This weekend, I finished reading the crime novel, ‘Death on the Nile’ by Agatha Christie. Below is my review of the novel from a writing perspective, which was originally posted on Goodreads. I must add, that the analysis of this novel was a huge challenge, because of the pure excellence in its creation. Please be warned, this will contain spoilers!
From the outset, I loved how Agatha introduces us to the large cast of characters. Introducing a large cast of characters is not an easy task in writing; especially when the cast is in a detective plot. But Agatha uses wonderful methods without compromising the plot. We meet some of the characters through the eyes and movements of Hercule Poirot, the detective. We meet related characters through their own ‘dialogued’ scenes. And we meet characters for the first time through the dialogue of other characters (where these characters have met in the past). These are effective methods in which to introduce an array of characters that know, or will come to know, each other. These varied methods also ensure that the process of each character introduction does not become repetitive and mundane to the reader.
I was slightly concerned during the beginning of the book whether I would remember all of the characters, and whether this would distract from the plot. But thankfully Agatha seemed to have already thought this through by ensuring that some of the traits and actions of the characters were repeated just in the right places later in the novel. This process triggered my memory (and no doubt other reader’s memories) of past scenes in the novel. Moments such as these remind us of how quickly a reader can forget a scene and quickly be brought back to it when systems such as these are used.
As the characters embark on their journey, we get to know them, and their relationship with each other, in more detail. And each detail builds towards a perfectly woven crime plot – where any of the characters can end up being the culprit. Every possible story that Hercule pulls together has us believe that he is correct – until he makes us aware that this is not the full story and that there is a hole! Hercule is such a wonderfully clever detective, that he unravels everything for us slowly (also holding us back, leaving us itching at times!). In the end we wish we had his detective solving skills, because we just didn’t see what was coming.
What is interesting about this book is that the first half is a suspense story that builds through tension, and the second half of the book becomes a who-dunnit mystery. I found that this switch made the read very exciting.
There are many great things to say about this novel. I loved how Agatha addressed some clear themes in the book – social class, love, envy – and how she pushed the morals within these themes into the story through dialogue. i.e. ‘all that is gold does not glitter’ – Hercule Poirot.
We are introduced to some beautiful words of the era, such as HON and fey (I will leave them for you to research). This tells us that Agatha absolutely adored language, and that she wanted to teach us, her readers, new words; teachings that go beyond the story and novel. I believe that if you can teach a reader something new (a word, a fact, a new subject) then you have done a wonderful thing as a writer.
In my view, Agatha was not only one of the finest novel plotters, but she was an exceptional detective! To have concocted these plots without any flaws is truly genius. I love how she once quoted that she did most of her plotting whilst doing the dishes. I believe that it would definitely take more than sitting at a desk and writing to formulate finely woven plots such as these.
I would recommend this book to any reader and writer, just for the pure excellence of her plotting. This book was a truly enjoyable read, and I hope to fork out more of her novels (and hopefully read them just as fast as Agatha wrote them!)
Until next time.