Tuesday Night Club: Christie on holiday



Our group of crime fiction fans has been choosing an author each month to write about on Tuesdays: this month we’ve decided to go for a theme instead, and picked Travel and Holidays/Vacations – in any way the blogger chooses to interpret it.

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New and casual participants are always welcome: just send your link to me or one of the others, or put it in the comments below. Or you can do a guest blog for one of the regulars.


Thanks to Bev, as ever, for the excellent logo – that’s us going up the gangplank to murder…


Curt listed all the Tuesday Night Bloggers’ links over at his Passing Tramp website here.

Last week I wrote about an English seaside holiday, and I’m not going much farther this time. But I am looking at the queen of crime, and a book that is an early text for a much-quoted travel mystery, her Evil Under the Sun.


 

The Bloodstained Pavement by Agatha Christie


Short story from the collection The Thirteen Problems/ The Tuesday Night Murders

Book first published 1932, story first published 1928

 
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[Artist Joyce Lempriere is relating a mysterious story to other dinner guests]

Just at that moment another beastly car came twisting down, and a woman got out of it dressed in the brightest chintz frock I have ever seen, scarlet poinsettias, I think they were, and she had on one of those big native straw hats – Cuban aren’t they? – in very bright scarlet.

The woman didn’t stop in front of the inn but drove the car farther down the street… Then she got out and the man…gave an astonished shout, “Carol” he cried, ‘In the name of all  that is wonderful, fancy meeting you in this out-of-the-way spot. I haven’t seen you for years. Hello, there’s Margery – my wife, you know. You must come and meet her.’

They went up the street towards the inn side by side,. And I saw the other woman had just come out of the door and was moving down towards them. I had had just a glimpse of the woman called Carol as they passed by me. Just enough to see a very white powdered chin and a flaming scarlet mouth and I wondered – I just wondered – if Margery would be so very pleased to meet her.



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commentary: This is an especially appropriate choice because the Tuesday Night Club named ourselves after this very Agatha Christie collection (Tuesday Club Murders – misnomer as not all the crimes are murders – in the USA, Thirteen Problems in UK). And the story, in its short few pages, encompasses why travel/holidays/vacations are such good themes for crime stories. Chance met people, old friends and new acquaintances, and the disguises offered by holiday clothes.

Raymond West is Miss Marple’s nephew and apparently only living relative: Joyce Lempriere is his girlfriend and


 
 
SPOILER!
 
 

fiancée by the end of the book. She will change her first name to Joan for later books - Christie was never too worried about consistency. However, she did also like recycling names: Mrs Lempriere is the society woman treated as an art critic in this slightly earlier story.

It is a pretty good story – of course the plotline is not a very likely one, it’s quite hard to see the advantage to the villains in what they do. But the atmosphere is good, the setting in the ‘artistic’ fishing village in Cornwall (though imagine renaming Mousehole as Rathole – what was Christie thinking of?). And the main interest is the clothes, and an idea that Christie was to recycle a lot: Evil Under the Sun is the most direct descendent, and Triangle at Rhodes connects the two, but Peril at End House and Dead Man’s Folly all show trace elements. There are a few hints in the Christie Tropes piece I did for the TNC last year.

Let’s just say you should never ignore the hats in her work – one was important for a different reason in a Christmas entry from this book. My blogfriend Daniel Milford Cottam once mentioned that he’d like to do an anthology of hat short stories – he could fruitfully look at the blessed Agatha for many examples….

Fellow Tuesday Night-er Brad Friedman has done a wonderful analysis of all the stories in the book – this is the final part, with links to the other posts.

Mysteriously, the best poinsettia dress I could find was Barbie’s, on sale at Etsy, while red hats were easier to come across.


bloodstained pavement 5

Bathing suits are important in the story, in rather a chilling way. These ones are from a Jantzen advert of 1929 – not as skimpy as I was expecting from the era.





















Comments

  1. What a fun choice, Moira! And yes, it's always well to pay attention to hats in Christie stories, isn't it? Funny you'd mention the name change. Christie does that in a few stories that came to my mind. And you're right; she did re-use names. But somehow, she made it work, so that you don't mind, even if you notice it.

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    1. Yes, several good Christie tropes here, but I never get tired of them or think she is just repeating herself: she does it so cleverly.

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  2. That's Lana Turner in the hat and gloves, right?

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    1. Absolutely, well-spotted - I'm always impressed how you can do that!

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    2. What could be better than a youth spent watching films... I know cinemas are better, but I do remember that everything turned up on TV in days gone by, and if you watched your Radio Times and your Channel 4 most of the longlost treasures would eventually come on.

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  3. Thanks for the link, Moira. I do love this collection, but I agree with you: what is the killer's point for doing it this way? Why not at least travel farther afield so you lessen the risk of someone like Joyce spotting what's going on? It works much better in Evil Under the Sun, although wouldn't it have been much easier to "accidentally" drown Arlena while frolicking in the sea - or to just shove her quickly off a cliff? These murderers have too much a sense of drama!

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    1. Yes, you need to enjoy the plot and not ask too many questions. I did very much enjoy your pieces on this collection.

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  4. Well, Jantzen likes the classic tank suit, though I found an illustration from the 1920's/early 1930's with a cutout, Bikinis didn't come along until after WWII.

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    1. Cutout must have been rather daring. Every time I look for swimsuit illos I am surprised by them!

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  5. Bradley, it was so that the murderer has an alibi for the day and time the death apparently took place. But they were taking a chance - what if the body washed up earlier? And the murderer needs to "find" Arlena's dead body, and be visible on a different beach at the "time of death".

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  6. The point about Christie is that she did like to work out her murder methods over time. This particular one reached its zenith in EVIL UNDER THE SUN but she's refining the details here. She's fond of using that 'hiding in plain sight' idea, knowing that the reader will make certain assumptions about what is going on. The method here involves clothes, rather than some abstruse forensic fact, with the result that the readers doesn't think "I could never have guessed that!" It's just about looking at the same facts in a different way, which is one of the reasons that she is still read.

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    1. Yes to all - great analysis. I don't get annoyed with her about the recycling - I enjoy watching her refining the clever plot point she has thought of.

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  7. Lovely images for this post, Moira. Is this the first post you have done on this book of stories? For some reason, I thought you had covered it before. I will check out Brad's posts also.

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    1. I found Brad's posts really fascinating, Tracy, and I'm sure you will too. I did cover one of the other stories as part of Xmas theme http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/a-christmas-tragedy-by-agatha-christie.html

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    2. I knew I did not imagine it. But when I used The Thirteen Problems label it did not pick it up. I am pretty sure I have a copy of that book... and I will try it out.

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    3. Oh right, that makes sense - I SHOULD have had the label, but seem to have forgotten to add it because so busy listing themes such as Christmas and Tuesday Night Club! I am going to add it now...

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