Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Postern of Fate (thoughts)

I love British detective novels. I truly discovered them my senior year of high school, when I did a term paper on "The Evolution of the British Mystery Novel." Needless to say, I read quite a few of them in order to write the paper, and i've been hooked ever since.

So, when I'm feeling down, or when something's off, I reach for one of my comfort authors: Marsh, Christie, Sayers. This weekend, I reached for Agatha Christie's Postern of Fate. It's a Tommy and Tuupence mystery; usually, I'm a Miss Marple kind of girl, but I really enjoyed By the Pricking of My Thumbs with Tommy and Tuppence, so I decided to give them another go.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. In Postern, Tommy and Tuppence have moved into a new house. As Tuppence is going through old children's books left by the previous owners, she discovers a message: Mary Jordan did not die naturally. It was one of us. Being Tuppence, she is curious and begins to investigate, pulling Tommy along for the ride. The 'mystery' took place several decades earlier, during WWI and involves betrayal and espionage. I'll leave it at that.

I found the book singularly unsatisfying. Sure, I enjoyed Tommy and Tuppence, but the mystery never drew me in. It isn't one that the reader can guess about the villain (since there aren't any suspects), the clues are vague remembrances that aren't really clues, and the whole 'government top-secret' thing gives it a John le Carre vibe. Don't get me wrong, I like John le Carre, but not when I'm in the mood for a charming British whodunnit. Furthermore, Tommy and Tuppence's dog, Hannibal, plays a role, not only in the plot, but in the dialogue. I, personally, find it incredibly annoying when authors project words onto animals. I find it less annoying when it's the whole point of the series (e.g.-Rita May Brown books), but it feels almost beneath Agatha Christie.

That being said, the book certainly wasn't *bad*, just not up to Christie's usual gold standard. There were a couple passages I particularly enjoyed:

"Only, we've got a terrible lot of books now, and the shelves we had made I don't think are going to be nearly enough. What about your special sanctum? Is there room for more books?"
"No there isn't," said Tommy. "There's not going to be enough for my own."
"Oh dear, of dear," said Tuppence, "that's so like us. Do you think we might have to build an extra room?" (6)

"Ah well-what fun it is, all the things ones used to invent and believe in and play at."(73)

1 comment:

iliana said...

As much as I love mysteries I just "discovered" Agatha Christie last year. I read one book, a Miss Marple one, and really enjoyed it. Going from your review of this one I may stick with the Miss Marple books instead. And, yes, add me to those who can't stand it when the animals are the ones solving the mysteries. I draw the line at those! ha,ha...