My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First let’s be honest – this is a book meant for hard-core fans of Agatha Christie. But it might also be a curiosity for other authors that are interested in the creative process of the most widely published writer in history.
Curran unearthed a treasure-trove of Christie’s notebooks where she sketched out ideas for most of her work. It sometimes reveals fascinating insight into possible alternate endings, how she developed the names of characters, and how/when she decided on a detective for a given book.
So for the Christie fan, this is all quite interesting. It mainly just got me excited about going back to some of her novels to read them again. Even though this book is full of spoilers, it’s easy to forget them when you’re reading so many.
My two main criticisms…
First, the book is not ordered in the most logical way. Curran has chosen to group notes on books based on a few themes, such as book titles based on famous quotes, or books that take place in foreign locales. Perhaps it’s more interesting than a chronology, but sometimes the books grouped together are just too disparate.
Secondly, the author is extremely opinionated, and sometimes offers up his opinions as fact. He lavishes praise over novels like Crooked House and Endless Night, while pointing out perceived faults in others. And it appears that he has no love for the Tommy and Tuppence books, which are not examined in any detail. All this is not to say that Christie’s work varied in quality, but I just found it presumptuous that Curran expects we will agree with his opinions. Sometimes I did (yes, Hallowe’en Party was weak) but other times I strongly disagreed (Endless Night was an unsurprising retread in my eyes).
In summary, taken with a grain of salt, this book is invaluable to any true fan of Agatha Christie.