Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Notes from the Nightstand: Hickory Dickory Dock

In case you've forgotten, I've been reading all of Agatha Christie's books in (mostly) chronological order for the past few years. Here's the post from my other old blog that explains it all. I'm now up to the 1950s and just finished Hickory Dickory Dock (1955).

Christie wrote quite a few novels with nursery rhyme titles and themes: And Then There Were None, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, Five Little Pigs, Mrs. McGinty's Dead, and A Pocket Full of Rye. And Then There Were None is totally inspired and an all-time favorite of mine, and A Pocket Full of Rye is quite clever, but I think the others are pretty forgettable. Hickory Dickory Dock definitely falls into this last category.

Christie periodically, but especially in the '50s and '60s, tried to branch out into youth culture and edgier topics like drug smuggling and addiction or revolutionary politics, with not very great success. Her best efforts are the classic upper class drawing room murders at country houses with butlers who did or didn't do it. Hickory Dickory Dock, unfortunately, is set in a youth hostel in London and has a cast of young international students (with '50s-era British racial sensibilities thrown in for good times). Lots of small thefts have been occurring in the house, which is upsetting but not catastrophic until, of course, someone turns up dead. But no hot-headed 20-something - or a syndicate of jewel thieves and drug-smugglers - can stop Hercule Poirot once he's on the case!

If you're interested in checking out an Agatha Christie mystery for a quick, easy read during the holidays or on a cold, snowy January Saturday afternoon, take my advice and pick up And Then There Were None instead. Really only the most hardened Christie fan should ever attempt one of her novels from the '50s - Great Britain was apparently a pretty grim place in the decade after WWII, and these novels surely reflect that sour "stiff upper lip."

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