More Christmas reads for the season – this time featuring the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie!
I’ve been having a good time reading Agatha Christie’s Christmas-themed mysteries (overall, have you noticed I’ve been in quite the mood for mysteries – and in particular murder mysteries – this Christmas? In my defence, I would say they’re all cozy mysteries, rather than the gory kind, and all of them Christmas-themed in keeping with the season!)
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Other Stories is one collection I never get tired of reading at Christmas-time. I love reading about an old-fashioned British Christmases (I’ve always only ever had hot Christmases and I find myself really longing to one day have a proper White Christmas!). In fact, it’s the foreword of the book by Ms Christie herself that is my favourite part of The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding. Here, she reminisces about the Christmases of her youth set at Abney Hall and her description of the Christmas feasts make my mouth water:
“Oyster soup and Turbot went down without undue zest, but then came Roast Turkey, Boiled Turkey and an enormous Sirloin of Beef. The boys and I had two helpings of all three! We then had Plum Pudding, Minced-pies, Trifle and every other kind of dessert. During the afternoon we ate chocolates solidly. We neither felt, nor were, sick! How lovely to be eleven years old and greedy!”
How lovely, indeed! But lacking that sort of Christmas feast in real life, I make do with the Christmas feast Ms Christie has set out for her reader instead, consisting of two main courses, The Adventures of the Christmas Pudding and The Mystery of the Spanish Chest, and a selection of ‘entree’ stories.
Surprisingly, other than The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, the rest of the short stories aren’t actually set around Christmastime. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the titular story, none of the rest really stood out to me or seemed particularly engaging. The Spanish Chest and Four and Twenty Blackbirds each provided an intriguing puzzle for readers to work their little grey cells over with the latter continues the theme of making one hungry with some delectable food talk! The Dream, however, is probably one of my least favourite Agatha Christie stories and not even the mystery of ‘the dream’ was enough to tantalise me. The final story, Greenshaw’s Folly, was probably my favourite of the lot after The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and features the welcome return of Miss Marple and her writer nephew Raymond.
If I were to judge The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding as I would a degustation meal, I would say that the fare came up rather short. The appetiser (the foreword!) and the first course were fairly delectable and left me licking my lips for more, but unfortunately the second and third course did not come up to scratch. Thankfully, though, the final course managed to satiate my appetite but not as well as some of Christie’s other works would have done.
And then there’s also Hercules Poirot’s Christmas.
This one, in contrast with The Adventures of the Christmas Pudding, is a full-length novel (though still rather short, as most Agatha Christie novels tend to be, compared with books of today. Here, Hercules Poirot is called in to investigate the death of the millionaire Simeon Lee at Christmas Eve. The entire family is in residence, including Simeon’s four sons and their wives, one beautiful Spanish granddaughter, and the charming and good-looking Stephen Farr, the son of Simon’s former business partner. And any one of them could have been the killer…
This isn’t a particular Agatha Christie novel that I often return to. I think it’s because I don’t particularly like most of the characters in this story. With the exception of the elegant and long-suffering Lydia, the rest of them seem rather selfish and grasping and what little virtue Christie injects into them fails to save their appeal to me.
Having said that, I still did enjoy the book for the mystery and plot twists that Ms Christie does so well. The revelation of the killer’s identity was a true surprise for me and one which I definitely did not see coming! Also, it has been noted that before the writing of this book, there had been complaints that Ms Christie’s murders were getting too refined so she took pains to ensure that the murder this time around was a “a good violent murder with lots of blood.” So if you like your Christmas murder mysteries nice and bloody, this one is for you!
The other Christmas mysteries I’ve been reading this year are from the British Library Crime Classics series and you can check them out via the links below.
Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries – a collection of short stories by various authors from the Golden Age of detective stories.
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries – another collection of short stories by various Golden Age authors – and the stories in this one are my favourite!
Happy reading this Christmas!