Friday, January 2, 2009

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

For a couple weeks now I've been itching to read another Agatha Christie mystery. After waiting around for the only copy our library owns I finally was able to sit down and begin the next published novel by the Queen of Crime, The Seven Dials Mystery.

In The Seven Dials Mystery (published in 1929) we revisit the country estate "Chimneys", which has been let by Lord Caterham while he is traveling abroad with his daughter Lady Eileen Brent (a.k.a. Bundle). (You might remember Chimneys, Lord Caterham, and Bundle from my review of an earlier novel, The Secret of Chimneys.)

This book opens as a group of young people (approximately aged 20s-30s) are on holiday visiting Lord and Lady Coote, who have let Chimneys. However things turn sinister when a practical joke involving eight alarm clocks and a late sleeper goes bad. A guest is found dead, one of the alarm clocks is missing, and someone has mysteriously lined all seven of the remaining clocks in a row next to the deceased. This makes for a thrilling start to the murder mystery, but The Seven Dials Mystery is more than just murder. The plot also involves a secret society, government secrets, international criminals, cat burglars, Scotland Yard, amateur sleuths, and a little comedy and romance thrown in for good measure.

The main detective in this novel is Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard. He is aided by a few of the gentry, including Bundle, her friend Bill Eversleigh of the Foreign Office, and Jimmy Thesiger a friend of the deceased. Bundle's character is fun and amused me in particular. She reminded me a little of Nancy Drew... or what I imagine Nancy Drew would be like if she was a little older and set as a British royal.

As often happens when reading a Christie novel, I picked up on various clues through the book, but soon forgot them as the fast paced plot brought forth other details and clues. The result was that I reached the end thinking, "Oh yeah! I had forgotten about that!" and "Wait a second..." as I flipped back to an earlier section of the book to check on something. But overall I was satisfied. The Seven Dials Mystery is a good crime novel and Christie was also successful in including a love story as one of the subplots of the novel without deluding the main plot, the "who don-it", which I enjoyed very much.

Interesting to note, around the time The Seven Dials was printed Agatha Christie commented, "I was gaining confidence over my writing now. I felt that I would have no difficulty in producing a book every year, and possibly a few short stories as well." Clearly this was true. By 1929, when The Seven Dials was published, Agatha Christie was the author of nine crime novels (published one every ear, excluding 1921), 30 short stories and a book of poetry.

On a scale of one to five, one being horrible and five being excellent, I would rate The Seven Dials Mystery a four. It may not be my favorite Christie crime novel, but it was a very good read and I really enjoyed it. As I mention every time I review a Christie mystery -- I would advise borrowing from your library vs. buying these books, unless you don't mind spending a few dollars for a cheap paperback. I personally always borrow.

Stay tuned for my next Agatha Christie review some time in the next month... Murder at the Vicarage, the first Miss Marple mystery!

Note: As is always the case do not read up on The Seven Dials Mystery at Wikipedia until after you're finished reading. Wikipedia's plot descriptions are guaranteed spoilers and are only good as follow-up reads or for the literary lazy, which you don't want to be. Trust me!


Marie DeVries said...

It sounds very ineresting. Do you recomend reading 'the secret of chimneys' first, or does it not really matter?

Noel De Vries said...

Now, you have seen Joan Hickson's Miss Marple, right? Because they are some of THE best BBC films out there!

Mary Beth said...

I love Agatha Christie mysteries - she is one of my go-to authors when I'm at a loss for something to read. She has great style and like you, I rarely remember all the clues by the time I get to the end. I sometimes think I should keep a notebook like Poirot ...

Sarah M. said...

Marie, if I remember correctly it won't spoil anything for you to read The Seven Dials first. However I really enjoyed the Secret of Chimneys and it does give you some background on many of the characters in Seven Dials... so if you're up for two mysteries, I'd say read Chimneys first, then Seven Dials. But if you only want one, go with the one that interests you the most. Be sure to read my Chimney review if you haven't already.

Noel, yes I've seen several with Joan Hickson. They've since adapted more of Christie's Marple mysteries with two new actresses. The most recent actress can be seen as Marple this summer on PBS.

Mary Beth, what a great idea about the notebook... I should, but I'm lazy and too caught up in the story to bother really trying to solve it. LOL

Maggie DeVries said...

I'm not that much into mysteries, but this one actually sounds good. Thanks for the review!