Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taken at the Flood

It still surprises me how many Agatha Christie novels I managed to miss. I've re-read a few so often that they're nearly committed to memory, and others have sat abandoned on my bookshelf for decades. Taken at the Flood is one of those abandoned Christies, and it might have remained frail (my copy is a 1972 paperback bought used some time in the early 80s) and alone on my shelf if it weren't for a read-a-long in Ravelry's Agatha Christie group. Gordon Cloade was a wealthy man whose less affluent relatives (two brothers, a young cousin, and a middle-aged cousin and her daughter) depended on eventually inheriting his estate. Unfortunately, he married a young actress and soon died intestate, thus leaving his estate to his widow. She appears to be a soft touch for her late husband's money-seeking family but her brother is made of sterner stuff. There's blackmail, railroad timetables, and Hercule Poirot's little grey cells - everything you expect from Christie, but I'd rate this outing as middling. I didn't find any of the characters particularly engaging or entertaining, and the ending seemed more contrived than usual. Perhaps it's because Christie ventured out of her comfort zone - in most of her books, even the down-on-their-luck aristocrats retain their aristocracy, and even during the Great Depression and World War II, socialites act like socialites. Christie wrote this shortly after the war ended but with rationing still in full force. Perhaps she felt that she couldn't ignore the threadbare existence around her, but it just doesn't feel like "Christie."

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