Wednesday, October 5, 2011

They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie

280 pages
Published by Dodd, Mead & Company in 1951
Reprinted in  2002 by St. Martin's Paperbacks of St. martin's Press
New York, NY

I must confess I was a little hesitant when I picked up They Came to Baghdad from my local library. All summer long I had suffered from a sort of reading-funk which has kept me from finishing little more than a dozen books. So when I saw this novel, written by one of my favorite authors, was not one of her more famous "who-dunnit" murder mysteries, but instead a little-known adventure/espionage thriller set in post WWII Iraq I was not thrilled.

But determined to give it a chance (after all I am still endeavoring to read my way through all of Agatha Christie's novels in order of publication) I pressed on. And I am happy to tell you my first impression was wrong!

The Plot:
"Baghdad is holding a secret superpower summit, but the word is out, and an underground organization in the Middle East is plotting to sabotage the talks. Into this explosive situation appears Victoria Jones, a young woman with a yearning for adventure who gets more than she bargains for when a wounded spy dies in her hotel room. The only man who can save the summit is dead. Can Victoria make sense of his dying words: Lucifer…Basrah…Lefarge.…" (Harper Collins Publisher)

My Thoughts:
They Came to Baghdad now ranks as one of my all-time favorite novels by Agatha Christie. As I mentioned above, at first I was rather hesitant in reading this novel. I didn't have high expectations that it would be a thrilling read and I really didn't like the heroine, Victoria Jones, when she first enters the scene. But I kept reading and it wasn't long before I was hooked.

As I mentioned above, They Came to Baghdad is not your average Agatha Christie who-dunnit murder mystery, but instead a post-WWII espionage suspense thriller that include a few murders. The main story is set in Iraq during the early 1950s and while it revolves around Victoria Jones there is plenty of time for "sight-seeing" along the way and Christie makes time for it. At this time in her life, Agatha Christie was married to archaeologist Max Mallowan and spent a great deal of her time with him on digs in the Middle East. Her knowledge of the area and the work is woven seamlessly into this story without detracting from the thrilling story plot.

As the story draws to an end I am happy to report I changed my mind about Victoria Jones. Her character truly matures as the story progresses and as the lose ends are tied up I was delighted with the foreshadowing for Victoria that Christie included in the closing paragraph.

All in all, I must admit I was definitely surprised with this novel. In my opinion it's a definite winner and a top favorite for me. I highly recommend it to those readers who are looking for a variant from the typical English countryside murder mystery or those who love a good spy tale.

Up next, I'll return to Hercule Poirot and the English country village in Mrs. McGinty's Dead.

Related Links:
My 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)
Towards Zero  (1944)
Death Comes As the End (1944)
Sparkling Cyanide (1945)
The Hollow (1946) 
Taken At the Flood (1948) 
Crooked House (1949) 
A Murder is Announced (1950)

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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