Talking about detective fiction by P. D. James

Talking about detective fiction by P. D. James

Author:P. D. James
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Language Arts & Disciplines, Irish, Detective and mystery stories, Mystery & Detective, Welsh, History and criticism, English - History and criticism, Fiction, Literary Criticism, Scottish, Authorship, General, English, European
ISBN: 9780307592828
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Published: 2009-12-01T01:06:56+00:00

It seems a little unjust to classify Agatha Christie's characters as being on the Punch level. She is more than that. She may draw them in clear outline with none of the ambiguities of shading, but she gives us enough to enable us to feel that we know them. But do we? Are they, like the material clues, intended to deceive?

Rereading a selection of her stories to affirm or modify my existing prejudices I found some had lost even their ability to keep me reading. Others surprised me by being both better written and more ingeniously puzzling than I had remembered, among them one published in 1950, A Murder Is Announced. For me, this story demonstrates both her strength and her weakness. Here we have the usual village setting, Chipping Cleghorn, and a cast of characters typical of Christie-land, but the setting is described with more realism than in the later books, and a keener eye to the economic changes and social nuances brought about by the difficult post-war years. As usual with Christie the dialogue is particularly effective, but here it is used not merely to reveal character but to contain vital clues, one of which even the most careful reader would probably miss. The people are drawn with economy but with more subtlety than usual, and both the motive for the murders and the solution to the mystery derive directly from the characters, their unchangeable past and living present. This ability to fuse character with clues is one of the marks of a good detective story. Admittedly the end of the novel is disappointing, with over-complicated and contrived relationships and a surfeit of incredible killings. And she was over-fond of the unconvincing contrivance whereby one of the characters acts as a decoy and is on the point of being killed when the police and Miss Marple dash in to arrest the murderer. But in Chipping Cleghorn or St. Mary Mead murder is only a temporary embarrassment. The vicar may find a body on his study floor but it is unlikely to interfere with the preparation of the Sunday sermon. We enter this peaceable and nostalgic world with the confident expectation of taking comfort from Miss Marple's common sense and her enigmatic comments on the crime as we move together to a satisfactory solution in the final chapter, when truth and justice will once more prevail.

And while highly regarded and prizewinning novels of the post-war era are often no longer obtainable, Agatha Christie's books are still ranged on the shelves of bookshops and libraries. Poirot and Miss Marple still appear regularly on our television screens and it is a safe bet that, whenever detection fiction is discussed, the name of Agatha Christie will be mentioned either in praise or in disparagement. Her critics sometimes exhibit vehemence close to personal outrage, seeing her books as trivial, intellectually feeble and written without distinction of style or subtlety of characterisation. But one thing is certain: Agatha Christie has provided entertainment, suspense and


Copyright Disclaimer:
This site does not store any files on its server. We only index and link to content provided by other sites. Please contact the content providers to delete copyright contents if any and email us, we'll remove relevant links or contents immediately.