Agatha Christie 100 - Towards Zero

An attempt by Christie to study the workings of a murder, where she in her own inimitable way allows us to follow the murderer's plans until they come to fruition. And then Battle enters the picture...

This novel starts out by introducing the different characters that will come together at Lady Tressilian's house. Her companion, her ward, his present and previous wife, the latter's cousin et al. We also find out that one of them is a murderer, planning their deed down to the last detail. But who is the killer, and who will be the victim?

Towards Zero features one of Christie's most memorable and despicable villains. And they are revealed in a highly exciting and entertaining way. Of course it's Inspector Battle who works his way through the mystery and finds the solution. Though it is a bit disappointing that he still needs something of a Deux ex Machina to really get to grips with the whole thing

I still maintain that Battle isn't the most distinguished character, but at least we get to know him a bit better here. He generally does a fine job in his search for the killer, which is fitting as this is his last appearance.

Overall, the murder plan is devilish and Christie manages to hide most of the clues as only she can. As I said, the killer is memorable (as is his plan), so I remembered almost everything that was going to happen, but it was still great fun to see all the tiny details and how they fit together in the end.

One of Christie's strongest novels of this decade, which Brad over at Ah Sweet Mystery calls her "mature" decade - incidentally, I would argue that this goes for the output of her colleague John Dickson Carr too - and of course I will rate this highly. It's an 86 out of 100.

1945 1959 1966
1970 1984 1987
So, here we have a title which is fairly different in Swedish than the original British one. "Klockan K" would be something like "Time T" - it's actually quite hard to translate. I'm not overly impressed with the Swedish title, though I freely acknowledge that to literally translate the English title would be fairly nonsensical - "Mot noll" sounds stupid. But there must have been better alternatives...

Let's look at the covers instead. The first one, from an edition published only a year after its original publication in Britain, is another typical mid 40s cover from Sweden. In this case, the illustrator has chosen to focus on the golf clubs which doesn't really scream mystery. Sure, one of them is used as the murder weapon, but nothing in that cover tells us that.

The first Zebra edition from 1959 has a cover that is both clever and silly. The Swedish title being what it is, I sort of like how they picked a number of suspects and used them in a clockface, but somehow everything still looks very cheap and lurid.

Maybe they too felt that way, because instead the later Zebra edition from 1966 as usual steals the Fontana cover from Britain's contemporary edition. It might be of some interest that the very same cover - the only difference is a change of the small symbol towards the upper left - was used for the first edition of Delfinserien. But they soon changed their minds and commissioned a new cover, which is the one you see from 1970. And that's probably my favourite one here. It looks suitably exciting.

1984 brings us another book club cover, and any book club cover that doesn't feature a woman in 80s hairdo is a winner. A single golf club and a blood smear makes me feel that it's above average for a book club cover. The final cover here is another fine one from Leslie Quagraine. Quite atmospheric, like the one from 1970. It's also the one I own.

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