2020-07-31

Agatha Christie 100 - Taken at the Flood

The last Poirot novel of the 40s, this might be the last story featuring the Belgian that was written while Christie was at the height of her powers.


Family patriarch Gordon Cloade had just married when he was killed in a WWII bombing. His wife Rosaleen and her brother David Hunter both survived and are now in control of the family fortune that many of Gordon's siblings had relied on previously. Resentments are quickly building - and when rumours appear of a previous husband of Rosaleen's and a mysterious stranger appears in the village, things come to a head.

Is this the last truly great Poirot novel? I'm not going to rule it conclusively so - I have still to re-read the coming novels before I can make any such pronouncements. But this is an excellent mystery. As I've repeated over and over again, Christie's writing here is much more character driven, but there is still a solid mystery plot in this story.

Everything surrounding the mystery is rather lovely, with the village setting almost immediately after the war, and how this situation affects the different characters. The main misdirection concerning characters' identities isn't Christie's strongest, but I still think you need to be a fairly seasoned mystery reader to cotton on to what is really happening.

A rating of 88 out of 100 is what I'll give this story. It's good to see Poirot front and centre of the investigations, as he'll soon be sidelined by Ariadne Oliver in his own novels.

1948 1970 1984
1987 1987

Both the British and the American titles (There is a Tide...) are taken from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar Act IV. Funnily enough, while the Swedish title is not a direct translation of either of these quotes, the publishers managed to find another part of the same speech to use for the title. Högt vatten means High Waters, but in this case is a translation of the "full sea" from line five in the same speech. I like that they managed to keep the connection to the Shakespeare play while still use a title that speaks more to the Swedish readership - we don't sprinkle our language with Shakespeare quotations willy-nilly, so we wouldn't recognise it anyway.

This is the one of two late 40s Poirot stories, and like its predecessor it has only five editions in Sweden. The first cover from 1948 isn't the best I've seen. It's a bit too humorous for this rather serious novel. Delfinserien's 1970 cover, on the other hand, is great.The face in the water, the house all askew, wow. One of my favourites all through this re-read. I'm glad it's the one I own.

The cover from 1984 is a bit too minimalistic for my tastes. I'm not too sure about the broken mirror or photo-phrame either - I can't really remember anything like that in the story. The first of two covers from 1987 belongs to a book club edition and is actually quite effective. I wish it wasn't quite so cartoony, because the image itself is rather chilling and draws the readers attention.

The other 1987 cover is by Leslie Quagraine and is also quite good. While the bomber plays a fairly minimal role in the main story, this image still catches your eye, and this particular blue tone in the background looks pretty great.

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