on 19 August 2010
I found this story a great disappointment, which was nothing to do with any change of style on Christie's part in writing a "spy" story instead of the usual cosy country house murder mystery. I don't mind at all if a favourite author changes tack. I may have been less than generous in only giving one star, as the first few chapters certainly held my attention. But I'm not going to pretend that the story must have an inherent value hidden to all but the more discerning of us. Halfway through I found I was struggling to keep track of what on earth was going on, and then found I couldn't care less what happened to any of these characters, so I gave up at that point.
on 16 September 2013
This is different - this is no crime novel, it's a tale of espionage in a much darker vein than many of Christie's earlier work. As her 80th book, written at the age of 80, it shows a different side of Christie that not as many people know about.
Unfortunately, it's not the most memorable of Christie's novels, and while I've read worse, I haven't read much worse from her. Passenger to Frankfurt is mediocre at best, worth a read if you can't get enough of Christie but otherwise now really worth your time.
Instead, I suggest investigating some of her better books - Poirot in particular appears in most of her greatest works. I recommend Death On the Nile or And Then There Were None. I've got nothing against it as a rule, I was just disappointed after reading it, and I'm not one to be disappointed easily.
If you do decide to proceed, proceed with caution - this is Christie as you might not have seen her before, so set your expectations accordingly.
This thriller is far from Christie's best work. Published in 1970, when Christie was 80, its modern setting of airports and secret government meetings is unrelentingly modern, far away from the cosy murder mystery in a country house. The running thread of the world having evil trying to gain power, and the country being in a mess through poor government is depressingly topical today. So the subject matter falls short of Agatha's golden moments, but so does the writing. Unengaging characters banging on about how things used to be better in the old days and twists that don't so much twist but bend slightly out of a straight line. Plus, the ending is suprisingly ambiguous... not an essential Agatha Chrisite at all.
on 29 June 1999
This book was a bit difficult to follow, because a lot of the info was left out. It jumped from here to there. Personally, the character "lady Matilda" was a bit of a chatterbox, don't we all agree? I couldn't help but read this book at intervals. At some points, the credibility of this book is somewhat... like a person believing there's a bridge in Brooklyn for sale. The ending was unclear also. It was covered up by a marriage, which didn't quite make sense. One couldn't tell what happened to the global domination scheme. This book is interesting at some points, but its perplexity outweighs the fun.
on 28 December 2003
Of the 80 or so books that Agatha Christie wrote, this is probably her poorest effort. Her murder mysteries are all superb, but when it comes to writing tales of international intrigue, she wasn't really in her element.
The plot sounds interesting enough at first sight but the book never really gets going, the storyline is fairly boring and I was relieved when I finally reached the end.
Not one of her best!
on 7 January 2009
Okay. We all know this was one of the last few novels that Christie wrote, and that she was eighty when she did it, but the problems don't so much lie with an ageing author's diminishing ability to write good content, or even produce an engaging central idea, just that the whole thing is crying out to be run past a good editor before publication.
The novel begins well - Sir Stafford Nye, a bored diplomat, is approached at an airport by a stranger and asked to "loan" his passport and clothes so that the stranger (who claims to be in danger) may travel undetected. The action switches to London, there are some nice scenes which flesh out the character of Nye, a surprise attempt on his life and then..the novel just slips into repetition, banging on about "a new world order", "the power of youth" and general paranoia about Fascists and Socialists and, oddly, students. What plot there is (and there is one; it's rather fun, if a little sensationalist) is lost in heavy, meandering prose which any editor worth their salt should have cut down, tidied up, and clarified. I maintain that, had this been done, Passenger to Frankfurt could have been a satisfying (if slightly bonkers) thriller in the mould of Christie's other similar novels, such as The Secret Adversary or Destination Unknown.
on 15 November 2007
Most of the other reviewers have it right - this book is a disaster. I'd have given it no stars, but I wasn't given the choice. One reviewer admires Christie for tryng something new. It's a good thing she didn't write this book first because she'd have never gotten it published. It's awful in every way; plot development, character development, prose style. I especially hated Christie's constant harangue as she bangs away at some notion of fascists taking over the world through the youth of the planet, a plot financed by the monied industrial types, and what that evil portends for the future of the world, mankind, womankind, and anyone else who happens to walk onto the stage. What's worse? She says it over and over and over and....You want good Christie? Read "Hercule Poirot's Christmas!"
