the years to come, validate this by finding a note saying that there needs to be another introductory chapter added on the front because…reasons. You’ll see, Friedman!

      And here’s the thing: despite my reservations about this — I don’t rate it as highly as you or Brad — it never actually occurred to me that this is a lot of effort to go to simply to acquire a painting. Maybe that’s me being inured to the tropes and ludicrosities of the genre, or maybe I had such a fun time reading this that it didn’t even occur to me to care…either way, it reflects well on the book, I think we can all agree.

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      • What a fascinating argument . . . let me fix it.

        First of all, Scott, I think you make a great point regarding the family tree and the common trope of one character impersonating another. Personally, I think this solves the whole thing. Sometimes Christie (who used this a lot) gives a clever-and-important wink to the proceedings, like describing the way Bartholomew Strange treats his butler. That’s an actual clue, especially since we never actually meet the butler. But most of the time, characters are not revealed to be fakes until the very end, and yet they are referred to by name. “Cora Lansquenet” did indeed show up to the funeral, even if Cora Lansquenet was nowhere near. There are so many precedents for this, and we also must remember that by now Christie was writing like mad for the stage, and cast lists in programs lie like mad to fool the audience with nobody crying foul. I’d like to hear what Tony Medawar thinks of the program for Sleuth or most Anthony Shaffer mysteries!

        And yet . . . if you accept one ludicrosity, you can’t really argue against another. Simon could have pushed Linnet off a pyramid or simply not pushed her out of the way of that rock. There doesn’t need to be a dress rehearsal for a murder or a woman wearing a beard or another hiring an actress to go to a dinner party to provide her with an alibi. But this is what these people DO.

        I think Miss Gilchrist did it THIS way for three reasons: one, she has just as much ego as the killer in And Then There Were None or Murder Is Easy, and it’s compounded by living with as stupid a woman as Cora. Two, there’s the Rage of the Companion, which Miss G. even reveals as she’s being exposed. “Nobody looks at a paid companion!” I talked about this in the podcast. I think Miss G. enjoyed being Cora and smashing Cora’s face in. I think that satisfied her more than pretending someone had robbed the cottage while Cora was out. And Three . . . well, we go back to “the tropes and ludicrosities of the genre”: if Miss G. had hit herself over the head and told Cora they were robbed, this would be a dull little story, unworthy of a Christie and more like . . . oh, like Freeman Wills Crofts or someone like that!!

        Regarding “the curse of knowledge,” I want to be clear: I completely accept the possibility that Miss Gilchrist could get away with her ruse – although she didn’t quite, did she? Helen recognized . . . something, and Michael Shane had a good enough eye to register the substitution unconsciously. But still, she could get away with it. What I was talking about, clumsily and with my weird voice, is the problem with screen adaptations of this trick, and I have a hard time defending this because I’m not sure I have seen a disguise on screen that I wasn’t aware of beforehand. The only time I remember being tricked like this was seeing it onstage – certainly in Sleuth but possibly elsewhere. I do think it’s harder to do on screen where the faces are so much bigger, even on TV.

        As for “primary murder decentralization,” I do believe that Dick Wolf is developing this as the next LAW AND ORDER . . .

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        • The disguise in the film adaptation of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, for instance, was clumsily done and could have been done better, but overall, this trick is very hard to pull it off on screen versus print. On the screen, everything is seen, whereas, in a book, it’s all from the theatre of your imagination. You conjure up the images, not so on screen.

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        • I’m not sure how I feel about the whole false name thing. Certainly, as you say, it has a lengthy tradition in the genre, and I doubt there are many (if any) people who, upon learning that Laetitia Blackock was really her sister complain that they’ve been lied to throughout in an anti-Ackroyd type outrage. But once again, I have difficulty with the Sorites Paradox aspect— what’s the defining line of acceptability between a Laetitia Blacklock situation and the claim of Cora’s presence at the funera? I frankly don’t know the answer. I’m not bothered by it in this novel, but at the same time I can’t deny I admire ingenuity in instances where a GAD writer pulls off such a deception without cheating. For instance, I don’t whine about the programme of Sleuth, but still I give much more credit to what Christie (well, actually it turned out to be Peter Saunders) did with”the other woman” in Witness for the Prosecution, and wish Billy Wilder had copied this in the film version (I myself paid tribute to the Saunders deception in Kill A Better Mousetrap, as the character listed as Analyst turns out to actually be an analyst— a financial analyst. Not as clever, but there was an at least an effort!).

