Top positive review
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Top notch and my personal favourite Christie
on 4 January 2011
This is one of a handful of Superintendent Battle stories and one of the minority of Christie stories not featuring either Poirot or Miss Marple but do NOT be put off by that.
The story begins in February with an unnamed person writing a plan to murder another unspecified person later in the year, in September. The plan is clear and carefully detailed by someone obsessed with one thought alone, of murder more than six months into the future.
In September, Lady Camilla Tressilian hosts several guests for a fortnight at her home, Gull's Point. Early during the party, a visitor tells a story to all present about a child killing another child with a bow-and-arrow. Is the murderous child connected to the events unfolding at Gulls Point? Violent death occurs at Gull's Point only days later and Superindendent Battle and his nephew, Inspector Leach, must work out the who, how and why of the murder that has taken place.
The story structure is very unusual but the inclusion of an intricate plot, unusually subtle clues and an adaptation of the real-life Devon locality of Salcombe and the Yealm estuary as a setting makes for a masterpiece.
The theme and motivation for murder is unusual for Christie, so too is the outline portrayal of a certain type of psychopathic behaviour which is extremely fascinating to discern. The characters are unusually well drawn and one can only speculate how much Christie drew on her own life as an inspiration for this story; further study of this might be fruitful.
The TV adaptation on location, with some alterations (most notably including Miss Marple) is very acceptable but the original plot structure (crucially) and some of the subtlety of the clues and red herrings in the original story is lost. (perhaps inevitably)
This was the very last Christie story that I read of all her stories but, nonetheless, not predictable because of the unusual plot and pattern. A very personal choice, I know, but I really would give this the vote for my favourite Christie story.