Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Big Five from the Bottom Shelf: The Most Popular of the Least Popular Christies; Plus, The Tuesday Night Bloggers!

Miss Marple solves a mystery and
battles Fifties juvenile delinquency
In my last post on the Great Christie Lists Compilation, I gave the eighteen bottom-ranking Christies, the ones no one put on a list of favorites, and asked people, here and on Facebook, to tell me their favorites--their "Big Four," if you will--from this less favored bunch.

Well here are the results.  It's a "Big Five," actually:

First Place (TIE, with six votes each)
Lord Edgware Dies and The Seven Dials Mystery

Second Place (TIE, with four votes each)
At Bertram's Hotel, Cat among the Pigeons and They Do It with Mirrors

Congratulations to the Big Five from the Bottom Third!

Getting two votes apiece were:

Sacre bleu!
By the looks on their faces clearly
Poirot has received the shocking
news about Murder on the
Links, Hallowe'en Party and 
Elephants Can Remember
The Clocks, Dead Man's Folly, Dumb Witness, The Man in the Brown Suit, The Mystery of the Blue Train and Third Girl

Getting one vote apiece were:

The Big Four itself, They Came to Baghdad and Postern of Fate

That leaves four titles for which no one voted. Evidently, there's just no love for this Wee Four:

The Murder on the Links
Hallowe'en Party
Passenger to Frankfurt
Elephants Can Remember

Hallowe'en Party isn't that bad, I think, and The Murder on the Links has good points in my view, though I must admit it has never really grabbed me.

Passenger and Elephants--well, what can you say? These do come in for a lot of criticism. I'm just surprised Postern escaped the same fate! Lucy R. Fisher has made an interesting case for it, though.

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings!
Thanks to everyone who participated!

And now I want to announce the formation of The Tuesday Night Bloggers: an international blogging "club" comprised of myself, Bev Hankins, Brad Friedman, Helen Szamuely, Jeffrey Marks Moira Redmond and Noah Stewart.

Each of us will do a Christie-related post every Tuesday night for the next six weeks (or so the theory goes).

I will post links to everyone's pieces here, so make sure you tune in on Tuesday and see what's being discussed!

And, yes, if this format reminds you of a certain Christie book, you may just be on to something!

Also, any other bloggers who may want to participate in the club, just let me know.


  1. Replies
    1. The Murder on the Links cover has a certain so-bad-it's-good vibe going for it. Sort of.

    2. The last one is by Tom Adams, who is considered perhaps the greatest Christie cover artist. I think it's deliciously baroque.

      I think Murder on the Link is hilariously bad though. Who noticed Poirot with that astounding French maid on the cover?

      I thought the first one was interesting for a depiction of a fifties juvenile delinquent and of Miss Marple. That's an early representation of her on a fifties pb cover.

      I've read Postern of fate and can't say I enjoyed it either time, Lucy, bit you have made a case for it as a nostalgia trip and I may try it again someday. Kevin Killian says it was supposed to be called Doom's Caravan originally and that it was actually much altered in editing. It would be interesting to get some idea what the full version might have been like.

    3. Or could that be Miss Marple's old friend on the cover?

  2. I'm surprised Murder on the Links, Hallowe'en Party and even Elephants Can Remember lost to Postern of Fate. They sure have their fair share of problems and aren't exactly top-tier Christie titles, but better Postern of Fate? No. I refuse to accept that reality!

  3. Well, Postern of Fate is one of Christie's most groundbreaking and innovative works. Just as Roger Ackroyd was a pioneering work of post-modernism (see Roland Barthes and Umberto Eco inter alia), Postern of Fate is an anti-detective novel, indeed an anti-novel in the line of the French nouveau roman. Its theme is memory, senescence and senility; the unrelaibility and vagueness of Tuppence's memories reflects the unreliability and vagueness of the plot. This is Christie deconstructing her own work with a vengeance, what Harold Bloom would call an act of artistic self-wounding.

    Whereas Murder on the Links is a well constructed if rather dated mystery influenced by A.E.W. Mason.

    1. And the unreliability and vagueness of the author. Was she suffering from senile dementia or Alzheimer's when this book was produced? Ross Macdonald was suffering from the initial onset of Alzheimer's when he wrote The Blue Hammer, but a strong book was managed anyway.

      The last two Christie books are about old people trying to remember things, and frequently failing. I can see why the qualities that you and Lucy highlight might make Postern a more interesting book than Links, say, if not a better book, at least as conventionally defined.

      "It's pretty ghastly, isn't it?" wrote the literary agent Dorothy Olding. "Much worse than the last two....Poor dear, I wish there were a way to tell her this shouldn't be published--for her sake."

      Her biographer Laura Thompson writes: ""Since the 1960s the books had required a certain amount of polishing, partly because the Dictaphone made Agatha more prolix, but no editing could make Postern of Fate into a tight piece of detective fiction....the plot is barely fathomable, indeed it is scarcely existent, and by now Agatha's voice on the Dictaphone meandered like that of an old, old woman as she crept along the distant paths of her life."

      I think some people chose some books as favorites because of what they felt they told us about AC herself. That helps me understand how some people picked Destination Unknown as a favorite, for example.