          Speaking of effort, think it’s important to recognize where Christie makes the effort to legitimize the outrageous plans of her culprits. Yes, Simon Doyle could have pushed Linnet off a pyramid, but then the one likely suspect would have been… Simon Doyle. Indeed, he would always be the most likely suspect, and so he required a plan in which it was apparently impossible for him to be the culprit. Does that entirely justify the complexity of their plan? Maybe not, but there is nonetheless good reason for the ingenuity required to create a plot in which his opportunity would be dismissed as an impossibility (as for not pushing her out of the way of that rock, I’ve always seen that as a reflex reaction in which he didn’t have time to calculate his self interest). And even with the 3 Act Tragedy and Lady Edgeware Dies examples, we can find distinct advantages to the more baroque courses taken. Killing wealthy Lord Edgware without complexity would certainly put more heat on his beneficiary Lady Edgware than removing one of many paintings of unrecognized value put on Miss Gilchrist (there are several paintings in my house— also of little value— that could be removed without anyone noticing for years… and Cora didn’t sound like a woman who would’ve been particularly observant about such things).

          As for the the reasons Miss Gilchrist did it that way, I buy your first two. Yes, she was that kind of woman, with that kind of ego, and that kind of growing rage at Cora. But I’ve never bought the old Hitchcock “well, then there would be no movie” excuse for implausibility, because it can ultimately be used to justify any stupidity. Yes, we want our crimes ornate and convoluted… but then it is the duty of the author to justify that complexity… or at least make some convincing effort in that direction. And Christie very often does it. The killers of Cassetti really seem to pick the only plot that would fulfill their needs, as extravagant as it may seem. Simon Doyle actually has a need for an airtight murder plot— just pushing her off a pyramid wouldn’t suffice. On the other hand, I don’t think the same argument can be made for the similarly plotted Evil Under the Sun (though I’ll admit I never thought about it till recently). At any rate, just as you spoke about the prevalence of lousy psychology in the genre, I don’t believe the genre itself justifies ludicrous motivation. I’ll buy a little stretching, because mystery writers have the difficult job of both making things interesting AND believable. But succeeding in one doesn’t relieve the writer from trying to succeed in the other— a blanket “we have to accept implausibility because of the genre” doesn’t fly with me.

          As for whether you would have recognized Monica Dolan, I have no idea, but that’s my point— we simply have no way of knowing. What we do know is that many people ARE fooled by such disguises, and that the curse of knowledge is a tremendously powerful thing. I myself marvel at the idea that people have been fooled by the Michael Caine disguise in the film version of Sleuth. But they do! They “know” his character to be dead, and soon after meet another character (“where have I seen this guy before? He seems so familiar”). And since they know the first character to be dead, they reason that this must be someone else. But, if the notion of disguise is even considered here for an instant, the game entirely changes, and the disguise becomes ridiculously obvious…. Similarly, I hold the gimmick used to make a handkerchief disappear openly in front of peoples faces, and they don’t see it… because, of course, we see what we’re looking for. Perhaps my favorite example of that is The Crooked Hinge (a book I really find generally disappointing, with a vastly under-clued solution) in which the misdirection in the murder chapter is astonishing— right after we’ve been given a chapter heading quote on misdirection— because we just don’t know what to look for. It’s like telling someone we’re going to make a coin from their hand, and instead taking off their pants.

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          • Incidentally, I have an interesting (and somewhat humiliating) personal illustration of this same point. A few years back I went to see a local theatre production of Witness for the Prosecution. I watched throughout to see how effectively the pivotal disguise scene would play. When it came, I winced in discomfort, wondering “how could anyone one NOT realize this is the same woman?”

            But the joke was really on me, as I realized at the curtain call, when both Romaine and the cockney woman appeared onstage at the same time! The director had decided that there wasn’t sufficient time for the actress to make the costume and makeup change, and so cast two different women in the roles (yes, I realize that defeats the purpose of the play, as I later complained to the director). But it really makes the point clearly, we do see what we’re looking for!

