Spoiler Warning – Towards Zero (1944) by Agatha Christie

Hopefully your summer heatwave — or winter freeze-wave — has passed and you’re calm, relaxed, and ready to listen to Brad, Moira, and me discuss some Agatha Christie in spoiler-filled detail. This time we’re talking about Towards Zero (1944), the fifth and final book to feature Superintendent Battle.

Is there much to discuss in advance? Not really. We all liked this, which makes a change, despite the fact that it walks a very delicate line between telling you exactly enough for your brain to fill in any gaps but also not quite enough for it to be completely satisfying. Anyhoo, we’ll get into that, and you can see whether you agree.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here, on Spotify here, or on Stitcher here, or by using the player below. 

My thanks, as always, to Brad, to Moira, and to yourselves, dear listeners. The next, potentially final, Spoiler Warning discussion will be Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (1952) in October. See you then for that!

7 thoughts on “Spoiler Warning – Towards Zero (1944) by Agatha Christie

  1. Love it! Look forward to Mrs McGinty. How about, in return for free editing, you offer a chance to join in? Just a two-minute comment, perhaps! Or if you need someone to sing “hickory dickory dock”!


    • A nice idea, but I can’t believe anyone is that eager to appear on this podcast 🙂 Guest slots are usually saved for something reputable.


  2. Good discussion. I vote for the series to continue in the interest of the greater good. Do all podcasts do lots of editing? Maybe there is some software that can make it easier. Turning to the book:

    Would Mr Treves even have needed an identifying mark? He knew SIr Matthew, and he knew the events of the childhood murder. Did he not know that Sir Matthew became the guardian of the boy? And of course, it is odd that they start thinking about the physical mark instead of starting to investigate the childhoods of the characters. Audrey and Thomas grew up together, they could vouch that the impossibility of either being the murderer probably. (“No of course it can’t be Audrey, her family have lived there for generations and I have seen the photos of her as a baby with her parents.”)

    MacWhirter’s lies are a rather stark contrast to his earlier truth-telling that got him fired. He won’t help his boss keep his driver’s license, but he will protect a potential murderess without qualms. It is very typical for Christie’s brand of sudden romance that you can absolutely contemplate the one you love being a cold-blooded murderer of an old lady and protect her anyway. In a Ngaio Marsh novel MacWhirter would be certain of his lady’s innocence. But I find the whirlwind romances of GAD enjoyable, whatever the minor variations.

    But the book as a whole is not one of my favourites. I am in the camp that finds the clueing lacking. My favourite clue is the ringing of the bell. Lady T. does not remember why she wrung it, so a clever reader might wonder if Neville (who we are carefully told has just left the room) might have set up his alibi. Unfortunately there are not many more clues like that.


  3. Really enjoyed this conversation about one of my favorite Christie titles. Was glad to see at least one other reader out there found the “fish smell” clue a little…well…fishy. (Do you see what I did there?)


  4. Read this for the first time – although, not unspoiled. I enjoyed it, though it felt like it got a bit too loose towards the end. The tension at the start is great.
    SPOILERS for the book below, in case for some reason someone is reading the comments without having read the book:
    I think Moira, and maybe the rest of you two, mentioned at some point how kind Neville is throughout, until the ending. With the benefit of being spoiled, there’s a moment right at the end of chapter 8 of Snow White and Rose Red that I think reveals what’s really happening.
    He said in a very low voice:
    “You’re my wife, Audrey…”

    Any more recent cultural references it reminds me of aside, that moment made me shiver.


    • It’s a great example of how Christie can introduce a certain ambiguity very deftly. Read one way, it’s a heart-rending plea, read another it’s something weirdly clingy and a little odd, read a third way it terrifies…she was very, very good at this, which is why we’re still talking about her work some 80+ years after the best of it was done.


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