Customer Review

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A mystery why any of these were published, 30 Sept. 2009
This review is from: The Listerdale Mystery (Agatha Christie Collection) (Mass Market Paperback)
Were it not for her name, it's unlikely any of these stories would have made their way into print in a magazine, let alone as part of a collection of shorts. Christie wrote a couple of whodunnit masterpieces and created a couple of memorable characters, but these stories are about as trivial as they come. They are badly worked tat.

The short story is a very tight medium - it has to be plotted rigorously, the characters drawn with economy and precision. Christie is not a master of the short story - she writes a competent Poirot novella, she does not write good short stories. These twelve are perfect examples of her shortcomings. The characterisation is simplistic and two dimensional - jolly, genteel young things (or middle aged things) struggle with mistaken identity, confusion, misrepresentation, etc., and come out on top. Good, morality, and the English way of life triumph over adversity.

It's all cosy stuff - the heroes and heroines all have private incomes or some comfortable way of life. Only the servants actually work for a living - and are grateful for the privilege. Foreigners, of course, are to be distrusted ... and are usually odious and duplicitous. It's all Established Church, King and Country fare. Christie didn't understand the psychology or sociology (or the politics) of crime, she really didn't understand people (beyond her narrow little circle and class), and it shows in these twelve stories.

The plots are threadbare, the characters are simple cutouts without any real presence, the villains are as predictable as they come. Christie can weave a masterly tale, but these are trivial. The writing can be utterly sterile, the pace turgid, and the outcome predictable.

Of the twelve stories ('The Listerdale Mystery'. 'Philomel Cottage', 'The Girl in the Train', 'Sing a Song of Sixpence', 'The Manhood of Edward Robinson', 'Accident', 'Jane in Search of a Job', 'A Fruitful Sunday', 'Mr.Eastwood's Adventure', 'The Golden Ball', 'The Rajah's Emerald', 'Swan Song') few are capable of really holding your interest; I suspect none would have been chosen for print in magazines of the day had it not been for the Christie name. The stories are trite. 'Philomel Cottage' may be better than the rest, but it is contrived and obvious - a modern writer could do a much better job developing the psychology of the story, could perhaps make it into a print-worthy narrative, but it is a good idea which lacks substance and which needed work.

If you are a Christie fan, you'll probably want to read this stuff - don't delude yourself into believing that it's evidence of her genius or that this is great writing. It's largely rubbish - and, if you write short stories yourself, look at these and learn ... understand just how bad short stories can be, and appreciate what goes into writing a good one.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Jul 2010 23:34:39 BDT
Jessica says:
I haven't read this collection of short stories, although I have read other short stories by Agatha Christie - some good, some not so good - I prefer her novels, although of course some of those are better than others. However, I don't agree with your statement that she didn't understand people. It's true that she did very often write about the upper classes, but most authors write based on their personal experience - and after all, the upper classes are people, too. There's a big fashion these days for writing about gritty reality and "ordinary" people - well, I'd prefer a bit of escapism and fun any day. I think the characters in some of her books are excellent, and she makes some very interesting social comments, also. She's not the best selling author of all time after the Bible and Shakespeare for nothing.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Sep 2014 17:05:03 BDT
Right on, Jessica!!! Also, remember that her detectives are very sensitive to the "servant classes"...Time and again, we read about Poirot-himself discriminated against, because he is a foreigner-being able to get vital information from a maid, or a butler because he is gentle with them, and really believes that they have something to say!!! Miss Marple's "girls", whom she has trained from the orphanage, are invariably loyal to her, long after they have left and "gone on to better things". I believe, too, that Christie is quite adept in "slipping in" the "class distinction"...Many of her heroes and heroines are not Lords and Ladies but, what Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennett would have called "Gentlemen, and daughters of Gentlemen", and we root for them!!! They may brush up against the gentry, they may even BE gentry, but they are NOT going to be, what I call, "stupid gentry", and they are not going to stand to be belittled by "stupid gentry" and, believe me, Christie does a wonderful job describing the "stupid gentry", and making the reader abhor them. Her characters have, what is so lacking these days, both in fiction and in real life, it seems; they have DIGNITY...Even her "lower class" characters have dignity. Her characters who are desperate, who perhaps do not have the dignity they should, are usually to be pitied, not reviled. I think Christie understood people very well. As for this whole business of her books not standing up to today's standard, where do you think the standard came from? Yes! Christie, and Sayers, and Conan-Doyle, and on and on...just as Christie borrowed from Austen and Shakespeare, and on and on!!! Well, I'll step off of my soapbox now, and stop ranting... :)
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