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            • . . . “The director had decided that there wasn’t sufficient time for the actress to make the costume and makeup change, and so cast two different women in the roles . . . ”

              The director’s reasoning and problem-solving were utterly wrong. I can’t even begin to express my outrage at his disrespect for what the playwright’s intentions were. He needed to modify the costume change; as it is, he shortchanged the actress playing Romaine, he confused the audience, and he disrespected Agatha Christie. Next time you see him, tell him I said so!

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            • Excellent observation, Scott, and I am afraid that Brad’s response totally misses the point (or, more likely, that he tries to deflect attention from the validity of your observation).

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            • I still don’t get it. (There are a LOT of threads going on here.) I thought we were talking about the situation where you thought that two women onstage were actually the same actress (because they SHOULD be) and then felt a bit humiliated because the director had cast two women. I was just responding to the director’s casting choice, which I thought was stupid. I didn’t intend to “deflect” anything, and I guess Christophe’s comment made me think that I had wronged you in some way. If I did, I’m sorry.

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            • Okay, NOW I get it: I wasn’t really being serious about you telling off the director. It sounds like you already did complain to him that it missed the point. That comment wasn’t meant as a slight to you. Let’s drop it.

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            • I agree that the other woman and Romaine should be played by the same actress. But, though I didn’t agree with the director’s choice, I didn’t complain to him, because there was no HIM to complain to.

              I think my anecdote illustrates how I could see what I was looking for, and your response to it illustrates the same for you.

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          • SPOILERS! SPERLERS! SPIELERS!

            Simon and Jackie put together a plan that will give them both an alibi, a necessity because both have a motive. The complications that arise bring in other suspects – Pennington genuinely tried to kill Linnet, the telegram proving Richetti is a terrorist was intercepted by Linnet, something like TEN jewel thieves are present on the boat – but none of these play havoc with alibis.

            Patrick and Christine need to give Christine an alibi because of the strength of her motive. Yes, the method of death is supposed to eliminate a frail woman, but that’s not enough. And why not act out a plan that does the same for Patrick, who has no seeming motive to kill Arlena? The complication here is that their timing gives nearly EVERYONE an alibi, and they end up having to frame one of the only people who hasn’t got one, who just so happens to be a little girl.

            You and I are nitpicking here. I don’t mind most of the tricks Christie and others do, no matter how outlandish. Carr loves to say point-blank to the reader: “X is not the murderer,” and then have X BE the murderer in a totally fair way. It works!

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            • Why didn’t Patrick just arrange a secret rendezvous with Arlena, like several others he had evidently arranged, and just kill her? This is a very different situation from that of Simon Doyle, who would immediately become #1 suspect in her death. The complexity of the Doyle plan is justified, thr complexity of the Redfern plan is not.

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      • I agree that the shocking line makes much more sense at the end of the first chapter… indeed, I can’t recall another book which had what would be called a second chapter hook. Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if Curran one day makes that very discovery.

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    • re: Would someone who didn’t know first spot the disguise –
      My first exposure to this was the TV version. I certainly didn’t figure it out. But then I am exceptionally dim when it comes to TV mysteries, and as a child I was even worse.
      My parents on the other hand did “solve” it, in the way many TV mysteries are solved, ie “No way that actor would take on a side character role!”. No mention of recognising Cora though. So… results inconclusive?

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      • I’m intrigued to see how they handle this visually. I never will, I’m terrible at sitting and watching TV shows, but it’s almost enough to get me to finally watch an episode of Poirot.

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        • They do the same thing in the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple mystery Murder at the Gallop, which is an adaptation of this Hercule Poirot novel that takes the basic murder plot, strips it of all the great book clues, and adds tons of silly sight gags for Marple, Stringer Davis, and Robert Morley. The actor playing the killer appears first with a veil thick enough to compete with my Grandma Koppich’s barley soup and then comes back in her regular role. She is a GREAT actress, and I wonder if I would have been fooled had I not already read the book. The Poirot episode is tons more daring: the funeral luncheon is in broad daylight, and we see Cora quite clearly. The actor again does a terrific job of creating two completely different characters, but I still think I would have recognized her even without knowing the trick. The same holds true for a daring bit of business on the Poirot episode of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, which actually plays more fair than the book does.

