I Read: Towards Zero. William Morrow, New York, 2011.
Series: Superintendent Battle
Summary: "...with all the causes and events that bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day....All converging towards a given spot...And then, when the time comes -- over the top! Zero Hour. Yes, all of them converging towards zero...." (pg. 4) This is the story in a nutshell; one killer, two wives, three detectives and a house full of guests all hurtling towards the solution to four separate murders.
Review:This is the last book to feature Superintendent Battle as the lead detective, and I think it is a pity he did not find his way into more stories. His solid good sense, plus his sly ability to hide behind the reader's expectations (the expectation being that the police detectives are all bumbling) was fantastic. Unlike Chimneys or Seven Dials, this book is not an over-the-top exercise in suspense. No secret societies, jewel thieves or political machinations to be found anywhere. Instead it begins with a series of small snippets of the main characters' lives and the decisions which lead to their appearance in Gull's Point. This method of story leads naturally to the creation of tension through the whole, for example you are left wondering through almost the entire mystery as to the significance of Angus MacWhirter's suicide attempt or why Mr. Treeves tells an odd story to the group about an unidentified child. The book is a great read and is listed as one Christie's personal favorites. However I think Battle did just a bit better being paired off with the outrageousness of his prior two books - the solid clever straight man to all the crazy events going on around him. But that is just my opinion.
Now onto a tangent provided by a quote from our book of the week: "I suppose like most young people nowadays, boredom is what you dread most in the world...." (pg. 97). How many dumb thing have happened, do you suppose, because someone was bored and then had a "brain storm"? Some thing to engage their mind in an activity, any activity will do to stop the gnawing existential crisis of nothingness (The Nothing, I learned about that from The Never Ending Story; probably not the take-away they were looking for). Not that I would know anything about this phenomenon at all.....Definitely not the impetus behind an absurd incident featuring whiskey, Neapolitan ice cream and old sci-fi movies. *wink* Perhaps boredom situational, not existential this time (situational boredom - when you're stuck in a boring situation andyou are unable to leave because your parents are stuck there too) might have fueled an outrageous lie told to your second or third cousins (you never see) - confessing that you are really a Martian (shut up, I was seven).
Fortunately with age comes a slightly less ridiculous response to boredom; surprisingly enough not playing computer games or randomly surfing the internet ; they don't have any measurable output and therefore don't relieve the symptoms - cleaning or walking (usually cleaning) does the trick. Which unerringly slingshots me into inspiration for a new quilt or craft project, thus the boredom fades away like smoke and I forget it was ever there. Until the next times that is......
Christie is often credited for saying, "The best time for planning books is while you are doing the dishes.", not the most stimulating of tasks. Perhaps planning a murder over a sink full of suds - the completion of a monotonous/boring task helped Christie's creativity in the long run. Maybe a bit of boredom isn't bad if you know how to deal with it in a constructive way (YouTube is filled with unfortunate examples of what not to do). So while long bouts of boredom are to be dreaded, perhaps a little isn't so bad after all?
"A little malice...adds a certain savour to life." (pg. 81)
Interesting Note: Battle's moustache was considered impressive even to Poirot.....
Did you know the word "boredom" was coined by Charles Dickens in his book Bleak House? Or the Monty Python skit Vocational Guidance Councilor is credited with creating the lasting stereo-type that all accountants are boring? Well now you know, and perhaps it will help you win a round in a bar trivia game....
Cheating:Slightly tempted to cheat, but managed to keep my fingers from flipping pages and destroying my chances of getting to the UK!
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009.
Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, April 1, 2014.
Wikipedia, April 14, 2014.
Youtube, April 15, 2014.
Smithsonian.com, The History of Boredom, April 15, 2014.