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Endless Night

It's years since I read any Agatha Christie - I could even have been a teenager - so memories of it are a bit murky; what I do remember was that I liked her books but was never crazy about them as I was some authors. So here I am in my mid-fifties, gradually becoming a bit of a crime fan, reading other people's Christie reviews and wondering if I should try a few of her books. So I did. I nabbed Endless Night from the library because it sounded like an interesting plot and also rather spooky, so I thought it might make a reasonable read for the Halloween challenge I'm doing.

Michael Rogers is a bit of drifter. He drifts in and out of jobs, in and out of relationships, in and out of countries. He's working as a chauffeur when he meets American, Fenella Goodman, known to all as 'Ellie'. Ellie, it turns out, is an heiress about to turn twenty one and thus coming into her fortune. They meet in a village somewhere on the coast in the south west of England, and both of them fall for a plot of land just outside the village. Not only that, they fall for each other and decide to marry. They do it in secret because Ellie's step-mother and friends back in America would be bound to object to her marrying a penniless man of a much lower class.

Throughout all of this there are various murmurings in the village. Ellie buys the land, they wanted and her and Mike hire an architect friend of his to build them the house of their dreams. But it seems the land was once claimed by gypsies and one village woman in particular is full of dire warnings about what happens to people who try to live there. They don't live long basically... the land is cursed. Needless to say she is proved right. I'm not going into who dies or how because that would spoil the plot completely for anyone intending to read the book.

So what did I think of my first Agatha Christie in about forty years? Well, I think I ought to come clean and say that, personally, I prefer Christie's work dramatised on TV. I adore Poirot and Miss Marple (the Joan Hickson version) and watch them over and over when they're repeated. My opinion of her actual writing doesn't seem to have changed much. I like her books but I don't love them and I think it's because I don't feel involved with the characters and the writing; they're easy reads that I don't seem to connect with all that much.

All that said, Endless Night was not a bad read. It was written in the first person, which I like, and Christie got quite nicely inside the head of her main character, Mike. All through there was quite a sense of menace, of secrets untold, and a claustrophobic, spooky atmosphere. The ending genuinely surprised me. I had considered that possibility briefly but dismissed it as highly unlikely. Nice to be surprised like that. A good sense of place too, I'm not sure where exactly the village was intended to be but my guess is down on the south Devon coast, somewhere beyond Brixham where Agatha Christie did in fact have a home - Greenway.

(Photo from the National Trust website - Andrea Jones.)

Will I read more Agatha Christie? Yes probably. Believe it or not I don't think I've ever read any of the Poirot or Miss Marple books so I feel I really should before settling on a concrete opinion of her work.


Christie is an easy read. I like her, but I can see from where you're coming re: not connecting with the characters.
I think it's nice to have easy reads you can turn to from time to time and I've got quite a few. I wonder if Christie was writing nowadays she'd be writing for TV or film as she was perfectly suited to it.
Indeed it is.

You never know. She might well be. An interesting thought.
I thought I was the only one who felt that way about Christie. Her characterisation and writing are flat. I love the dramatisations (Hickson -- yes!) but although I read a Poirot now and again I probably wouldn't bother if it weren't for the tv series.
No, you're not the only one. Her books don't have the depth to involve me enough to care what happens. I did wonder if my opinion might have changed over the years but it hasn't. She's much better on TV, imo, but a lot of that is actually down to the actors I feel.
I'm having a hard time recalling the titles of any Agatha Christie novels I've read, outside of "The Seven Dials Mystery," which seemed to me to have been written for what nowadays is called the "Young Adult" market.

The heroine was either a teenager or in her very early twenties, and the prose seemed to be sort of breezy, notwithstanding the murder(s?) that led into the central mystery.

I feel that Agatha Christie didn't take her writings very seriously. There's an anecdote that I read once, about someone's having pointed out to her a glaring plot error in one of her stories (might have been onstage in "The Mousetrap.")

Her response was supposedly, "No one will notice."

Most people apparently did not. And those who did, I suppose were not concerned about it. Maybe they were having a good time with her story, and preferred not to worry about plot discrepancies.

I agree that the television adaptations make good entertainment, probably better than the novels. My favorites are Poirot and Miss Marple, too. David Suchet was probably sent to earth for the express purpose of portraying Poirot, and Joan Hickson was especially good in the role of Miss Marple.
I read somewhere that Christie told Joan Hickson, when she was young, that she would be a wonderful Miss Marple when she was elderly. How she sensed that is hard to say. And I agree about David Suchet, his Poirot couldn't be more perfect - those wonderful little expressions when someone pronounces his name wrong or calls him French... Brilliant.