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    • FURTHER SPOILERS IN RELATION TO SCOTT’s POINT ABOVE: Last time I re-read A Murder is Announced I found it interesting that for almost all of the book, sadly not all as that would have been really clever, Miss Blacklock is referred to as just that in the third person narrative sections, which is true. Up until really late, only other characters use her first name.

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      • That is true, and it mitigates the issue of Miss Blacklock. But her young cousin is referred to constantly as “Julia Simmons,” and she is not that person. I think this is a place where we let mysteries slide, although, like Scott, I do love it when a mystery manages to trick you and still play completely fair. A good example is Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying.

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      • Paul Halter does a similar thing in one of his novels, alas with slightly less rigour. It’s one of the occasions I would happily provide evidence of Halter’s tendency to fall down where elements of clewing ar concerned.

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  3. Thanks for this podcast from the three of you of what is a Top 3 Christie for me. It is great to listen to others discuss a book that I enjoy and hear you notice details that I had missed. The character and motivation of the murderer are done wonderfully and spotting the skillful clewing makes this a fun re-read.

    I also enjoy the adaptation. Despite changing a few of the characters for seemingly no good reason, the core plot/puzzle/culprit are the same. David Suchet does his normal excellent portrayal of Poirot, but Monica Dolan “steals the show” as Miss Gilchrist.

    For me and I didn’t hear any of you mention this, AtF is the last truly great Christie. Yes – there were a few other good ones still to come, but this is the last “classic” that she produced. Curious if others would agree with me on this.

    P.S. Glad to have you back and I did not vote for Death on the Nile as per your plea 🙂

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    • Scott, I agree that AtF is the last “great” Christie. Others will argue for Endless Night, but I have never loved that one. And then there is Curtain, which is Important Christie, certainly more “important” than AtF. But I have never enjoyed reading it like I enjoy this one.

      As for voting AGAINST Nile, you’re all going to fall for JJ’s ruse that he’ll put together a special episode comparing the book to the film. Let’s see how THAT pans out . . .

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      • I was going to invite you to contribute — and, c’mon, no-one wants to hear me complain about DotN again — but if that’s your attitude…when are you available?

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    • Keep it to yourself, but I think The Pale Horse (1961) is something of a masterpiece, and I loved The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (1962), but I’d agree that AtF is perhaps the last book you could call a great Christie novel and not expect too much argument.

      Appreciate you not voting for DotN. I’ll read it — and not enjoy it — for a third time if I have to, but it seems too many other books get overlooked, and I’d like to try to move away from the obvious ones to look at some of the less-examined. Onwards!

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    • I would argue for Curtain as the last classic Christie (unless it’s classified as an earlier work). I don’t consider it as enjoyable read as After the Funeral, but it’s one of her finest puzzle plots, with a solution that plays as a Christie best-hits album: part Ackroyd, part Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, part And Then There Were None, part Sparkling Cyanide, even part Death on thr Nile.

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      • The difficulty is in thr timing, no? Is Curtain a last (post-1953, for the sake o argument) great Christie even though it was written pre-1953? Etc, etc, ad infinitum.

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  4. A very enjoyable discussion as always. It has been a very long time since I last read AtF so revisiting it in this way was lovely.
    I do regard the Cora naming issue as misleading because of the use of an omniscient narrator. Given that it could have been done as a third party conversation, a page from a funeral book or perhaps as a newspaper clipping, it does seem unnecessary.
    Jim’s point about recognizing yourself in Zoom is well taken and it does make the premise here that little bit more credible to me (though I do not think this is as problematic as some other instances of amateur theatricals disguise hour in Christie).
    Beyond that I clearly need to reread this and, after listening to you three, I wish I was a little further ahead in my Poirot reread. Still, I will be interested to listen to this again once I do!

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    • … some other instances of amateur theatricals disguise hour in Christie

      You mean like the woman who dressed up as her cousin dressing up as a third person and then was able to replicate her cousin’s handwriting as if he was the one faking the handwriting of the person she was pretending he was pretending to be?

