By Richard York

How comfortable are Agatha Christie's novels? they might appear to depict a good global of recognize for culture, shared tradition, settled gender and sophistication roles, political conservatism and unambiguous morality, within which cause suffices to manage disease. yet this international is threatened by means of modernity and uncertainty: struggle, social mobility, extremist politics, ethical liberalization. admired voters might be criminals, detectives usually are not totally not like murderers, social existence is essentially theatrical, and violence can result in concord.

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Additional resources for Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files)

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Sometimes these misunderstandings are deliberately fomented by the murderer. We have already seen the murderer’s strategy in The ABC Murders. In The Moving Finger, the murderer creates a campaign of anonymous letters to give the impression that they have led to a suicide; in fact this is a smoke screen to cover the fact that he murders his wife in order to remarry. In Towards Zero, the murderer creates an elaborate series of clues likely to incriminate the innocent Audrey; the generally reliable Superintendent Battle recites the evidence against her very thoroughly a few pages from the end of the book and has actually arrested her (though it later appears that this is a feint) when he is interrupted by a piece of new evidence from the true, amateur detective MacWhirter – evidence which is in fact false, but points in the right direction.

Artificiality contaminates: Miss Marple herself feels herself to be playing a part (xiii). Theatrical falsity here, very significantly, lies in the preservation of the past; Bertram’s Hotel has become a stage set because Actors and Imposters 45 the way of life it implies, that of a genteel upper class, is no longer secure, threatened by youth and permissiveness; the country house of Dead Man’s Folly is false because the original family members have been forced, by their own guilt, to act as themselves.

If we mean what they can do and what they have made of themselves – if we think of identity as choice and action – then the adoption of a new self is admirable, a sign of vigour and competence. If we mean what their family origins are and what responsibilities they may have contracted – if we think of identity as continuity and openness – the change of the self is a result of inauthenticity. One may easily say that since most of these transformations have criminal or improper motivations, Christie must have been inclined to disapprove of them.

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