23 September 2013

Review: THE CLOCKS, Agatha Christie

  • originally published in 1963
  • this edition read by me in an Agatha Christie Crime Collection, published by Hamlyn in 1971
  • pp 7 - 195
Synopsis (Official Christie site)

Sheila Webb, a typist-for-hire, has arrived at 19 Wilbraham Crescent to accept a new job. What she finds is a well-dressed corpse surrounded by five [my note: six clocks?] clocks, each one set to a different time. But by the time the authorities arrive, four of the clocks have vanished. And unfortunately, the blind mistress of number 19 never saw a thing. Luckily the retired Hercule Poirot has nothing but time to piece together one of the most baffling puzzles of his career...

It was adapted for TV in 2011 as part of the twelfth series of Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet.

My Take

I seriously could not remember if I had read THE CLOCKS before.
I think perhaps I must have because I worked the solution out well ahead of time.

What I found particularly interesting is the way an aging Hercule Poirot tries to demonstrate his ability to solve the mystery from his armchair. Eventually he comes to London to be closer to to the scene of the crime, to satisfy his curiosity, he says.

Colin Lamb, into whose arms Sheila Webb flees when she rushes out 19 Wilbraham Crescent after finding the body, decides to consult Hercule Poirot, a friend of his father's, when he is stumped by the mystery, and Poirot uses him as his sniffer dog, interviewing the residents of nearby houses.

The plot is similar in ways to Christie's previous novel, THE MIRROR CRACK'D FROM SIDE TO SIDE, written the previous year, in which an aging Miss Marple does a spot of armchair detection, and uses her friend Dolly Bantry to get the facts so she can work out who killed Heather Badcock.

The admission here is that both Christie's popular detectives are aging, as indeed the author herself is. To be honest they haven't aged as quickly as she has, having already been quite elderly when they made their debuts 50 years before. The inference is of course that though they are each becoming more infirm, that their brilliant minds are still capable of deduction. This despite the fact that those around them sometimes regard them as a little "gaga".

Of course armchair detection has to be possible if one is given all the relevant facts, because that is what we, the readers, indulge in.

There are a few little things that don't quite work in THE CLOCKS, and I thought the story became rather too convoluted, as if the author had changed her mind several times about which solution to adopt in the end, resulting in rather too many red herrings

My rating: 4.2

I read this as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. It is my 55th novel in a list of about 67.


Irene said...

I don't remember reading this one, I shall have to check it out again. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Kerrie - This one is certainly more convoluted than some of her other novels. I have to admit I like the Colin Lamb character but I agree this isn't her finest. Well no matter - Christie's weakest is heaps better than a lot of people's best.

Clothes In Books said...

Not her best one, but that means I can never fully remember the explanation so I can re-read it! With her top level ones, the solutions are so good that you remember them immediately.

skiourophile said...

It's a bit of an odd one, I thought - it seems like there may be too many ends to tie up than can be done nice and neatly (a bit like the also-a-bit-weird Poirot 'Hickory Dickory Dock' which takes on a pretty large field of characters?).

Ryan said...

I've not read this one yet, but it's one I've always wanted to. I do agree with someone above, her weakest books tend to be better than most of the crap that comes out today.


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