      In the context of gambits like that, this is the surest thing in the world!!

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  5. I’m sorry JJ, I voted for Death on the Nile. I should have voted for Peril at End House, everyone likes that book more than me – I could hope that one of you three would have a similar opinion, so my dissent would stand out less.

    I don’t think I ever noticed that issue – or maybe it’s not an issue? with the family tree (or indeed any of the other flaws you picked up on!). I like the family tree because in itself it works as a crafty misdirection, giving us a push towards thinking of family first when it comes to suspects and motive – when really the truth lies elsewhere.

    I don’t know whether it’s an issue with me or with the book, but I find it difficult to remember the characters in this one – with the exception of Miss Gilchrist. Perhaps I haven’t reread it recently enough. Usually I can at least remember the role played by each character.

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    • I think it’s an issue, but I don’t think it’s a huge one — as we said in the episode, Christie was far from the only one to play fast and loose with information given, and the sheer amount of discussion available about identity shows how much people don’t want it to be an issue 🙂 We all make mistakes…

      As for End House…well, it might yet make the top three. We’ll find out in a month.

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  6. Well this was a pleasant way to spend an hour on a rainy Sunday.
    Haven’t read the book but have seen the Suchet adaptation, so maybe I’m missing certain virtues and intricacies specific to the former. I thought it was fine, but where JJ finds himself baffled as to the appeal of Cards on the Table and considers Death on the Nile overrated (my incidentally gets my vote for the next podcast LOL), I’m not sure I see what the fuss is about with AtF. Aside from Cora’s remark at the funeral, which did wonders for obfuscating the real motive for her killing, everything else – clues, characters, setting – felt par for the course. Still, I’m someone who lists Lord Edgware Dies among his favourite Christies, so what do I know.

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    • I’m someone who lists Lord Edgware Dies among his favourite Christies, so what do I know.

      Well, you know what you like, and that’s enough. I’ve never been one for “accepted” classics that we must all enjoy — everything has its faults, and we all read the same words and get entirely different experiences out of them. Anyone making you feel as if you should apologise for your favourite books is someone you can do without 🙂

      I like the point Brad made about Miss Gilchrist looking over the room and being misled into her intentions, but this — like a few of the Christies we’ve read of late — comes unstuck towards the end: Papa Poirot sat out in the summerhouse is as bad as Jane Marple’s voical mimicry at the end of A Murder is Announced…there, I said it!

      FWIW, I don’t think this would make my top ten Christies, but I also know I’d need to reread about twenty books to be sure of what I was including, so maybe I should be wary of making any such claims…

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  7. Great to see that this series continues. I read the novel last year, but was not thrilled by it to be honest, found it somewhat boring. I grant that the solution is surprising, Christie does manage to come up with another twist.

    I never noticed the false information in the opening chapter. Generally in GAD detective fiction it is always tricky to write about a character that is in disguise without either lying as an author or drawing attention to the fact that you are using circumlocutions. So I treat all characters identities provisionally as admitted facts, to be rebutted later if necessary. Rereading the last spoiler warning I see that Christie similarly gave false information about characters in disguise there, and I know that there is a Carr book where he tries to be careful but trips himself up as well.

    There was a matrimonial causes act of 1937 that liberalized divorce law in case of incurable insanity, so Susan could probably get a divorce. (And another Christie character might have had a long, happy life if he had patience for a few years.)

    Like I said in a comment on the previous Spoiler Warning, it is really post-war I think Christie comes into her own as a social commentator. In the 1930ies you might miss there was a Great Depression going on by reading her books. (As opposed to Freeman Wills Crofts where that reality is present in many novels.)

    This book once again has the most over-used Christie trope, that the victim of an attempted murder is actually guilty. By this point I am surprised the police don’t just arrest anybody who escapes a murder attempt with their life, because they are nearly always an evil-doer.There are some very exciting novels among the list we can vote for, I look forward to future discussions.

    If you pick The Body in the Library or The Moving Finger I will comment to explain my theory of how they are post-war books, even though they were written during the war.

