Sunday, June 13, 2010

Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie

277 pages
Published 1938/1939 by G. P. Putnam's Sons
Reprinted 2001 by St Martins Paperback

I'm particularly excited about reviewing this book as I just discovered it will be re-airing tonight on PBS' Masterpiece as part of their Summer Mystery series. Before I delve into the book review I do want to address what I like and dislike about this film adaptation.

First, I can't stand it when screenwriters find it necessary to change up one of Agatha Christie's stories. Almost always the change makes the story more politically correct (a nun is the murderer because she's frustrated in her love for another woman, yadda yadda) or to "freshen up the plot" by changing who the murderer or victim is and why they were killed. Personally I just think this is totally unnecessary. It's almost as if they think they can make the story better, which in my opinion they can't and don't. Other times they add or subtract characters, again either to freshen up the plot or to attract a particular group of Christie fans. In this case the screenwriters changed up the plot and characters to convert this story into a Miss Marple mystery. In the book the mystery is actually narrated and solved by a retired police officer, Luke Fitzwilliam, with a guest appearance by Supernatant Battle of The Scotland Yard. Normally this change would annoy me, but the casting is generally good, the costumes and sets are outstanding, and I really enjoy Julia McKenzie in the role of Miss Marple. Of all the actresses to play Miss Marple over the years, I like McKenzie the best. That said, I am planning to watch this adaptation as I've not yet seen it in its entirety.

The Plot for the Novel:
"It was just Luke Fitzwilliam's luck to be stuck next to a dotty old woman like Miss Fullerton on the London-bound train-although he found himself quite entertained with her tall tales about a series of perfect murders in the quaint village of Wychwood. But when he reads the next day of the freak accident that killed her, too, Fitzwilliam's amusement turns to grave concern. A visit to the isolated village confirms his worst fears. For Wychwood seems to divided by an eccentric lot of locals: those who are in on a dark and dangerous secret-and those who don't live long enough to share it." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)

My Thoughts:
I generally have a good memory when it comes to books I have read. If I've read a mystery once I can usually remember the who and the why even years later. But this was not the case with Murder Is Easy. So although it was very familiar it was almost as if I was reading it for the first time. I could remember various characters and events within the story, but for the life of me I could NOT remember the who and why of the mystery. In the end I was unable to solve this one on my own, which leads me to consider Murder Is Easy as one of Agatha Christie's more clever mystery plots. To add to its cleverness the story was also fast moving, a page turner from beginning to end. Thankfully, for someone like me who likes to solve the mental puzzle that is a mystery, the romance within the story was easy enough. Although it doesn't come together until nearly the end there were enough hints I could pat myself on the back for figuring that part out on my own.

Overall I have to say Murder Is Easy is probably a top 15, maybe top 10 of Agatha Christie's mystery novels. Considering she penned over 60 mystery novels I think that says a lot. I highly recommend reading this mystery if you're looking for a good exciting read, but can't say yet whether it will ruin everything if you watch the PBS adaptation first. Stay tuned.

Up next, my review of And Then There Were None (a.ka. Ten Little Indians).

---------------------
Other Agatha Christie Reviews:
*Novels published from 1920-1923 see note below.

The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)
The Secret of Chimneys (1925)
The Big Four (1927)

The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)

The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
Peril at End House (1932)
Lord Edgware Dies (1933)
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1934)
Three Act Tragedy (1935)
Death in the Clouds (1935)
The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
Murder in Mesopotamia
(1936)
Cards on the Table (1936)
Dumb Witness (1937)
Death on the Nile (1937)
Appointment With Death (1938)
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938)
Murder Is Easy (1939)

Absent In the Spring by Mary Westmacott (a.k.a. Agatha Christie) (1944)

* Christie's novels written from 1920 (The Mysterious Affair at Styles) through 1923 (Murder on the Links) I read before I began this blog hence no reviews currently exist.

*******UPDATE*******

So I watched the 2008 adaptation of Murder is Easy. Again, I loved Julia McKenzie in the role of Miss Marple. In fact the casting as a whole was fun, lots of familiar faces. The costumes and the sets were likewise excellent, but otherwise I was really quite disappointed with the film. For starters the characters were nearly completely changed. Luke Fitzwilliam's role is very marginal and Inspector Battle doesn't even make an appearance. The murders are nearly all wrong and the motive is completely changed. Even the little secrets that the characters hide throughout the book were altered so much that I hardly recognized this Murder is Easy for the same story as the original Agatha Christie novel I just reviewed. Aside from some very nasty business that is added to the story the ending was a major let down with the romance falling flat and the cliff-hanger being more of a plateau. Too bad, in my opinion, because I think the original was excellent in its own right and would have adapted to the screen quite well.

******END OF UPDATE*******

1 comment:

unfinishedperson.com said...

I also reviewed this one, but wasn't quite as enamored of it as you were. http://unfinishedperson.com/2010/06/20/easy-to-kill-by-agatha-christie-tss/

But that's okay. We all have different tastes, which is what makes the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival such a great carnival.

I like how you added the review of the PBS series too. I don't see how Miss Marple would have worked in this one either.