Friday, January 10, 2014

The Seven Dials Mystery: "It's a Rotten Job, but Somebody's Got to Do It."

Agatha Christie Challenge: Book 9

I read most of The Seven Dials Mystery during my recent trip to Australia. Moving from hotel to hotel every three to four days made it difficult to follow the tread of the story; and while I may have missed some important clues, I wasn't disappointed with the book or its surprise ending. 

The Seven Dials Mystery takes us back to Chimneys, the setting of Christie's 1925 novel, The Secret of Chimneys. Seven Dials has all the ingredients of the classic Christie thriller: secret plans, evil foreigners, threats from Germany and Russia, house parties, suave men, secret societies, and plucky young women. But this book isn't so much a thriller as a parody. In fact, Christie seems to poke fun at the mystery genre itself. Christie starts out predictably: murder, poison, and plenty of suspects. It's cliche, even boring; yet, she's setting us up, playing with our expectations to fool us again. 

The Seven Dials Mystery is also funny. Christie takes special care to mock the English class system and the superficiality of money. For example, the egotistical Lord Caterham is comically lampooned and his landed gentry friends are shown to be shallow, dim-witted, and frivolous. Christie also teases the nouveau riche in the guise of Sir Oswald and Lady Coote, an overly ambitious pair, who fail to see how little title and material success have brought them. There's more to Christie than mystery. Here, we see her comic genius.

Rating: B+

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