The Boomerang Clue
AKA: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans
First Published: London - William Collins, 1934 -- New York - Dodd, Mead, 1934
I Read: Why Didn’t They as Evans. New York, Dell, 1981.
Detectives: Bobby Jones & Lady Frances Derwent
Summary: Bobby Jones is enjoying a round of gold with a friend, when they happen upon a dying man, who had apparently fallen over a cliff. Not wanting for the stranger to die alone Bobby stayed with him while his friend went for help. In his last breath, the dying man asked a question which plunged Bobby and his friend Lady Frances Derwent straight into a mystery. The question: Why didn’t they ask Evans?
Review: To be honest this books was a little bit of a slog for me. While the mystery itself I found interesting, it was the investigators (Frankie & Bobby) which I had trouble with. They sat together making deductions which they based loosely on the facts at hand, was a bit tedious. Then they continually changed their minds after these sessions when outside influences came into play. Then they ignored the facts which did not match their new views. I found reading their lengthy speculations rather maddening. But, as I have said, the mystery itself of how the gentleman came to be pushed off a embankment was engaging.
One aspect which I do find fascinating is the language and its’ evolution over time (Go with me for a second). New words or phrases work their way into our vocabularies all the time; like everything else, language can have fads. Now spreading at speed by the internet, TV and social media are new words such as “selfie“, “twerk“, “squee“, unlike, “cake pops“, “geek chic” or “Omni shambles”, just to name a few. Just as new words come into fashion, older ones can alter in meaning, such as “because” shifting from a conjunction to a preposition. Because.
One word, which I have read in several books now, which completely throws me out of the narrative every time….ejaculation. It has two meanings, an abrupt, exclamatory utterance, “Bobby uttered a decidedly profane ejaculation.” (chapt. 1, page one). Or the one which goes thru my head, each and every time is accompanied by the memory of my eighth grade health class and that kid sitting in the back of the room going duh-hu-hu-hu while my teacher droned on about the reproductive system. Seriously and completely ridiculous, but the honest truth. Sometimes I am twelve years old.
This word, obviously did not have the connotations that it does now. I cannot see Christie using it if it ever occurred to her it could be taken that way (especially in her Ms. Marple books, can you imagine what she would say?). A woman of a certain age, and I am not speaking of how old she is, but of when she lived, would never, ever have been caught using words with such meanings.
I just find it interesting how our language has morphed over the last eighty years.
Interesting Fact: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is important in the history of the Christie canon. Not the book exactly, but the fact it was made into a TV movie in 1980, four years after her death.
Why is this important? Christie was not overly fond of television; she remembered when it first came into being, the picture quality was poor and the productions themselves were a bit thin. Her feelings weren’t unjustified -- during the 1949 televised version of And Then There Were None, a general, who was supposed to be dead got up and walked off while still on camera. One for the blooper reel.
Her daughter, Rosalind Hicks, who managed her mother’s estate, loosened the rules and allowed the three-hour special to be made. The budget for the special is said to have been around 1 million pounds or 3.6 million in today’s money (using an inflation calculator). This version proved to the Christie estate her works could be successfully made into television shows.
This opened up the door for today’s long running and much loved Poirot played by David Suchet (who has just concluded his role in the series, but will always be thought of as THE Belgian detective) or Miss Marple series. Which I personally am grateful for!
Cheating: It was very near this time. I seriously wanted to cheat; that way I would know who had done the deed and be done with the book. Somewhere I mustered some resolve and did not, but my hands seriously itched to flip those pages…..
Martin Fido. The World Of Agatha Christie. London: Carlton Books, 1999.
Dawn B. Sova, Ph.D. Agatha Christie A To Z. New York, Facts On File, 1996.
http://www.agathachristie.com/christies-work/stories/why-didnt-they-ask-evans/141. Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, December 6, 2013.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Didn%27t_They_Ask_Evans%3F. Wikipedia, December 6, 2013.
http://blog.dictionary.com/selfie/. Dictionary.com, December 6, 2013.
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/english-has-a-new-preposition-because-internet/281601/. The Atlantic, December 6, 2013.