Friday, February 18, 2011

Ordeal by Innocence (1958)

A fairly mediocre Agatha Christie, even though the author herself said it was one of her favorites. It starts well: a convicted murderer is found innocent, a year or so after he has died in prison. His innocence means that another family member is responsible for the death of Mrs. Argyle, a woman who had adopted five children.

The book meanders along without a lot happening; the plot is mainly filled in with dialogue. It does pick up at the very end (a sudden flurry of murder and attempted murder) but it's a little too late. Also toward the end, the very very end, there is a romantic subplot that is introduced that seemed unnecessary and tagged on.

There are a lot of psychological portrayals in this book, especially among the adopted children (all adults when the book takes place), but I don't think Christie quite nails it. She is best, I think, in a more light-hearted mode, or as light-hearted as murder mysteries can get (I guess they can get pretty light-hearted). The sinister tone of this book and the psychological complexity makes me wonder what someone like Ruth Rendell might do with the same plot.

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