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In some ways, this is a bit of a rough start to the book, when we're discussing it in this way. A) it's somewhat shorter story-wise, since it's also setting up the central concept to the story collection, introducing the characters, and so on. And B) it's pretty distinctly non-modern-English with its hundreds and thousands, banting, etc etc., which doesn't exactly help a modern American reader (or most of us anyhow) to get absorbed in the story, when we're not familiar with some of the terminology and the key clue is something that passes us by.

As a side note, this is one of the odd things about reading Christie in general - she was such a prolific writer that you really don't know what to expect from one of her books era-wise until you crack it open, since some of her books are very much a post-Victorian era type thing, while others are very modern, given that she was born in 1890 and wrote from 1920 to her death in 1976, if my quick readings of the Wikipedia page are correct. At any rate, I know that her books reflect the fairly rapid changes in that general era, which can make reading them both odd and fun.

Anyhow, back to this book. While there are some weaknesses as noted above, I think this story also shows some of Christie's strengths, such as her ability to sketch a pretty good character portrait (mentally, not physically) in a fairly short space. We already have a good idea of Raymond West as fairly well-tempered but self-important and self-centered, Clithering as intelligent and precise but with a sense of humor and not a huge ego, and Miss Marple as dithery on the outside and gentle, but easily underestimated all the same.

As for the crime itself, as noted above it suffers to a modern American reader from the "hundreds and thousands" clue being lost to us, as well as its shortness not letting there be a large cast of characters or interesting details to pick a murder/murder method from. It still works though for introducing the central conceit, and setting the stage for more interesting narratives to come.

I do think the story and the central conceit in general do suffer though from another of Christie's flaws, although one that only started to stand out to me once I started reading a lot of her books - that natural events tend to be sacrificed to the altar of a good flashy crime story, so to speak. I mean, really, how likely is it that a calculating murderer is going to put his orders down ON PAPER, and send it in the mail, and also leave behind easily seen evidence on a blotter paper? and how coincidental is it going to be that these various people (the ex-commissioner of Scotland Yard aside) are going to have intimate details of a serious crime, one with a solution unknown to the public, and also happen to have the proper answer handed to them for further dissemination?

Anyhow, I don't intend to start picking the book apart before we even really get into it, as I do enjoy this collection in general and am looking forward to discussing it on the whole. But in this format, this start is at least not flawless, so I at least wanted to acknowledge that.

Anyhow! Feel free to discuss this, or anything else that occurs to you. As always.

As an ending note, I realize that not everyone has the book yet, so conversation will probably be slow but hopefully trickle in bit by bit over the coming days, so check back!


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Aug. 2nd, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
Well, since at least one person (you) has the book besides me, and since I figure people can always come back to this entry and add to the discussion as they get the book, I went ahead and edited in, y'know, an actual entry!
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 2nd, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
Hey, you gotta watch out for those sprinkles! Just sitting there on those desserts, lying in wait...

Oh, and "trifle" is an awesome name for a dessert for some reason, I think.

And yes, what the hell was up with the corn flour? I mean... given that the cook "prepares" a bowl of it, and people are eating it, surely it can't just be, y'know, the plain old flour made from corn. WTF?
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Aug. 2nd, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
Hrm. Well, according to wiki Pete, in Britain "corn flour" is what we'd call corn starch, and googling corn starch stomach upset got me this bit:

"Cornstarch: A known remedy for curing an upset stomach is cornstarch. Take the cornstarch and apply a couple of teaspoons to water and stir. Drink the whole mixture down and your stomach pain should go away completely."

But that doesn't seem like the same thing, really! Same general concept though, perhaps?
Aug. 2nd, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
The "hundreds and thousands" rang a faint, faint bell -- but only after Miss Marple told us the ending. There's no way on earth I would have gotten that on my own.

On the other hand, I was glad to be reading it on the kindle, so I could use the built-in dictionary to explain "banting". And "benignant", which I'm on the fence about.

I like the structure she's set up, and am looking forward to the next one.
Aug. 2nd, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, I was going to say: I did guess who the culprit was, but only for lame meta-reasons: she had a name, and was the only one not mentioned! If I'd remembered that she was terrified when talking to the doctor, now, that'll wouldn't been clever of me. But no.

Edited at 2010-08-02 11:14 pm (UTC)
Aug. 3rd, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
Well, then too, since two out of the four or five characters in the story were guilty to an extent, and one of those was the victim, you had a fairly good chance of getting something right anyhow!

Not to take away from your guess. ;)
Aug. 3rd, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
Oh, true, true. I was just enjoying being right for the wrong reasons.
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