Agatha Christie's Endless Night and Cards On The Table
Every Night and every Morn, Some to misery are born
Every Morn and every Night, Some are born to Sweet Delight
Some are born to Endless Night...
[William Blake - Auguries of Innocence]
A Brief Introduction
Agatha Christie needs no introduction since she is a household name for fiction lovers.her many suspense thrillers have enthralled readers all over the world for several decades. I have read many of her books and liked almost all of them. Some books become dearer to you because of various reasons and the two I am reviewing here come from that category of her books. Endless Night is a touching tale, in many ways more than a murder mystery and Cards on the table is a perfect whodunnit, the complex plot of it could only be imagined and executed by Agatha Christie in her own inimitable style!
'In my end is my Beginning ! Is there ever any particular spot where one can put one's finger and say: "It all began that day, at such and such a place, with such an incident?' This is how the disturbing and compelling story of Endless Night begins.
Perhaps there was something more sinister behind the gypsy's warning. Michael Rogers a man of many interests and a vagabond dreamed of a rich beautiful wife and a perfectly designed house. He found the girl and they built the house - but the site that was selected was at a place called Gypsy’s Acre, a place with a curse where sudden death had already struck more than once, and was about to strike again.
Told in first person by Michael Rogers, who is a Drifter by nature, now a salesman, but with very high ambitions, looking for something exciting to happen in his life and excitement comes to him soon enough. He meets a Brilliant Architect Santonix, who promises to build him a Dream house, when he finds the proper setting for a house and the means to build it. While taking his clients on a house viewing expedition, Michael comes across a Sale bill for a property in Kingston Bishop, a place according to him, of no importance to him, until the moment he visited the place.
Once he set his eyes on the property called Gypsy’s Acre, he is transfixed by its mystery and beauty and determined to own it and requests Santonix to build his dream house there… as he turned away from the sale bill "...when I turned away from the sale board I felt a little shiver because a black cloud had come over the sun." All the locals furnish him with a tale of terror with a Gypsy's curse on the property and unexplained deaths and accidents happening just around there, also how the property had remained without being sold for these very reasons.But, Michael becomes even more determined to prove everyone wrong about the curse including Mrs Lee, who is the local gypsy, who warns him against having anything to do with it, as the property had belonged to her family way back in the past!
When Michael visits Gypsy's acre yet again as the place draws him, he comes across the beautiful and the fabulously rich heiress Fenella Goddman. In his own words - Elle was standing just by a tall fir tree and she had the look, if I can explain it, of someone who had not been there a moment before but had materialized, as it were, out of the trees...." They meet and are instantly attracted and they get married, go ahead and buy the property and Get Santonix to build the house. However, Michael is warned by Mrs Lee, the gypsy woman again and by his mother as well, who Michael is wary of, as she is the only person who is able to read him like a book.
The wonderfully happy couple move into the new house and there is a small accident on the first day itself -a dead bird with a message asking them to get out of Gypsy's Acre. Things become even more disturbing when Elle insists that her close companion and secretary, Greta come and live with them.
Michael had disliked her ever since he met her and tries his level best to stop her come and live with them but with little success since Greta was brilliant and was able to manage Elle’s financial affairs so well that her grabbing relatives were wary and kept out. Just when everything looked settled there is an even greater tragedy when Elle has an accident while riding her favorite horse!
What I feel about the book
This is more a tragic love story than Christie's usual kind of suspense thriller which focuses only the crime part of it. This story deals with the depth of human emotions and how feelings can and do change with time and circumstances sometimes with disastrous results !
The book does not disappoint the readers and in many ways is a complete departure from Agatha Christie's normal style of writing. It is a sensitive tale of crime, passion and tragic romance. The romantic story of a middle class vagabond and a shy beautiful heiress tugs at your heart. In my opinion, this is probably one of her best written books and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book beginning with the usual guess work as to who gets murdered, when and whodunnit? It has a very touching end to it.
In fact I am surprised that this book has not been publicised much like her other better known and popular novels. I am almost certain that all Agatha Christie fans would enjoy reading this book. It is a Fabulous mystery beautifully crafted by Christie, not to be missed!
