Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie
Christie translates her “rich people being murdered in a British manor house” formula to ancient Egypt. A wealthy and peaceful-but-dysfunctional family is beset by evil when the head of the household brings home a new concubine.
- Christie’s fascination with Egypt and Egyptology is evident throughout, and the references rarely feel forced or “too contemporary.”
- While there are two all-knowing detective types (in a sense, a less-eccentric Poirot and a meaner Miss Marple), they’re secondary characters. The actual protagonist is a young woman trying to forge an identity for herself.
- I was vaguely aware that Christie had also written romance novels under a pseudonym, but this is an interesting combination of genres: detective novel, romance novel, and semi-historical fiction.
- Instead of just laying out the facts of the mystery, much of this story is delivered through the inner thoughts of the protagonist and her love of her home. It gives the sense of a woman implicitly defying an even more patriarchal society than the one in England in 1944, simply by wanting an identity of her own.
- Has all the comfort-reading qualities you’d expect from an Agatha Christie mystery.
- Likely just due to over-familiarity with Christie’s formula, the mystery part of the story isn’t all that compelling. (Although she does allow herself to go further into the supernatural, which is interesting).
- Since so much of the writing is in the inner mind of a young woman struggling with her own thoughts, it can come across as repetitive and the character as even a bit simple-minded. (Which is itself something that the book mentions).
- All but a few of the characters are so unlikeable that it’s difficult to feel much of anything as horrible stuff keeps happening to them.
The most remarkable thing about this book is that it even exists. It seems like such a big swing for Christie to move so much of the things that made her successful into a genre that’s outside of her comfort zone, and then to have it work so surprisingly well. But once you get past the exotic setting, it feels exactly like what you’d expect from a mid-tier Agatha Christie mystery, for better and for worse.