Death Comes As The End is surely Agatha Christie’s most bizarre novel. The story takes place in Ancient Egypt about 2000 BC and concerns a series of murders within the family of the Ka priest Imhotep.
At first the superstitious family members believe that the malevolent spirit of Imhotep’s concubine is to blame, but it soon becomes clear that a human agency is responsible for the killings.
There is a fairly high body count in death comes as the end before the murderer is unmasked and along the way we are treated to a fascinating insight into everyday life along the banks of the Nile four thousand years ago.
The idea of placing a murder mystery in Ancient Egypt was suggested to Agatha Christie by her friend Stephen Glanville who was a Professor of Egyptology In her forward to the book, she gratefully acknowledges Professor Glanville’s help and encouragement and in her autobiography admits that she was continually ringing him up requesting information on such matters as the food these people would have eaten, whether the women had their own quarters and what material their houses would have been built from.
The background, then, is quite authentic and I think this is one of Agatha Christie's more descriptive books. I certainly got a sense of heat and dust and could visualise the sailboats on the Nile.
I have enjoyed death comes as the end every time I have read it, but I do just wonder whether perhaps in striving to give her readers something with a very different, and factually accurate setting, Agatha has allowed the plot to suffer. I say this because I guessed quite early on who was the villain of the piece, and this is most unusual.
One point Agatha Christie makes in her autobiography is that she let Professor Glanville persuade her to alter a part of the denouement. She afterwards regretted this and says it is the only time she has allowed herself to be influenced in this way. It is intriguing to wonder just how the ending differs from Agatha’s original idea.
Do read this novel if you have not already done so. It is something of an oddity, but very entertaining and you’ll learn a few things about Ancient Egypt that you didn’t know before!
You can get hold of Death Comes As The End via the following links.Death Comes as the End