Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Endless Night: Agatha Christie, November 12—24, 2012
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
The inaugural Agatha Christie Collection’s 41st instalment is the critically acclaimed Endless Night. Widely viewed as one of Christie’s best, it centres around the narrator and his new wife Ellie building and living in a house on the supposedly cursed Gipsy’s Acre. Being a Christie, tragedy soon falls.
One of Christie’s more mature pieces, the story develops a number of themes around the topic of social class, affluence and worldview. A lot of comment is passed on the suitability of a marriage between working and upper class people and the idea of keeping to one’s “station” in life.
The structure was very atypical. Unusually, the inevitable death didn’t come until very late on and was in fact resolved before long had passed. There were none of the usual Poirot-esque questionings, nor dramatic revelations of the murderer being in this very room. The change of format is well thought out and suitable on this occasion, though Christie should have spent more time developing the characters throughout the build-up. None of the main characters were particularly rounded or interesting, and when the death came, there was no time to be shocked or saddened.
The dénouement, however, makes up for the shortfalls. The climax is very carefully crafted, with particular emphasis on the killer’s emotional state post-reveal. An area Christie doesn’t often explore, she very eerily allows us to peek into the mind of an utter psychopath that gives a chilling finale to the tale.
Comparisons will no doubt be made with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and it is possibly because of the runaway success of Ackroyd that Endless Night is found wanting. Although it is a creepier, harsher tale, it lacks the characterisation and complexity that Ackroyd has so much of. It feels less developed and the twist, though similar, less astonishing. A slight tense change makes the narrator less participative and the reader less engaged, not observing what unfolds but learning what has unfolded. Endless Night is a poor man’s Ackroyd for sure.
The other parallel is the treatment of the American lawyers, which is reminiscent of Christie’s other runaway success from the series’ early days ten years ago. Death on the Nile shows the group in a very similar light, and Endless Night develops that much further. Perhaps there is too much emphasis on this, and less on the relational aspects which would have driven a stronger narrative.
Following some of the poorer output from The Agatha Christie Collection of late, Endless Night does, to its credit, restore some of its credibility and is a decent offering in its own right. It’s just unfortunate that much of it has been done before, been done better, and leaves Endless as something of a poorer rehash. A clever, well crafted, convincing poorer rehash, granted, but a poorer rehash nonetheless.