on 15 October 2013
Christie once wrote that she considered 'The Mystery of the Blue Train' (1928) her worst book, forgetting 'The Big Four' which is really a set of short stories written for a newspaper and subsequently cobbled together. At the time she hadn't written this one as this is her worst by light years! It's dire . It's silly. It's confused and confusing,and highly unlikely. Sir Stafford Nye, a minor diplomat is diverted through Frankfurt on his way back to England. Whilst waiting in the Departure Lounge at Frankfurt airport he is approached by a young lady with a proposal. She is, she claims, in fear of her life and has to get back to England PDQ. She proposes that he lend her his cloak and passport then drink a glass of beer spiked with a Mickey. (Did Christie really believe that Airport Security was so lax she could get away with it? Evidently she did!) Back in England he meets the girl again and is dragged into a plot to dominate the world by fomenting student unrest all over the globe. At least that's the plan of an extremely ugly and obese German Countess living in a Bavarian Schloss surrounded by blonde, blue-eyed, dead butch Aryan youths. With dollops of Wagner thrown in for good measure, you'll quickly guess where it's going. Yes..... you're spot on. Hitler had an illegitimate son who was branded on his heel with a swastika and shipped off to South America in 1945 and who is now returning to lead a world revolution to create the Fourth Reich! (Yawn, Yawn, Yawn!!!! Ian Fleming did it so much better). Bizarrely the story changes course midway through the book and we suddenly get a ludicrous plot involving a gang of geriatric aristos and a professor who's discovered a drug to create Universal Happiness and labelled his research 'Project Benvo' which needs to be stopped getting into the wrong hands. The denoument is so confused you need to read it again and again to work out what actually happens and even then it's still confusing. Christie's metier was never the 'Thriller' though some of the earlier ones aren't that bad. This one is abominable. A sad decline, it's a pity Wm Collins couldn't have 'accidentally' lost the typescript, it does her no favours whatsoever.
on 1 December 1997
I was very disappointed by this book. I am a great fan of Christie's writing (I named my cat Jane Marple) and I could not be more ready to enjoy something that she wrote. In this case, however, I repeatedly put the book down and walked away from it, only finishing it because I wanted to see how it ended. Christie wrote it late in her career and the best explanation that I can come up with was that she was coasting on her success and not putting as much effort into this as in her earlier books. Passenger to Frankfurt is a spy novel rather than a murder mystery. It bears a strong resemblance to The Big Four, a very successful earlier novel. Both plots center on a sinister organization bent on world domination, a threadbare idea at best. It works in Four because of the obvious care that Christie put into creating the intricate plot which, while complicated, can be easily followed; and into the characters, the hero being Hercule Poirot who was already a well developed personality. No such effort was spent on this book. Passenger opens in an airport where Sir Stafford Nye, a minor diplomat is petitioned for help by a young woman who says that she will be killed if he doesn't lend her his cape and passport. He does, and the action moves from there. The book is not doomed from the start. As I said, Christie can make this sort of thing work and she leaves herself some excellent openings. The main trouble with the book is that it tries to cover too much and tell too little. Christie seems so unwilling to give anything away that large segments of the action are left out and throughout most of the book the reader has no idea who the good guys and the bad guys really are, even down to the heroes. By the middle of the book the plot has gotten fairly absurd. This secret society has instigated a youth movement worldwide, spearheaded by a handsome young man who they claim to be the son of Hitler. That in itself might not be so bad, if she hadn't pushed it on to have these youth take over all of South America, force Chicago under martial law, et cetera. There are also long paragraphs in which the author goes on and on, philosophizing about the young. Since the book is copyrighted 1970, it occurred to me that this might at least in part be inspired by the popularity of public protest among young people at that time.
I know better than to give away the ending but I will say that I found it very contrived and I didn't feel that she had given the reader enough information to make it really fair.
The saving grace of this book is the characters. While some are woefully underdeveloped, others make excellent proof of Christie's talent in this area. The best by far is Sir Nye's Great-Aunt Matilda. Sharp old maids have always been this author's specialty and the parts in which she appears seem more like genuine Christie than anything else in the book.
Unusually, for me, I have had to give up on this as I have no idea what is going on - nor do I care! I love Agatha Christie books, featuring Poirot, and Miss Marple, the cozy murders, but I don't think she should have strayed into espionage territory - leave it to the masters like Fleming, Le Carre etc. It isn't even written in the 30s classic tradition but, strangely in the early 70s. Sir Stafford Nye, the bored diplomat of the story is not particularly interesting and the femme fatale is equally bland. As for the villain, Countess von Waldhausen, the power crazed "spider" hell bent on world domination - well she was just totally unbelievable and quite gross! I got to Part 3 of the book but realised I was losing the will to live so have now moved on to something eminently more interesting.