Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie

194 pages
Published in 1944, reprinted in 2002
by Minotaur Books

Although best known for her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries, it may come as a surprise to some readers that Dame Agatha Christie also penned a historical murder mystery set in ancient Egypt. Because of its setting Death Comes As the End is a unique novel amongst Agatha Christie's canon. It is the only historical mystery novel that Agatha Christie ever wrote and it's creation only came about as a result of Dame Agatha's personal passion for archeology (her second husband, Max Mallowan was an archeologist) and thanks to a very persuasive friend who encouraged her to take up the challenge of writing a murder mystery set in 4,000 B.C. Egypt.

 The Plot:
"...A deadly mystery at the heart of a dissonant family in ancient Egypt. Imhotep, wealthy landowner and priest of Thebes, has outraged his sons and daughters by bringing a beautiful concubine into their fold. And the manipulative Nofret has already set about a plan to usurp her rivals' rightful legacies. When her lifeless body is discovered at the foot of a cliff, Imhotep's own flesh and blood become the apparent conspirators in her shocking murder. But vengeance and greed may not be the only motives..." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)

My Thoughts:
I must admit even months later after finishing this read, I still have mixed feelings about Death Comes As the End. On the one hand I can't say that this story was a favorite -- the setting really wasn't my thing -- but on the other hand the setting is so unique amongst Dame Agatha's crime novels that a reader can't help but find it intriguing.

Personally I found the setting (4,000 BC Egypt) a bit of a hang up for the first third to half of the book. As it is an area I am not very familiar with I struggled to keep the characters (especially their names!) and setting straight in my mind, but once this was accomplished I soon discovered I had settled into the story and that was like so many of  Dame Agatha's other novels, a definite page-turner.

As for the mystery itself -- it's less a "detecting" story and more a process of elimination as this plot turns deadly with suspect after suspect falling to the hand of the murderer. In some ways it reminded me of an ancient take on  Dame Agatha's earlier work, And Then There Were None.

Overall I did enjoy Death Comes As the End, but not as much as Dame Agatha's other works. I appreciate the effort she put into writing this novel, as I know it required a great amount of research, time and effort and for this reason I think it is definitely worth the read for any fan of Agatha Christie.

But for the first-time Agatha Christie reader I suggest setting this one aside to read later. Start off with something a little easier. And Then There Were None and Hercule Poirot's Christmas are two similar type stories that are set in 20th century England and thus might be more suted for the novice Christie reader.

Happy sleuthing err.. reading!

Related Links:

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)

* 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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