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A whodunnit and escapist travel book, all in one
on 14 August 2016
This is a beautiful setting for a book – it is an escapist read. I found myself Googling locations mentioned in the book such as Abu Simbel (it is stunning).
One of the things I like about reading Agatha Christie’s books is that they give you an insight into life in the early 1900s (the book was published in November 1937). For example, a character says she bought a car for £15! It is clearly mechanically unreliable (as you might expect of a car from that era). In another part of the book, a boy is teasing a dog. A character tries to get him to stop. He doesn’t so she “whipped out a penknife and plunged it into him. There was the most awful row”. The former sentence is remarkable and then you read the latter – as if it was indecent for anyone to complain about stabbing a child. The book never mentions a prosecution – it sounds as if a row was the end of it.
Agatha Christie’s husband was an archaeologist and she accompanied him to digs in Syria as well as travelling in Egypt for pleasure. It gave her the knowledge and experience to write the book.
The author starts the book by introducing the characters, so you realise why they will all end up in Egypt in chapter 2.
As in a number of her books, Christie traps her characters (in this case, on a romantic river steamer, the “Karnak”) to limit the number of suspects.
As ever, the fun is in trying to work out who the murderer is. Before anyone was murdered, I did even wonder who the victim would be – there is an obvious candidate but until it happens, you can’t be sure.
All I will say (as I do not wish to spoil anything) is that the plot is a good one. The beauty of it is that, though you might work out the likely suspect (for once, I did), I couldn’t for the life of me (no pun intended) work out how the murder was carried out - I still desperately needed the “grand reveal”.
You do not need to read any other Agatha Christie books before this – it is a “standalone” book (like all of her books save “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case”).
This is a great whodunnit mixed with a travel book. It is helped by the exotic setting of an old river steamer on the Nile, surrounded by the incredible sights of ancient Egypt. It could be an expensive book to buy – it has made me want to go on a Nile cruise. I thoroughly enjoyed it.