A couple of weeks ago, Mackey at Macsbooks started off a feature #MurderousMondays in which she shares her latest murder read. As she wrote in that post, murder mysteries come in various forms, cosies, paranormal, historical, futuristic, and contemporary of course, and like her I love most of them. Since I enjoy them so much and read murder mysteries very often, I thought of borrowing this feature. I may not post something under this feature every week, but it will appear pretty often.
This month (reading plans here) my reading theme is the 1930s, and I essentially have a set of books on my TBR which were written in the 1930s. So my pick for #MurderousMondays was also a book written in the 1930s, Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. Published in 1937, this is the seventeenth in the Hercule Poirot series of books.
As the book opens, we ‘meet’ Linnet Ridgeway, an heiress who is refurbishing a country house she has just acquired—she is a girl who has it all, money, looks, brains. She claims she has no enemies but she has interfered in people’s lives which may have given rise to grudges. Her friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort, who has fallen on bad times but has so far refused to take any favours or charity comes to visit, seeking a job for her fiancé, Simon Doyle. Fast forward a little, and we see Linnet has ‘stolen’ Simon from Jackie and is now Mrs Doyle, on honeymoon with her husband in Egypt. We also meet a few other travellers who have come there on holiday, including Hercule Poirot, and a couple of people who we see have come from England and America to intercept Linnet, though we don’t know the precise reasons why. Jacqueline de Bellefort has had her heart-broken, and wants revenge, and follows the Doyles wherever they go, doing nothing, threatening nothing, simply being there. When the Doyles try to escape her by going on a Nile cruise, without making their plans known, she appears once again. What seems to be mere unpleasantness or annoyance takes a more serious turn when an attempt is made on Linnet’s life at Abu Simbel. While she escapes this, soon after, she is found dead with a bullet through her head (just as Jackie had once threatened) after an evening of much drama and confusion. But while Jackie had the strongest motive, she also seems to have a solid alibi; and there are also others on board who may have had reasons of their own to do away with Linnet. To add to the confusion, the travellers are joined on their return journey by Colonel Race who is in search of another murderer, travelling under an assumed identity. Are they the same or different? Does Poirot manage to catch his killer?
This one is certainly on my favourites list of Poirot books both because of the plot and the setting. The setting in more than one way is interesting—first of course, that it is in Egypt, and takes us down the Nile. The four great statues of Abu Simbel staring down at one, imposing, awe-inspiring, and also unsettling for some, where some of the action takes place. The other aspect of the setting is that it is more or less is like a country house setting with a bunch of people (though here they don’t all know each other) in a common space, one of them most certainly a murderer, and one who strikes repeatedly. Then of course, there is the plot itself. While the bare plot is that of a rich woman who was murdered, there are many smaller plot twists and turns—most characters, it seems, have things to hide, some innocuous and others not so much so, which might well throw anyone (not Poirot of course), on the wrong track or off track. It was great fun seeing him unveil all of the secrets, and unravel the threads to get to the truth or truths since they are more than one. There is a hint of romance as well of course, and while some of it was guessable, there are surprises there as well. All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. While this was a revisit for me, I remembered the main plot well but not all of the many subplots, so I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.
There have been a few film and television adaptations of this one, including a 1978 version starring Peter Ustinov as Poirot; a TV version with David Suchet; and an upcoming version. There is also a hidden object game based on the book.
Have you read this book or watched any of the adaptations? How did you like it/them? Have you tried the game version? Any other murder mysteries that you’d recommend set in Egypt? Looking forward to your thoughts!