Agatha Christie 100 - The Seven Dials Mystery

After a couple of Poirot novels in a row, Christie would let the small Belgian rest for a few novels. The first of those is this hybrid adventure/mystery.

A gang of bright young things are gathered at Chimneys - at the moment rented out to Sir Oswald Coote. One of them is a notorious oversleeper and the rest decide to play a prank on him by placing a number of alarm clocks in his room. However, he still doesn't come down to breakfast in time. In fact, it turns out that he has been murdered...

The first few chapters could have been appropriated wholesale from a Wodehouse novel...

Of all Christie's adventure stories, this might be my favourite. There are some elements of fair play clueing, though not enough to satisfy a reader looking for only those elements. But it moves along at a brisk pace with Bundle Brent making a fairly satisfying heroine - not the brightest, not always making the correct decisions.

Inspector Battle is again featured in this story, and again he takes a backseat to the investigations conducted by Bundle and her cohorts Jimmy Thesiger and Loraine Wade. He really is the antithesis of those scheming master criminals...

With this novel, Christie will also start a streak of novels that have something in common - the identity of the villain. I would argue that every novel from this one up to at least Lord Edgware Dies features a variation of the same revelation.

I also like how Christie takes the idea of a secret criminal organisation, which she used so poorly in The Big Four, and makes something much more interesting from it in this story. I will rate this a 63 out of 100. It's a solid Christie, better than average, though as I said, be forewarned that there are few fair play traits in this one.

1930 1961 1987
Sweden made a minor adjustment to the title when translating it (De sju urens mysterium = The Seven Watches Mystery). I think mainly because the area in London called The Seven Dials isn't something anyone would recognise here.

This is generally seen as a minor work in Christie's catalogue, so it doesn't have many Swedish editions. The first one is actually quite fun, with the dials being made out to look like faces. From these early days of mystery covers, this is one of my favourites.

The Zebra edition from the early 60s is not bad either. The hanging arm looks suitably mystery-like. However, I don't think it works, the way the seven dials were added to the cover.

And yes, the 80s edition is yet another book club edition. Again, it's the worst of the bunch, making it look as though the novel is a contemporary one. (Just compare the looks of the masked man with the one of the British cover above - or for that matter, with the masked man on the book club cover for The Secret of Chimneys!) I can't remember Bundle wearing a catsuit in this one...

1 comment:

  1. I really like this one -- I think it was the first unexpected Christie for me, where I had no idea going in how good or bad it was, and the developments caught me out again and again. So much fun. I'll doubtless reread it and hate it.

    That 1987 cover is...something. Looks like a Colin Forbes novel.