The good old murder mystery – saviour of the train/bus/plane/cab traveller, the gang of which I was a temporary member a couple of days ago on my flight. My mum took me to the nearby bookstore to pick out a tried-and-true classic Agatha Christie, called the Seven Dials Mystery.
This story was published in 1929 and my edition contains an interesting section by the editor on Christie and classism. Christie has been criticised for being rather a dodgy judge on elitist issues in England.
The novel concerns a group of rich layabouts whose practical joke goes rather awry. It’s not a spoiler if I say there’s a murder cause seriously! – my readers are not bonzos – and there’s some rather dodgy and somewhat forced romance happening between utterly mismatched bonzos that you didn’t even see forming… I frankly didn’t agree with any of the romances. It felt like it distracted from the main point of the story. It is an interesting initial plot setup most certainly – in your average Christie manor house – but quickly dwindles into eyebrow-arching moments where I was kind of left thinking ‘well, I didn’t see that coming because I wasn’t really given the opportunity to figure it out!’
That above comment applies to the romances even. Seriously – the pairings were unnecessary, unexpected and rather forced. Kind of like ‘when a boy meets a girl….’
It did pass the time however – a big tick in my box for what constitutes a great whodunnit paperback! It is rather a thriller than a murder problem where the reader is left at the mercy of the characters. It’s definitely not dull – as I pointed out it’s a plot worthy of Christie indeed, and the lazy layabouts are just as interesting and colourful as ever on their own. My particular favourite was the eccentric Lady ‘Bundle’.
Overall this isn’t really Christie’s finest work/ Sad Cypress or The Big Four still remain my favourite works of hers. Where the Seven Dials lacks in plot finesse however, it makes up in some interesting character developments. The characters are all rather likeable in the -turn-up-my-nose at the Eton-educated-loveable-cousin kind of way; but since this IS a whodunnit…I kind of want to be able to follow the trail of clues towards the endgame. But for a plane-trip paperback, or a lazy afternoon read (nothing too challenging) this is a nice choice and is a pleasant enough read.