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    • So I treat all characters identities provisionally as admitted facts, to be rebutted later if necessary

      This is a great approach, and maybe something we should adopt as the standard in the genre. It behoves the talented author to observe their use of language carefully, though, since therein lies the game.

      And the future episodes are the ones that get voted for: we’re in the voters’ hands. Lord help me, Death on the Nile will come first with 20,000 votes, but if that’s want foreign interference wants then that’s what foreign interference gets.

      Watch this space…

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  8. Echoing AB, hearing The Spoiler Three back in action was a welcome bright blast on a frigid winter’s day. And to belabor the musician metaphor, the issues raised about Christie’s alternating indolence and brilliance here bring to mind an aging, inconsistent jazz soloist who can on occasion still rise to unique heights.

    As for me, that opening chapter read like an excruciating parody of the theatrical cheat of having a maid answer a phone at the beginning of Act 1 to give an unheard caller a rundown of all the house’s occupants and their current activities. Especially considering the amazing punch at the end of Chapter 2, I’m definitely with JJ on that one. I actually stopped reading before getting there and have only resumed upon hearing the high points you all brought up–with Brad once again persuasive in his enthusiasms and Moira’s insights as good-humored as always.

    With my votes in, very much looking forward to the next one!

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    • The “maid on the phone” example is a good parallel, and would work here but for the butler remembering people who have since died and play no part in the narrative (or even backstory). It’s fine, Brad can insist all he likes about that opening — we have the moral high ground!

      Thanks for voting for future episodes, too. I’m not going to look at the results until the poll closes in February, so that I can be as surprised at the outcome as the rest of you…only a few hours earlier.

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  9. I discovered this blog a few months ago and I’m loving reading the new and old posts, as well as listening to the podcast. I really enjoyed the episode on ‘After the Funeral’. I agree that it’s a very good Christie, with interesting details and characters, including a memorable murderer.

    SPOLIERS FOR ‘AFTER THE FUNERAL’
    I confess that I hadn’t noticed the issue with the family tree until a few months ago. I don’t think that this third-person naming of Miss Gilchrist as Cora spoils the book, but I do think Christie might have regarded it as a mistake, not least because in Chapter 3, part 5, she is very careful to avoid doing just that: ‘a lady in wispy mourning and festoons of jet…’. It’s satisfying in retrospect to realise that in Chapter 1, part 2, we see the family from Mr Entwhistle’s perspective, and that he is (mistakenly) assuming that the woman in front of him is Cora: ‘Last in his survey Mr Entwhistle came to Cora Lansquenet…’.
    However, in Chapter 2 the omniscient narrative voice does refer to Miss Gilchrist as Cora. Or does it? I think you could just about argue that we’re still being given Entwhistle’s point of view, but it’s ambiguous. It’s a shame/annoying that Christie doesn’t clearly align the narrative voice with Entwhistle’s perspective, as she had done in the previous section, but as I say it doesn’t ruin what is a very entertaining book.

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    • I think this is why I enjoy books with a consistent narrator more — when we skip points of view a lot, there’s a tendency for some of this rigour to go amiss, and that raises the spectre of what you’ve been told “fairly”. Done well it van be a delight, but when questions like this bubble to the surface it’s fair to say it hasn’t been done as well as it could be.

      Welcome to the blog, by the way, delighted you’ve found it and are (hopefully…!) enjoying your reading and listening.

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      • That’s a really interesting point. I think detective fiction, in particular, is probably on safer ground with a single narrator/point of view, and in general Christie was very good at first-person narrative. But, as you say, multiple points of view can be extremely effective, especially when used to create atmosphere or for purposes of misdirection (and there are some notable examples amongst Christie’s books). In those cases, the ultimate satisfaction for the reader can be even higher, perhaps.

        Many thanks! Yes, I’m really enjoying the reading and listening: lots to think about, and plenty of new discoveries!

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        • One of my favourite mystery reveals of all time is when Person A deals with person Z, and Person B deals with person Y and then it’s revealed that Person Z is Person Y — even naming titles is a spoiler, but there are some magnificent examples. And it’s one of the great classic mystery tricks that has been brought into the modern age without becoming too sullied in the process.

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