Cards On The Table
Apparently, when Agatha Christie wrote this novel in 1936, she wanted to make it different to all her earlier works . According to her The most likely murderer in general would be the least likely person to have committed the crime, so she warned her readers beforehand that this was not that kind of a mystery. There are only four suspects and given the right circumstances, any one of them might have committed the murder. Each of them have already committed at least one murder or more, and each of them is capable of committing further murders. They come from a widely different background and would employ different methods. The deduction therefore has to be entirely psychological as Poirot says " When all is said and done it is the mind of the murderer that is of supreme interest"
Hercule Poirot who is visiting an exhibition of Snuff-Boxes at Wessex House, has a chance encounter with Mr. Shaitana, a person with a bizarre taste in clothes and appearance, and, according to Poirot someone who every healthy decent Englishman longed earnestly and fervently to kick!
Nobody knew Mr Shaitana's origins, but what was known was that he was very rich and lived in the lap of luxury, and more interestingly he gave wonderful parties - sometimes macabre, sometimes queer, sometimes classy but never dull. And lastly he was a man of whom nearly everybody was a little afraid of. He made it his business to dig out any little hidden secrets of various people known to him and took pleasure in making them aware of this fact by giving little hints about his knowledge which made them uncomfortable and uneasy. So, Shaitana was not a person people wanted to be friends with!
Shaitana while baiting Poirot at the exhibition, invites him to his apartment where he claimed he had a 'Black Museum', and he was willing to show Poirot some objects in his own line, crime! According to Shaitana murder was an art form and the 'ones who got away with it' were the successes and according to him were the ' ultimate artistes'. Shaitana arranges a dinner party for Poirot to meet his 'exhibits' (the ultimate artistes?) – Poirot however is reluctant to attend the party and warns Shaitana against the idea, finally gives in and decides to attend the party out of sheer curiosity.
The party consists of Poirot, Mrs Oliver, the well-known writer of detective novels and a feminist to the core, Superintendent Battle, one of Scotland yard's best representatives and Colonel Rice, an unassuming, quiet secret service agent, with a sharp observant mind. The other guests include Dr. Roberts, Mrs Lorrimer, Major Despard and Miss Meredith - supposedly Shaitana's four exhibits. Shaitana's idea of fun was to have a party with his four exhibits and four sleuths. What begins as an absorbing evening consisting of an Excellent dinner, a lively discussion on crime and murder and bridge, turns into a dangerous game with Shaitana found stabbed with one of his own collection of an exquisitely carved and jewel headed Stilletto.
In fact, Shaitana literally signed his own death warrant when he made certain leading remarks and concluded 'But who am I to pronounce with so many experts present ?' As Poirot remarks later 'The stupid little man, to dress up as the Devil and frighten people' - Now it was the task of the four sleuths to find the murderer, who was exceptionally daring and cunning.
My views about the book
This is yet another very interesting and compelling tale written by Christie. As she writes in her forward at the beginning of the book, there are just 4 suspects and anybody could have done it. They all had the motive and all of them had the courage and the desperate need to execute the crime because of Shaitana’s own shortsightedness where he failed to recognise the real danger to himself. When a person is drunk with power and recklessness he begins to lose grip with reality and that is exactly what happens to Mr. Shaitana .
I must confess that I had absolutely no clue about the identity of the murderer, and Christie has made sure that you don’t come to know about it right until the very last page. Very gripping and witty like most of her novels, I would rate this as one of Poirot's most complicated cases and probably that's why there are three other experts helping him out. I like the way Christie describes Mrs. Oliver the writer of detective stories, who makes an appearance in many other novels along with Poirot. She is the typical feminist writer, a bit vague but with an eye for detail and unknowing to herself she blurts out the right things at the wrong moment which in turn leads to many humorous situations which is quite funny and enjoyable.
Given the circumstances it seems impossible to commit a murder within the confines of a room where eight people are playing bridge, with Shaitana sitting and watching them, quite enjoying the tricky situation he has created and totally unaware of the dangerous situation he has put himself in! When Christie explains the daring manner in which the murder is committed one can visualise the desperation of the murder- excellent suspense This was made into a film with David Suchet in the lead role of Hercule Poirot. But there were some unnecessary changes that made a mess of the storyline and reduced the impact. The book was one of Christie's masterpieces but sadly the film was not up to the mark. This has been happening with many of Christie's works of late, and in my opinion there is no advantage, in fact it only dilutes the storyline.
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