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9723667I decided to re-read this Agatha Christie novel in advance of the three part TV adaptation which was on the BBC over the Christmas weekend. Although I was familiar with the story I wanted to refresh my memory so that I could see what changes the screenwriter had and hadn’t made. This is in part because of bad experiences with recent Christie adaptations where they have packed the episodes with big name actors even in the smallest parts and have mucked about with the stories so that they are basically unrecognisable.

Rant over.

Though for the avoidance of doubt I should say that Joan Hickson’s Miss Marple and David Suchet’s Poirot are exempt from this criticism.

Context

I have owned a reasonable sized collection of Christies since I was in secondary school so I rummaged in the stacks to find the copy I knew I had, with the aim of reading it on a train trip to and from Manchester. What I had forgotten is that my paperback is from 1975 (22nd impression) and not only has a golliwog on the cover (one of the great Tom Adams illustrations) but also has the original 1939 title which today would be totally unacceptable, so that scuppered that idea. Didn’t want to be glared at on the Pendolino. In the end I read it roughly in parallel with the broadcast.

The novel

I was pleased to see that my memory of the story had held up pretty well. 10 people, strangers to each other apart (obviously) from the married couple who are the only servants, are invited to an island off the coast of Devon for a house party. They are a pretty mixed bunch and it becomes clear that they have all been spun a different story to get them there and more importantly they all have something to hide. And then they start being bumped off one after the other.

The tone is very dark, none of the characters are particularly likeable and of course paranoia and hysteria soon settle in and accusations start flying around. The central conceit of the nursery rhyme works well and the only thing I found jarring was the explanation of it all at the end. But still enjoyably twisted. As someone said on Twitter (and sorry, I can’t find it again) Christie invented the slasher movie 🙂

The TV adaptation

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Unusually, and in this case pleasingly, the BBC decided to do three one hour episodes which I think worked really well in allowing the story to develop. It didn’t lose any tension at all, and they didn’t tinker with the ending at all. In fact, the dramatised version solved the problem in the novel of how we find out who was behind it all. Even the inevitable jazzing up for modern tastes (more sex, more obvious drug taking, some of which is hinted at on the novel) was sensitively done and didn’t jar at all. An excellent cast and high production values helped deliver the highlight of holiday TV for me (I will deal with The Abominable Bride elsewhere).

This read-along has made me want to revisit the Christie back catalogue, and that can only be a good thing. That includes reading a more modern edition of the novel to see how it’s been changed

I must do this sort of thing more often, but don’t think I’ll start with War and Peace…..

 

 

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Three Act Tragedy

Three Act Tragedy

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I got into reading crime fiction through Agatha Christie, partly because of the wonderful film version of Murder on the Orient Express (reviewed on my film page) but also through my Mum buying me a copy of Nemesis with a creepy Tom Adams cover to get me through a bout of flu.

They Do it With Mirrors

They Do it With Mirrors

The paintings of Tom Adams were associated with Christie’s novels in paperback for almost 20 years. A number of them were collected in Agatha Christine: The Art of Her Crimes in the early 1980s. Sadly this seems now to be out of print, but I was able to get hold of a slightly bashed second hand copy which, in addition to the artist’s own comments, has a commentary by Julian Symons and an introduction by John Fowles.

The Mysterious Mr Quin

The Mysterious Mr Quin

I have always loved how Adams’ paintings caught the spirit of Christie’s novels, even when the objects on the covers seem obscure in terms of the story, although I’ve always suspected that if I had been paying more attention I would have seen a greater relevance in the objects he uses.

Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock

Sadly I don’t have a full set of the Tom Adams Christies but I’ve reproduced one or two of my favourites here and hope that you enjoy them. Although some of the later paperbacks have attractive covers nothing says Agatha to me like Tom Adams.

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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