When my grandmother died, we had a ton of books to go through. Granted, most of them were Harlequin romances (at one time, she subscribed to like 3 different lines, that’s like 18 books a month! And she read and KEPT most of them!) but hidden inside the upper shelves were some treasures. She had what I strongly suspect is the complete (1st edition) set of the Pollyanna books by Eleanor H. Potter, many MANY Zane Grey’s (my Papa was a fan), and a few Agatha Christie’s. I brought Pollyanna and Agatha home with me. And maybe a couple Zane’s, just for sentimental sake.
Now, I’ve read all the Pollyanna’s. But I haven’t touched the Agatha’s. For some reason, I had it in my mind that I wouldn’t like Agatha Christie, which is absolutely preposterous, I suppose. Obviously her books are extremely popular, but I have never read a piece of detective fiction I was all that crazy about (Sherlock Holmes aside. That man holds a special place in my heart). I’ve always wondered about her though, so when the Classics Circuit decided to do Agatha Christie, I jumped on in, to finally bite the bullet and see what’s so great about Ms. Christie. I looked at the three books I had, Death in the Air, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Murder in the Calais Coach, picked the cleanest one (because wow, are they old and dirty!) and dived in.
Now, my copy is so old (it was published in 1935), it has the original title. If you go look up Death in the Air, most of the hits come back Death in the Clouds. Its pages are yellow, the type is…like…a typewriter (!) which I love to pieces, the cover is a lovely shade of blood red…. From page one; the stage was set for me to love this book, based on looks alone of course. So, how did it the writing measure up?
The September sun beat down hotly on Le Bourget aerodome as the passengers crossed the ground and climbed into the air liner “Prometheus,” due to depart for Croydon in a few minutes’ time.
My first line from an Agatha Christie novel! And there is no hanging around; Christie immediately gets down to business. All the suspects are introduced, even as the crime is going down. The crime is not described at all, but it’s happening as the players are being set. Brilliant! What’s even better? The famous Hercule Poirot is also aboard the plane! Christie sucked me right in. And the crime? Famous money-lenderer to the rich and titled, Madame Giselle has been poisoned.
Da da dum!
With a poisoned South American blowdart dipped in snake venom!
“This object, gentlemen, is the native thorn shot from a blowpipe by certain tribes-er-I cannot be exactly certain now if it is South American tribes or weather it is the inhabitants of Borneo which I have in mind.But that is undoubtedly a native dart that has been aimed by a blowpipe, and I strongly suspect that on the tip is the famous arrow poison of the South American Indians,” finished Hercule Poirot. And he added, “Mais enfin! Est-ce que c’est possible?”
Each passenger is examined and a few have a possibly motive, but the opportunity is hard to discover. After the jury at the inquest finds that murder was committed, by person’s unknown, Poirot, his friend Inspector Japp, and a french officer named Fournier split up the suspects and begin to investigate. Poirot reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes. He gives off an air of…oh…”I already know what happened, I’m just looking for the clues to confirm it” kind of air. Love it!
Death in the Air was pretty much what I was expecting and more. I am surprised by just how much I enjoyed this book! The writing is pretty much what I was expecting, but the tongue-in-cheek humor… I should have know, it being a British book and the British having that unique sense of humor, but I was surprised. For instance, one of the suspects, Mr. Clancy, is a detective and crime fiction writer.
…I don’t think it’s healthy for a man to be always brooding over crime and detective stories. Reading up all sorts of cases. It puts ideas into his head.”
“It is certainly necessary for a writer to have ideas in his head,” agreed Poirot.
As for the mystery? I read with my trusty notebook, taking notes, doing my own detective work–and I was wrong! I did not guess the murderer, like I thought I would. My first Agatha Christie was exciting, fun to read, and I will be reading more. I’m so glad I joined the tour and finally found out what reading a Christie was like!
Author: Agatha Christie
Category: Detective Fiction/Mystery
Published by: P. F. Collier & Son Corporation
On Sale: 1935
For other stops on the Classics Circuit Age of Detective Fiction tour, please visit below.