Thursday, June 23, 2011
Predictable, says Hercule Poirot, the great detective. But entirely unpredictable is that he can find absolutely no motive for murder... -- Harper
As part of the Cool Down with Agatha Christie that's taking place this summer, I am hosting a few readalongs of Hercule Poirot books. The first one is THREE ACT TRAGEDY by Agatha Christie. Before I jump in with the discussion, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about this novel.
THREE ACT TRAGEDY is the first Hercule Poirot book that I've read in many, many years -- probably 25 or so. I am almost positive that I didn't read this novel as a kid because I think I would have remembered the original way that Ms. Christie set up the novel. I loved how the beginning of the book looked just like a play program with the three acts and their separate scenes; and I thought the credits (i.e. Directed by Sir Charles Cartwright, Illumination by Hercule Poirot, etc.) were also a cute idea. In addition, I liked all of the references to the theater, both the authentic ones as well as the satiric ones!
As far as mysteries go, I loved THREE ACT TRAGEDY! There's definitely a reason that Agatha Christie is one of (if not the best) mystery writers to have ever lived. I loved all of the characters, especially the ones with the personality quirks, and I thought the mystery was complex and full of fantastic twists and turns. The suspects were a great cast of characters and I switched my idea of who was guilty at least four times. I also thought the motive was extremely interesting. I found that it showed some wise insight into human nature and the need for love and happiness. (But maybe I'm just reading too much into the story?)
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I read about half of THREE ACT TRAGEDY before watching the PBS film version -- so I knew the outcome before I actually finished the book. This is going to sound very strange, because I can't say for sure, but I think the movie manipulated me into figuring things out more quickly than the book did. I wasn't entirely sure about the motive while watching the movie, but I definitely figured out the murderer. I'm disappointed that I didn't have time to finish the book prior to viewing the movie because I am almost positive that I wouldn't have figured out the who or why based on the book alone. Lesson learned -- always read the book first!
While I will almost always say that the book is better (and I do still stand behind this belief for THREE ACT TRAGEDY), I thought the movie did do some things a little better. One of the main characters in the book (Mr. Satterthwaite) didn't even appear in the movie. I actually was very surprised that Hercule Poirot played such a small part until the end of the novel, and I liked that he more prominent role in the movie because they merged some of Satterthwaite's scenes with Poirot's. It didn't hurt that I loved Suchet's Poirot! In addition, I loved being able to "see" so much of the beautiful scenery -- from the modern house, to the gorgeous sea, etc.
Now it's your turn:
1) I was rather surprised by the small role that Hercule Poirot played in the novel. What did you think about Poirot? Did you like that the "amateur" sleuths provided much of the investigating in the story? If you've read other Poirot novels, how does THREE ACT TRAGEDY COMPARE?
2) Did you figure out the murderer and/or the motive before Poirot revealed them to us at the end of the book? What do you think Agatha Christie was trying to say about love and happiness (if anything)?
3) What did you think about the humor and wit in this novel? Were you surprised by the amount of satire?
4) Agatha Christie was a big fan of theater -- she wrote 19 plays including The Mousetrap which has been running non-stop in London since 1952. Did you appreciate how she portrayed the theater and its fans in this novel? Did you like how the book was set up -- the three "acts", the program design in the beginning, etc? Did you notice any other interesting references to the theater in this novel?
5) Why do you think Agatha Christie books stand the test of time?
Note: There is also a fantastic discussion of the film version of THREE ACT TRAGEDY on Linus's Blanket this week. If you missed the original showing on Sunday night, you can watch the movie here. Stop by Linus's Blanket and comment for your chance to win a copy of the Hercule Poirot Series 6 set of DVDs, which will be released on July 12.
Five participants in today's discussion have the opportunity to win a "cool" Agatha Christie prize pack including a copy of my next readalong book MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and a surprise AC gift!
In addition, I will be giving away three additional copies of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS for those of you who are interesting in participating in the discussion on July 21st. Just fill out the form below before June 30th. I will randomly select and notify the winners the following day. You don't have to have a blog to participate in the readalong!
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.