- originally published in 1955 aka SO MANY STEPS TO DEATH
- ISBN 978-1-61173-541-3
- 302 pages
- my original review
- Discussion questions - Trivia
- Review at Books Please
Synopsis (Christie website)
A young woman with nothing to live for is persuaded to embark on a suicide mission to find a missing scientist.
When a number of leading scientists disappear without trace, concern grows within the international intelligence community. Are they being kidnapped? Blackmailed? Brainwashed? One woman appears to have the key to the mystery. Unfortunately, Olive Betteron now lies in a hospital bed, dying from injuries sustained in a Moroccan plane crash.
Meanwhile, in a Casablanca hotel room, Hilary Craven prepares to take her own life. But her suicide attempt is about to be interrupted by a man who will offer her an altogether more thrilling way to die.
A woman thinks she has nothing to live for – bereaved, divorced – she is saved from suicide by an opportunity to die in an altogether more thrilling way. Nuclear scientists, international intrigue and a touch of romance, Agatha Christie takes her readers on a wild excursion far from the country houses and cosy murders of England.
Christie based this book partly on the activities of two famous physicists of the early 1950s: Bruno Ponecorvo, who defected to Russia, and Emil Fuchs, who spied for the Russians. It is another of Christie’s light-hearted thriller novels featuring a daring and fearless heroine.
Once again a re-read of a novel I previously read for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. My original review
This novel echoes themes present much earlier in Christie's novels such as Tommy and Tuppence and THE BIG FOUR and even earlier stories. (THE BIG FOUR's central theme was that of a master criminal or a gang of organised criminals responsible for a variety of international catastrophes mistakenly attributed to other causes.) This was a theme that was transposed into the period after World War Two, the period of the Iron Curtain, when Communist Russia seemed to pose a threat to the Western democracies. It was a theme that occupied other authors like Ian Fleming and George Orwell and was supported by the defection from the early 1950s onwards of British diplomats and agents. Only a short step from them to scientists and others.
DESTINATION UNKNOWN explores the possible defection of Western European scientists, with a prominent business man sponsoring their defection.
This idea of a mastermind who threatened the existence of democratic countries is one that never left Agatha Christie's writing, and reoccurs often enough for it to be something Christie really believed in.
To modern readers this theme probably seems a little far fetched but to readers 70 years ago, the threat seemed very real. Communism seemed a real threat to the capitalist world - the "red under the bed". Has that changed?
Things to talk about:
- A missing scientist - brain drain.
- A breakthrough invention in nuclear energy - a benefit or a threat?
- A mad philanthropist - what motivates philanthropy?
- possible threat of a global virus
- the battle of ideologies between East and West
- new "world order" after World War II, dissatisfaction by idealists with the results of the war.
- the meaning of life - the "heroine comes back from the brink of suicide
- the idea of the world becoming "smaller" because of technology like faster planes.
- the concept of cooperation by the Western Powers - not just Britain being affected.
- life is more than work. The idea that work in captivity is still like being in jail even if all you need is provided.
Anything else my group should discuss?
My rating: 4.3