A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Learning from Novels: Agatha Christie's "The Seven Dials Mystery"

There’s a reason Christie is such a big name in murder mysteries. I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge whodunit junkie, but her work stands out brilliantly from all that I’ve read. The Seven Dials Mystery follows the mysterious deaths of two young men on the grounds of Chimneys, a huge estate being rented out be the protagonist’s father. The clues are a missing alarm clock, an unfinished letter, and the last words of one of the victims as he dies.
  Christie’s red-herrings are particularly good. She knows all about playing on a reader’s assumptions. The main character is engaging, and well-developed. I would never name a character “Bundle”, but, to each their own.
  There are an awful lot of characters introduced in the first couple of chapters of the book. It’s a good thing when a mystery has a lot of suspects, but I would complain that they were dealt a little fast, and there are a few that blend together. Most of her characters, though not described extensively, were given one or two distinguishing marks that made it possible to file them, mentally. The story starts with a prank involving eight young people, and I found myself juggling their names and faces for a while, worried that I would be expected to remember every one. Actually, only one or two of them were important to the story.
  Another thing that I found confusing was the fact that the main character wasn’t introduced until after all that. She wasn’t even one of the people present at the beginning. For a while, I didn’t know who I was supposed to follow around.
  I would rant on about the plot developments being flat out unfair to the reader, but, looking back, it was all quite clever. The worst of it was Bundle was barking up the wrong tree the whole time. You naturally assume that the main character is pretty close to getting it write near the end of the novel—but how it all turned out was nothing like what she thought.
  I really enjoyed reading the book. I’ll be reading more Agatha Christie as soon as I get my hands on it.

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