Monday, August 12, 2013

Murder Mystery Monday #3

I'm taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming (reading of course) to bring you my next installment in my Murder Mystery Mondays as promised. I was planning on discussing two books today, but sadly I am only about halfway through the book I was intending to present. but have no fear. This will still be a double Mystery Monday. How about I start off with the book I've been reading for the past two days or so and that is Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie. As usual I will provide a quick synopsis for those who haven't read the book and I promise no spoilers.

The premise of this book is Sir George Stubbs is putting on a fete at Nasse Hall, where one of the attractions will be a murder hunt organized by the wonderful mystery writer and friend of Poirot named Ariadne Oliver. The only problem is that is the process of organizing the hunt, Mrs. Oliver has the sinking feeling that an actual murder might occur. Acting on her instincts she calls in Poirot under the pretense of handing out the prizes for the hunt. When the designated victim of the hunt, Marlene Tucker, is actually murdered and Sir George's wife Hattie Stubbs has gone missing it's up to Poirot to discover who the murderer is and where exactly Lady Stubbs has disappeared to.

In usual Christie fashion my hunches were completely wrong and I was pretty shocked by the ending. On the way though I did make a few observations other than the ones I pointed out yesterday.

The first is I have to wonder if Ariadne Oliver truly is Agatha Christie writing herself into her novels and giving her two cents on the issues at hand. Here Ariadne talks about how difficult it is to put together a mystery that makes complete sense and doesn't have an plot holes. She also talks about how she has a hard time keeping everything straight in her mind. This seems to be an accurate description of Christie herself if you've ever taken the time to read Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran

This book discusses all the of the notebooks that she kept where she organized all of her plotlines and is a must read for anyone that considers themselves an Agatha Christie fan.

Another aspect of this book and the genre in general is the distrust of foreigners. Agatha Christie is known for using this to her advantage. She taps into the psychology that people seem to distrust people or cultures we are unfamiliar with and then promptly manipulates that suspicion by making the actual murder someone that we would normally trust or rule out like a meek woman, a gentle grandmother, or even a child. In Dead Man's Folly most of the suspicion falls on Etienne, Hattie's foreign and mysterious cousin while the rest of the characters suspect some outside person from the hostel nearby. If you're lucky and refuse to fall into that trap, it becomes easier to discover who the true murderer actually is.

Another trick that I love about Christie's works, which always causes me to guess the wrong person as the murderer is that fact that she makes sure that every suspect says something peculiar to make you think that they did it. For example in this book Poirot is talking to Mrs. Folliat who was the previous owner of Nasse Hall and he tells her that it must be hard to see other people living in the house you used to own. Rather than just giving an affirmative answer she says: "So many things are hard, M. Poirot." Throws suspicion now doesn't it?

The second part of this Murder Mystery Monday post has to do with a tv show that I have been watching recently called Whodunnit.

While the season finale of this show is next Sunday, I still suggest that you check out the entire series. The premise of Whodunnit is that it's a reality tv show where a group of people are invited to Rue Manor, where they must stay for the entirety of the show, and must compete against each other to win a quarter of a million dollars. The catch is that a murderer is among them and in order to win the money they must correctly guess the murderer's identity and stay alive. In the first episode there is an initial "murder" and Giles the butler informs the contestants that they must deduce from clues left by the murderer how exactly the person dies. If they guess correctly they are spared for the next day and if they fail to get it right they receive a scared card and are in jeopardy of being "murdered", thus taking them out of the running for the cash prize.

What attracts me to this show so much is the fact that it resembles my favorite Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. In that book a group of people are murdered one by one at an isolated manor and are forced to fight for their lives by trying to find out who is the murderer among them.

Lets make something clear about this show though that I annoys the crap out of me. Everyone knows that nobody will actually be murdered and that the person designated to die is taken to special effects where they are made up to look dead. Sounds simple right? Instead the people in this competition freak out and cry at the prospect of receiving scared cards and dying...even though they AREN'T ACTUALLY GOING TO DIE! I know I would get pretty upset at losing the chance of getting a quarter of a million dollars, but I certainly wouldn't cry about it.

Aside from that I like everything else about the show. I'm always constantly speculating who the murderer is based on their observations about the crime scene or how they react. This is the kind of murder mystery show that I want on tv. In fact I vote that we get rid of NCIS or CSI or any of the other shows and replace them with shows like this. I know I would be glued to the tv.

So I hope that you will check out both the book and the show that I've talked about. You won't regret it.