Posted: September 20, 2011 in Agatha Christie, England, review

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.”  

  1. Jose Ignacio says:

    Glad you are highlighting this book Norman. Plan to read it soon. BTW the femenine of maestro is maestra, both in Italian and in Spanish, when meaning school teacher. But in that context it will be better to keep it as maestro, even against the opinion of some feminists. But maestrina is just a beauty.

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – Oh, I’m so glad you highlighted this excellent book. As you say, it really is a fine psychological study, and the characters are quite well-done. Christie had a very keen eye for the changes that had been happening in her society, and that’s quite evident here as you say. Maestra or Maestrina or whatever, she was certainly master/mistress/oh, never mind! 😉 of her art.

  3. Norman says:

    Thanks Margot and Jose Ignacio.

    I get very protective of the reputation of our Devon author, Agatha Christie, and it really annoys me when TV productions mutilate her books, or I read reviews that deride her work.

    “******* isn’t Christie. For one thing she’s a far more accomplished craftsman, relying more on depth of character than formula. She also likes a complex plot that owes more to human emotion and psychology than to clockwork timing.”

    A reviewer who clearly hasn’t read much Christie, or made allowance for the period when the books were written. How many of Christie’s plot ideas have been used by other authors?

  4. KerrieS says:

    Excellent to see this Norman. Can I get you to add it to the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival collection space at http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_6057.html
    The next Carnival won’t be until October 24, so should be a “bumper” one

  5. H.L. Banks says:

    I was very excited when I read your post – I didn’t know of this book’s existence and can’t wait to get my hands on it. Thanks.

  6. Norman says:

    Kerrie, I’ve dome that, thanks for the request.

    HL you are welcome I suggest you go over to Kerrie’s website at http://bit.ly/qN0QED you will find a cornucopia of Agatha Christie reviews.

  7. I share your enthusiasm for both Christie and this book, which was by far the best of her later efforts. And I agree about ill-informed criticism of her work. There was more to Christie as a writer than some reviewers admit.

  8. […] Night has been reviewed at Crime Scraps Review (Norman), Mysteries in Paradise (Kerrie), In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel (Puzzle Doctor), […]

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