Saturday, March 5, 2011

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

276 pages
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1944
Reprinted in 2001 by St. Martin’s Paperbacks
New York, NY

“I love a good detective story, but they begin in the wrong place! They begin with the murder. But the murder is the end. The story begins long before that." ~ Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
The Plot:
"What is the connection between a failed suicide attempt, a wrongful accusation of theft against a schoolgirl, and the romantic life of a tennis player? To the casual observer, apparently nothing. When a houseparty gathers at Gull's Point, the seaside home of an elderly widow, earlier events come to a dramatic head." (Summary courtesy of

My Thoughts:
I actually read Towards Zero at the beginning of December 2010, but with some unexpected changes to my life I wasn't able to review it and one thing led to another until I realized it was almost March and I hadn't even marked the book "read" on my virtual book shelf! Thankfully I keep notes on nearly all the books I read, so refreshing my memory for this review wasn't too difficult even though now nearly four months had elapsed. But please note, my forgetfulness should not in any way reflect upon the book. Towards Zero is a thrilling read that left me guessing up until the very end... To that zero hour.

Although a completely fresh story and setting, I did find that Towards Zero was a little reminiscent of one of Christie's earlier works, And Then There Were None, except for the blessed fact that this story ends on a much happier note than its predecessor thanks to the clever mind of Superintendent Battle.

And speaking of Battle, I found it interesting that Towards Zero is one of only five Christie mystery novels to feature the Superintendent as lead investigator. Another interesting fact is that it is also the last novel to feature him at all. Clearly by the mid 1940s Hercule Poirot was the front-runner in detective stories and it appears other detectives (i.e. Colonel Race, Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppence, etc.) only made appearances at times when Christie really needed a vacation from the Belgian and his little gray cells.

As noted Towards Zero was published in 1944, which was the middle to end of World War II. While I always enjoy a Christie mystery I've found that this decade wasn't exactly her best. Looking back over the 34 novels she had written by this point most of my favorites actually date from the previous decade, the 1930s. But if I were to pick one with in the 1940s that I enjoyed as much as Towards Zero it would have to be N or M? Still, there are five more novels to read and review before moving into the 1950s so I suppose there's still a chance I could change my mind.

In the meantime, I definitely recommend Towards Zero as a mystery read. It has an excellent story plot, an interesting setting and array of characters, and an exciting and somewhat challenging psychological puzzle to solve. In summary, it is clever enough to feed your thirst for thrills yet not so great that you won't find yourself passing up the chance to read more novels by the Queen of Crime.

Up next, Death Comes As The End.

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
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
The Murder at the Vicarage
The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
Peril at End House
Lord Edgware Dies
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
Three Act Tragedy (1935)
Death in the Clouds
The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
Murder in Mesopotamia (1936)
Cards on the Table
Dumb Witness
Death on the Nile (1937)
Appointment With Death (1938)
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938)
Murder Is Easy (1939)
And Then There Were None (1939)
Sad Cypress (1939)
One, Two Buckle My Shoe (1940)
Evil Under the Sun (1941)
N or M? (1941)
The Body in the Library (1942)
Five Little Pigs (1942)
The Moving Finger (1942)

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

Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

* 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 are currently available.

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