Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

271 pages
Published 1939 by G. P. Putnam's Sons
Reprinted in 2008 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
New York, NY

Sad Cypress is the 27th mystery novel penned by Dame Agatha Christie. Although the first half of the novel is mostly told through the eyes of the accused, the case solving is once again to the complete credit of the Belgian with his little grey cells, one Hercule Poirot.

When it was first published Sad Cypress received mostly favorable reviews with it's lowest criticism being that it wasn't up to par with Christie's best yet still a thrilling read. I have to say I can agree with this. Sad Cypress may not be a top five, or even ten amongst the numerous novels the Queen of Crime penned, but it is an entertaining and thrilling read.

The Plot:
"At the center of this classic murder mystery is a classic love triangle. Elinor Carlisle always assumed she would marry her childhood friend and distant cousin, Roderick Welman. Instead he fell in love with Mary, whom Elinor and Roderick used to play with on their Aunt Laura's lavish estate. When Mary is gruesomely poisoned by morphine, suspicions naturally fall upon Elinor. Then Aunt Laura, who bequeathed her estate and fortune to Elinor, is also found to have died form a morphine overdose. The murderer seems obviously to everyone -- everyone, that is, except Hercule Poirot. The Belgian sleuth summons all his powers to unravel the intricacies of a case that seems deceptively simple on the surface." (Courtesy of the publisher)

My Thoughts:
Although I can't say this was one of my all-time favorite Christie mysteries I did find that this story got better and better with each turn of the page. It is the first courtroom drama to appear in one of Christie's novels and from the first line I was pulled into the drama as I watched everything through the eyes of the accused.

As I mentioned above, the book is divided into two parts. The first opens in the courtroom with Elinor standing trial for the murder of Mary, but then steps back in time to the events that led up to that very moment. The second part leaves Elinor and lets the reader watch first hand as Poirot single handily pieces clue upon clue and lie upon lie until he unravels the whole mystery.

I was especially intrigued by the title of this novel, Sad Cypress. It is also the name of a song contained in William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night which goes:

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.

Personally I find it fascinating when authors (or publishers) pull the title of a poem or song or the first line of some famous quote and tie it in with the story by making it the title of the book. I find that it adds another whole dimension to the story. And this story had plenty of dimension. The setting is quiet country village with a beautiful, but haunting estate. The characters are different, but not unusual. The murder weapon is poison, Agatha Christie's personal "favorite" if you could call it that. And although by the end of the book I had half-figured the mystery out I admit I was stumped as to the final "why" and had to wait for Poirot's big reveal. Still, it is a well-written mystery with plenty of red herrings and clues cleverly woven. I found the story easy to imagine and this is one that definitely translates well to the screen, although (as is often the case with 21st century adaptations) it hasn't always been faithfully translated, still the adaptations that are available do make for good television.

Although not a top book in my opinion I do still find I really liked Sad Cypress and that it is proof enough that the Queen of Crime just got better and better with each mystery. Sad Cypress is a must read for Christie fans as well as readers who love solving a good ol' who-dun-it.

As a side note, the copy of Sad Cypress I read was published 2008 (cover art pictured in the upper right corner of this post) and was what the library offered when I requested this title. But avid Christie fans, like myself, might find it interesting and fun to view the cover art that this title has been published with over the last 70+ years. To view head on over to book listings here.

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
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)
And Then There Were None (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 are currently available.

1 comment:

B said...

This was one of my favorites, I think because it's so unlike the other Christie novels and felt particularly memorable. (The film version is pretty good as well.)