Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Clocks, by Agatha Christie

The Clocks
By Agatha Christie
1963

There are a few novels that I've read and reviewed recently that started with a premise that really dug its hooks in me. There's Christie's Cards on the Table, which I reviewed not so long ago and there's Boris Akunin's Murder on the Leviathan, which had one of the best hooks I've run across.

Christie's The Clocks ain't so shabby in this department either, mind you. A young woman from a secretarial pool is asked for by name and goes to the house of the person who hired her. She's told to let herself in if no one is there and does so, only to find a nasty old corpse in the living room. As the owner of the house comes home, Sheila realizes that she's blind as she runs screaming from the house and into the arms of one Colin Lamb.

Who happens to be a friend of one Inspector Hardcastle, who's assigned to sort this mess out. Another interesting feature of the case is that the blind woman's living room contains four clocks that don't belong to her. None of them have been wound and each is set to 4:13.

That's the good news and a rather spiffing premise, if you ask me. It might not be fair to say that things went downhill from there, but there were a few things that didn't exactly knock me out about this one. I've never been a fan of espionage and spy fiction and Christie seems to have set out to combine elements of that with the more traditional whodunits she was known for. Which didn't really do it for me but I guess by 1963 Christie had written so many outstanding traditional mysteries that one can hardly begrudge her for wanting to mix it up a little.

I also found it odd that although this is a Poirot novel he doesn't really figure into the proceedings in any significant way until relatively late in the book. Until then we are present with the alternating viewpoints of Lamb and Hardcastle. Naturally when Poirot does finally get cracking on the case he solves it with relative ease even though he hasn't deigned to visit the crime site or talk directly to any of the witnesses or suspects. It all seems a rather Herculean feat - if you'll pardon me saying so - and perhaps just a bit of a stretch.

Which is not to say that this didn't make for good reading and I certainly wouldn't say that I didn't like it but I also wouldn't rank it near the top of my list of Christie experiences.

2 comments:

  1. It's not a bad read, but the most memorable part is Poirot's lecture on detective fiction. And really, there should have been a better resolution for the whole clocks thing-- Christie's is so dull that the film adaptation added a second layer to the meaning of the clocks, and it works *so* much better that way. The movie is overall reasonably faithful, incidentally, and quite imaginative in transposing everything to a 1930s setting. Highly recommend the film, the book gets an "OK" grade.

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  2. William

    I personally loved this piece by the "Queen of Crime." I enjoyed having Poirot out of the picture, so to say, for a change. On the other hand, the most brilliant part of this book was when Poirot gave his discorse on crime fiction. Thanks for the review!

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