Friday, October 12, 2012
Review of Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie (1935, Hamlyn)
Death in the Clouds is a classic locked room mystery - a murder is committed in a space occupied by thirteen people, yet no-one witnesses the crime and all of them could conceivably have a motive for the death. Christie excels at creating such puzzles and telling them in an engaging, often witty voice, that is all show and no tell. The secret is clever plotting that slowly reveals how various elements of the murder were committed and why, but which keep as many suspects in the frame as possible until a final denouement whilst feeding the reader red herrings and leading them down false paths as they try to determine the killer’s identity. Her telling is aided by well drawn characterization, especially Poirot and Japp, and some nice observational touches that keep matters plausible. There are two weaknesses to her style of storytelling, however, both evident in Death in the Clouds. First, the story is all about the puzzle and rarely do they open up wider reflective questions for the reader. The effect is a tale that is intriguing but which lacks contemplative depth. Second, it is almost impossible for the reader to deduce the identity of the murderer before the denouement as some crucial clues are held back and often they are quite outlandish. Nevertheless, Death in the Clouds is an enjoyable read and Poirot is a delight.