23 March, 2009

New Review

They Came to Baghdad


Agatha Christie

Rather a long review for a book that might be thought to be a bit of a light-weight.  Well, i enjoyed it.

Quite a strange experience here. I picked this volume up in the second-hand place recently assuming i had read it, because i think that i've read all of Christie's works ~ at least, all the fiction published under her real name. When i read the first paragraph, though, i didn't remember it, so i bought the thing, fully expecting to start remembering when i started reading. I didn't. In fact, i finished it this morning still not sure whether i have read it previously or not. There is one moment, one quick event, right towards the end of the book, which made me think that i had read it before, but even there, looking back at it, i'm not sure. What about it, then, so that i don't have this curious experience again?

It is a spy novel, of a sort, a thriller, rather than a murder mystery. There are none of Christie's regular or even semi-regular characters; the entire cast is new, though a number of the types are those she has used previously. The plot itself is the rather hackneyed Cold War standard of a world stumbling towards global catastrophe, urged by a group planning to use the disaster for their own nefarious purposes. This time, to be sure, the conspirators are ~ or think they are ~ the men of the future, the youth planning a better world, rather than the military-industrial complex so frequently used; they are, however, much of a part with the armaments crew, just as the good guys are fairly stock secret service types, and the protagonist a typical Christie heroine.

All this is not to say, however, that i didn't enjoy reading it; i did. Why? Partly from the joy of having worked out beforehand a portion of what was to follow, including the identity of one of the leaders of the plot ~ something that often doesn't happen with me and a Christie that i've forgotten (or not previously read). Partly, also, from the pleasure i took in the descriptions Christie gave of her villain: She calls him Lucifer, in what is the most explicit use of Biblical imagery and quotation that i remember in her works, and dwells rather nicely on the way that his pride appears on his visage for all (whose eyes have been opened) to see. She has taken things from the Bible in other books, i immediately remember a cat called Maher-shalal-hash-baz, and Miss Marple and other elderly ladies often speak of the divine in vague ways, but this is the only real reference i recall to the deep Biblical knowledge which all people of that generation, and several on either side of it, had, and i like it.

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