Agatha Christie 100 - Sad Cypress

Christie's turn towards more character-driven story telling, which arguably began with And Then There Were None, continues here in this, the first Poirot novel of the 40s.

Elderly lady Welman is on her death's bed, and her closest relatives, cousins (and betrothed) Roddy Welman and Elinor Carlisle, receive an anonymous mail that her ward, Mary Gerrard, is having too great an influence on the old lady. They are somewhat alarmed and go for a visit. Not much later, the old lady is found dead in her bed, though it turns out that she had not made any will, and everything goes to Elinor. But Roddy suddenly falls in love with Mary and the engagement is broken. When Mary is found murdered, Elinor is the immediate suspect...

This is one of those Poirot novels where he only appears well into the story. The entire synopsis above constitutes about half the novel, and the rest consists of Poirot's investigation, trying to find out whether all the circumstancial evidence pointing towards Elinor is actually correct or if they can be interpreted some other way.

A drawback of the novel is that we hardly get any indication of where the culprit will be found - the true murderer is indicated during the final court scenes, but when Poirot later goes through the case against the real villain there is lots of information that is newly introduced, or was very quickly skated over earlier.

But on the other hand, Christie succeeds in making the reader interested in her characters - mainly Elinor - by drawing them as fully formed people that you can believe in. It's another step on her way to some of the most successful of her character driven novels of this decade.

While this one has some problems, it's still a good read. I'll award it a 69 out of a 100. It's only in comparison with some of Christie's own previous material that it seems a bit lacking, and for a reader who isn't as plot driven as myself, this might well be seen as a highlight.

1940 1960 1968
1974 1987 1989

Samvetskval means Pangs of Remorse, which seems like a fitting title. Though the British title is more imaginative, so I think I prefer that one. While there are six editions of this title in Swedish, the latest one is more than 30 years old by now.

The first cover is not a particular favourite of mine. It doesn't tell the reader much about the novel, really. The Zebra series actually had two distinct covers for this title. The first one is an original work, not too different from the 1940 edition, and not much better either, while the one from 1968 is another steal from the Fontana edition in Britain. Probably the best cover here, to be honest.

The 1974 edition has Delfinserien's least successful cover. The depiction of the elderly lady is very typical of Per Ã…hlin, and I've never been extremely fond of how he depicts people.

The 1987 cover is very orange, but the one from 1989 is just baffling. I just don't really see how a male face in closeup fits with this particular title.

1 comment:

  1. I remember this one being a real change of pace for my Christie reading -- it was somewhere in the first 20 or so that I read, I reckon -- and because I was relatively new to the genre I completely overlooked the key principle that drives the plot and so was delighted by that when it was revealed. I don't remember the late introduction, or early skating over, but I've read a lot of books since then...!

    And, yes, that really is a weird collection of covers. I'd say the 1989 one was supposed to be Poirot looking all curious and intrigued at the problem, but there's no moustache. So, er, who knows?!