31 January 2011

Review: DEATH ON THE NILE, Agatha Christie

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
First published in Great Britain in 1937
My edition published by Fontana Books 1962
253 pages
Source: TBR
The book was first serialised in the US in The Saturday Evening Post in eight instalments from May 15 (Volume 209, Number 46) to July 3, 1937 (Volume 210, Number 1) with illustrations by Henry Raleigh.

Christie dramatised the novel as Murder on the Nile in 1945 with several alterations including removing Poirot and changing the ending. 

Publisher's Blurb
Linnet Ridgeway is rich, beautiful and clever.  She appears to have everything.  But Linnet also has enemies.  When she is shot dead on a passenger boat in Egypt, it is fortunate that Hercule Poirot is also on the trip.  But even for the great Belgian detective, this is not a simple case.

My take: 

The scene is carefully set in DEATH ON THE NILE. We first of all meet Linnet Ridgeway, heiress, friend to Jacqueline de Bellefort. The latter has recently fallen in love with the handsome Simon Doyle. It very much looks as if Linnet Ridgeway will marry Lord Windlesham.

Hercle Poirot is again dabbling in retirement, a man of leisure, with enough funds to travel. He is contemplating a trip to Egypt to escape a grey English winter.

In the next few pages the reader is introduced to the people who will be joining Hercule Poirot on his Nile cruise, and we learn, time having elapsed, that Linnet Ridgeway has recently married. As the blurb warns us, she has a number of enemies, and that makes her death inevitable. The novel is spent working out who the murderer is. Among the candidates is the person who has been stalking Linnet and her husband ever since they married.

Hercule Poirot is assisted in this task by Colonel Race who is looking for an arch criminal but has no further information about his identity. Between them they work methodically through the candidates.

It is obvious that Christie based the setting of the novel on her own travels in Egypt and on the Nile, although, as a blogger recently commented, the journey is now a bit different to what it was in the 1930s.

I found myself wishing that the edition of DEATH ON THE NILE that I read had had a diagram of the layout of the Steamer Karnak on which they were travelling. The layout of the cabins seemed important in working out who had the opportunity to commit the murder. It was clear that Christie had a clear vision of the tour boat herself.

As in many other Poirot novels, the Belgian's fondness for romance comes to the surface, and he does his best to foster romantic feelings of some of the young people in the novel, even to the point of tweaking the outcome of one of the minor crimes, something of which Colonel Race found it hard to approve.

Colonel Race plays the role of Poirot's sounding board and confidante. This is the role often played by Captain Hastings, or by one of the women with whom Poirot strikes up a friendship. But even then Poirot finds it difficult to explain to Race where his little grey cells are leading him, and his final explanations come as a surprise to Race.

My rating: 4.3.

I'm counting DEATH ON THE NILE both for my next novel in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge
and for the letter D in Crime Fiction Alphabet


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this :-). I've always really liked the way Poirot and Race slowly uncover the truths about all of the people on board the cruise ship. And I agree; Christie probably did have a very clear mental picture of the boat. I'm glad, actually, that she includes sketches of the boat, as some of the clues do depend on where different cabins and rooms are...

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite Christie books. I'm pretty sure the edition I read, at least one of the times I read this book, had a diagram. And, yes, the order of the rooms is so important. I like the books that feature Colonel Race. I also like CARDS ON THE TABLE, where the Colonel also plays a part.

Yvette said...

I like this book a lot. I like the motivation and the obvious mis-direction. This is one of Christie's bloodier books, I think.
I mean there's murder upon murder in this one. Remember in the film how at the end they show the porters carrying all the bodies off the boat. I mean, wow!

I too like Colonel Race and I'm so glad that David Niven got to play him in the movie.

My only quibble with this book is that there are no likable characters outside of Poirot and Race.

Kerrie, I'm not sure if I've ever seen a diagram of the boat. Maybe there was on in the hardcover?


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