Archive for September 20, 2011

ENDLESS NIGHT: AGATHA CHRISTIE

Posted: September 20, 2011 in Agatha Christie, England, review
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It is difficult to say anything about Agatha Christie’s 1967 novel Endless Night without revealing too much about the plot, but I will try.

Critics might say it is derivative but they would have to agree it is an astonishingly different book for a 75 year old writer to produce at the end of her career. There is no Poirot or Miss Marple, and the two main ideas behind the plot and the brilliant twist at the end derive from ideas in books she wrote over 30 and 40 years before Endless Night.  I think it can be considered a masterpiece of psychological crime fiction. 

The reader needs to remind themselves that the year 1967 was closer in time, and manner, to the world of the Golden Age of the Detective novel than it is to us today. Forty four years back from 1967 would take us back to 1923. In Endless Night Christie mixes the familiar world of old money from her pre-war books, with the thrusting new society of the 1960s. The story almost seeming ahead of its time in predicting the greedy consumer society, and the breaking down of class structures.

When people say Christie’s characters have no depth I wonder how many of her books they have read recently, because Endless Night has a cast of characters that jump of the page and are easy to visualize. I read the book again after a long gap familiar with the plot, but I still enjoyed it immensely as the tension was wound up tighter and tighter. Most of today’s readers having read, or seen so many Christies on TV, will guess what is going to happen even if they don’t know for certain, but back in 1967 when on November 10, 1967 it was reviewed in The Guardian by Francis Isles aka Anthony Berkeley Cox his reaction in a more innocent and trusting era was:

 “The old maestrina of the crime-novel (or whatever is the female of ‘maestro’) pulls yet another out of her inexhaustible bag with Endless Night, quite different in tone from her usual work. It is impossible to say much about the story without giving away vital secrets: sufficient to warn the reader that if he should think this is a romance he couldn’t be more mistaken, and the crashing, not to say horrific suspense at the end is perhaps the most devastating that this surpriseful author has ever brought off.”