Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Death on the Nile

 Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie 

Linnet Ridgeway is the girl who has everything--looks, brains, money. And now she's got her best friend's fiancé. Jaqueline de Bellefort, poor in her own circumstances but desperately in love, had asked her friend to give Simon Doyle a job. Because as she declares to Linnet, "I shall die if I can't marry him! I shall die! I shall die! I shall die...!" She swears Simon is just perfect for the job of land manager for Linnet's new estate and Linnet agrees to look him over. When she does, she decides that he is just perfect...for her.

Next thing we know Linnet and Simon are married. They've chosen Egypt as their honeymoon destination and plan to spend a blissful month visiting the pyramids, looking at the Sphinx, and sailing down the Nile. But life doesn't always turn out as planned...there's little bliss to be found when everywhere they go, up pops Jackie. Annoying as can be, but not actually abusive or threatening. What can be done?

Also vacationing in Egypt is Hercule Poirot. When Jackie shows up again at the Cataract Hotel and Linnet spies Poirot out on the terrace, the heiress tries to hire him to get rid of Jackie. But there's nothing he can do (again, the broken-hearted girl isn't actually hurting anyone by vacationing in the same places as the honeymooners)...and he will not be hired by the imperious young woman whom he suspects feels more guilty than she will admit. He does, however, talk with Jackie about letting her anger go because he senses she is embarking on a dangerous journey.

Do not open your heart to evil....Because--if you do--evil will come...Yes, very surely evil will come...It will enter in and make its home within you and after a while it will no longer be possible to drive it out.

But Jackie is determined to make the honeymoon a miserable as possible. And, even, it seems, has contemplated murder. She shows Poirot a little pearl-handled pistol that sometimes she would love to put up against Linnet's head and just press the trigger--but as long as the persecution keeps rattling them, she won't.

The four of them wind up on the Karnak, sailing down the Nile with an assortment of interesting passengers. There is Linnet's maid (Louise) and her American trustee ("Uncle" Andrew Pennington) who just "happened" to run into the happy couple in Cairo. There is also a sex-obsessed romance novelist (Salome Otterbourne) and her unhappy daughter Rosalie; Tim Allerton and his mother; a member of the American high society (Mrs. Van Schuyler) and her entourage consisting of poor relation/companion Cornelia and a nurse, Miss Bowers; an offensively outspoken communist (Mr. Ferguson); an Italian archaeologist Guido Richetti; a solicitor Jim Fanthorp; and a famous Austrian physician Dr. Bessner. And..Poirot's old friend Colonel Race

One evening, a hysterical scene takes place between Jackie and Simon with the result that she shoots him in the leg. And then when Linnet Doyle winds up dead--from a pistol shot--suspicion naturally focuses on Jackie. But Jackie couldn't have done it. She was attended by the nurse all night after being dosed with morphine for her hysterics. Poirot and Race work together to investigate and soon learn that just about every passenger aboard has a possible motive for wishing Linnet dead. But who took the opportunity of a dropped pistol to make the wish reality?

Well, I wound up having a regular floating Christie party. I listened to the audio novel version read by David Suchet. I read the hard copy novel. And I ended my excursion down the Nile with the 1978 film featuring Peter Ustinov as our Belgian sleuth. Definitely one of my top ten Christie excursions--I was thoroughly baffled on first reading and I love way she is able to make clues point in several directions with what seems to be little effort (though I know she carefully plotted these things out) and nothing & nobody is ever quite what they seem.   ★★★★

First Line: Linnet Ridgeway! "That's Her!" said Mr. Burnaby, the landlord of the Three Crowns.

Last Line: For, as Mr. Ferguson was saying at that minute in Luxor, it is not the past that matters but the future.

********

Deaths = 5 (four shot; one stabbed)

No comments: