Today’s Monday Mystery is Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. While movies have been made of this and other Christie novels, it’s definitely worth a read — her books are not the most read of all time except for the Bible and Shakespeare for no reason. Even if you’ve seen the movie(s), you’ll enjoy the writing — the descriptions, the characters’ foibles, and the suspense as Hercule Poirot discards one theory after another until he finds the answer to the one fact that does not fit.
Each of the main characters who will interact on what should be a leisurely cruise on the Nile is introduced in short vignettes. By the time they convene at the Cataract Hotel to await their cruise up the Nile from Assuan to Wadi Halfa, we seem to be fully aware of all the players and their possible antagonisms toward the inevitable victim, Linnet Doyle, formerly Ridgeway, an incredibly rich heiress whose entitlement has rubbed many the wrong way.
For starters, Linnet’s husband Simon was engaged to her “friend” Jacqueline de Bellefort who introduced them in order for Simon to become her land agent but Linnet jilts her suitor, sets her cap for Simon, who jilts Jackie and marries Linnet. Deliciously tangled. Linnet has a trustee who “accidentally” connects with her in Egypt after sailing from New York promptly upon hearing of her wedding; it would seem he has been diddling the books and the wedding enables her to take charge of her inheritance. Her British solicitor gets wind of the fishy circumstances and sends his junior partner off to help protect Linnet’s interests.
Others on the cruise include the jilted Jackie who has threatened the lives of her former friend and fiancé, a communist sympathizer who despises all the rich and entitled, a young woman whose family was ruined by Linnet’s late father accompanying her aunt and her nurse, a young man (who seems extremely put out by Poirot’s presence) traveling with his mother, a doctor, a keen archaeology hobbyist, and an aging author and her daughter, a pouty lass guarding some tragic secret.
The night of the first murder, Poirot sleeps soundly; it is a while before he realizes he was drugged to be out of the events to follow. His friend, Colonel Race, joins the cruise tracking a terrorist suspected of being on board, and while he and Poirot try to unravel the crime, two more murders and a robbery follow swiftly to complicate matters. The only two people who are definitely clear of the first murder are the victim’s husband and the jilted Jackie. But, as Poirot tells Race, when trying to solve a murder, people “conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit in that are significant.” Once Poirot discovers the importance of the “fact that will not fit”, all becomes clear. Even so, the ending is totally unexpected.
One by one the layers of secrets become revealed. Christie is still the master of suspense and thoroughly enjoyable. As Christie was well-travelled and had visited Egypt with her archaeologist husband, her descriptions of that country in the 1920s is accurate and captivating. There are two movies based on this book, one starring Peter Ustinov with a star-studded cast from 1978, an episode in the British series starring David Suchet airing in 2004, and one upcoming later this year starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh. I will be watching these and reviewing them in a future blog post. For mystery lovers, Agatha Christie is a must. * * * * *
If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar. (Links to books are Amazon affiliate links!)