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.
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
[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.
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
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.
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.