Oh I had such ambitions for the 1944 Club but as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men… I hope I do get to Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge one of these days and I have The Dangling Man by Saul Bellow gathering dust here on my shelf. What I did manage to read was Towards Zero by the inimitable Agatha Christie.
I love Agatha Christie. All of her mysteries are fairly short and a total breeze to read. I always desperately want to know who did the crime and I almost never guess right.
The book starts off rather slowly and confusedly, starting first with a semi-retired octogenarian solicitor named Mr. Treves ruminating on the many threads that lead up towards a murder,
‘“All the converging towards a given spot…And then when the time comes – over the top! Zero Hour. Yes all of them converging towards zero…” He repeated: “Towards Zero..” Then he gave a a quick little shudder.’
Then the scene moves to a man who made failed suicide attempt now convalescing in hospital and then to Superintendent Battle (one of Christies lesser known and lesser used detectives) solving a boarding school theft involving his teenage daughter by using psychology. The reader may wonder what is going on. Where are the dead bodies?
But then the story starts to move in to classic Christie mystery mode as a summer house party at Gull’s Point, home of widowed Lady Tressilian, starts to form. For the cast of characters there are living at Gull’s Point Lady Tressilian, bedridden but still formidable (and rich), and her companion, Mary Aldin who may not be as willing to give up her best years to playing nursemaid to an old woman as she seems. Coming for a fortnight’s visit is Lady Tressilian’s former ward and heir, Neville Strange and his new, rather vulgar (and much younger) wife, Kay, Neville’s ex-wife, the long suffering Audrey and Thomas Royde who grew up with Audrey and has been carrying a torch for her for decades. Finally, turning up like a bad penny is lothario Ted Latimer who has the hots for Kay.
What could possibly go wrong?
Christie does a good job keeping the tension high and when the murder does happen, I was surprised at who was killed because it really could have been any of them; everyone’s tempers were quite frayed by that point.
The resolution of the mystery and romantic pairings are perhaps a little too convenient but honestly I don’t mind that. I had a lot of fun being duped by the red herrings and enjoying the upper class scene of pre-war Britain.