Agatha Christie Novels Sleight of Hand

Agatha Christie Novels Trick

I can’t be the only person to have identified the fact that in quite a few of her books, dame Agatha uses the same trick to distract us guessing the true culprit.

I won’t, of course, spell out exactly what I mean because that would spoil it for people who haven’t read those particular Agatha Christie novels, so try reading (or re-reading) the following Agatha Christie classics and see if you agree that the same sleight of hand has been used:

The Hollow

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Death on the Nile

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Towards Zero

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The Murder at the Vicarage

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Lord Edgware Dies

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Of course, Agatha Christie is supremely clever at disguising her methods, so you may have to look quite hard.

There is never any shortage of suspects in Agatha Christie novels and yes, one sometimes has to suspend one’s disbelief that so many people could have a motive for killing one particular person, but doesn’t that make for a magnificent denouement?

When Hercule Poirot (or sometimes Miss Marple, but not as often) gathers all the protagonists together, the reader knows that he or she will be taken on the same journey of discovery that the detective has taken to reach the final, often astounding, conclusion.

One by one the suspects will be eliminated until we are made to realise that, given all the facts and clues, only the person or persons remaining could have committed the crime.

So why didn’t we see it coming? Because she is a master of her craft, that’s why.

Agatha Christie always plays fair with her readers – the clues are there, but so often we fail to recognise them as such.

Retracing The Steps

I have often reached the end of one my Agatha Christie novels and then searched my way through the book again to identify the pointers that I had missed but which Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple seized upon straight away.

Or if the significance of these pieces of evidence was not immediately apparent, a sudden blinding flash of inspiration would have Poirot declaring, ‘But I have been an imbecile, mon ami’ and Miss Marple castigating herself more gently with: ‘I rather think I have been very stupid.’

And the hapless reader, at that point, is still none the wiser as to the significance of say, a cigarette burn on a coffee table or the murder victim’s broken nails.

Then when everything has been explained to our satisfaction, when all the clues we missed have been pointed out to us, we become convinced that next time, Agatha Christie will not pull the wool over our eyes. But she does of course. Over and over again. And even when, as in the books mentioned above, she uses the same technique, it is so well camouflaged as to be unrecognisable.

Trust No One, Suspect Everyone

The more Agatha Christie books one reads, the more one realises that the murderer could be anyone - and I do mean ANYONE.

And this, of course, adds to the enjoyment and the uncertainty. Because it becomes increasingly difficult to eliminate characters who, in any other crime novel, would almost certainly be considered completely out of the equation.

The old adage: ‘Trust no one, suspect everyone’ was never more true than in an Agatha Christie novel. But even when bearing this in mind, the reader will inevitably be lulled into a false sense of security, believing themselves to be on the right track, only to discover that yet again, the Queen of Crime has led them up the garden path.

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