Monday, June 30, 2014

Murder Mystery Monday #6

It's that time again dear readers. The time where I dissect yet another book from the murder mystery genre for your reading pleasure. It won't come as much of a shock to you that I decided to frame this entire post around a recent Agatha Christie book that I've read. These past couple of days I've been on a bit of a murder mystery kick and broke out all of the unread Agatha Christie books I've accumulated this past year. The first book to garner my attention and the one that I'll be discussing is called A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie.

For those that haven't read the book, let me whip up a quick summary. An old businessman and multimillionaire, Rex Fortescue, is found dead in his office from poisoning and upon examining the dead man, one of the investigators finds that Fortescue's pockets have some rye grain in them. Peculiar, indeed! The investigator goes to Yewtree Lodge, the man's home, to figure out why the old man was poisoned and who could have possibly committed the murder. Suspects include Fortescue's young wife and his sons, Percival and Lancelot. While the investigator struggles to find the truth of the matter, a few more people are murdered in the process. It seems that only Miss Marple and her knowledge of human psychology and nursery rhymes can help solve this crime.

Exciting right? Well I had a pretty great afternoon read with this book, with only a few minor complaints of course. A Pocket Full of Rye is one of the many books that Agatha Christie frames around nurses rhymes, which gives a sense of familiarity to those of us like myself that were raised with those cheery rhymes while also twisting and darkening the experience by associating them with carefully planned murders.

I do have to point out that this particular Miss Marple novel, while enjoyable, felt a bit watered down compared to the rest. Unlike Christie's other books, the titular nursery rhyme here doesn't seem to be as significant compared to something like And Then There Were None aka Ten Little Indians. Without saying too much just yet, it felt like a giant red herring rather than an integral part of the plot. That being said I was also disappointed that even though this is technically another Miss Marple novel, she barely factors into the story. Her character doesn't make an appearance until about halfway though. Even then she only pops up in a couple more scenes to keep the investigator on the right track.

I'm excited to admit that here is one of the few times that I actually managed to guess the murderer correctly.

I do want to talk about the ending for a bit because it was a discussion worthy ending. So...this goes without saying, but if you don't want to be spoiled please skip over the following paragraph. After it I will resume my non spoiler filled discussion about the book.

Everybody here that has read the book or doesn't give a crap about spoilers? Good. Not that I'm trying to insult my own intelligence here, but figuring out the ending was really simple, a little too simple in my opinion. I really didn't think there were enough red herrings or twists and turns to throw me off my game. As a rule of thumb I usually first suspect the most unlikely person and that combined with an assumption based on my knowledge of Arthurian literature lead me perfectly to the actual culprit: Lancelot. Throughout the entire book there were numerous suggestions that Percival had to have killed his father and that the black sheep of the family, but beloved by all, was innocent. I didn't buy into that for a second. For those that missed it, the book did mention at one point that Rex's first wife loved Idylls of the King and that's why she gave her sons those names. While I'm currently reading that particular Tennyson work, I do know my Thomas Malory and that character's names can be significant. Good old Launcelot, the world's greatest knight and beloved by many is still an adulterer and a traitor to his king, while Percival is the worthy grail knight. Not hard to see who is considered to be the morally superior one in this situation.

End of the spoilery bits.

For those looking for a film adaption of A Pocket Full of Rye you're in luck. This book has been made into a movie twice. The first stars Joan Hickson and the second, more recent adaption, features the ever wonderful Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. Here are the links to their IMDb pages for those interested.

I might have to go back and watch those versions myself now that I've actually finished reading the book. I faintly remember enjoying the McKenzie adaption and I haven't had the time to see the Hickson one, which can conveniently be found in parts on YouTube.

That wraps up another post in my Murder Mystery Monday series. I hope this beginning to another week is going as well as possible for you and that you'll consider joining me again next Monday. Best Wishes!