Mystery novels have become my new interest and trying to express the exact nature of my appreciation for this genre is difficult. Partially it’s sentimental; my mom is a big mystery reader and I caught on by listening to Elizabeth Peters mysteries on tape while growing up. Yet I think what catches my interest the most is the interactive nature that exists with a good mystery. In a way it’s a puzzle for the reader to solve as they follow the characters. I suppose one could read a Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot investigation without trying to solve it before the literary sleuth, but why bother? Why would anyone read the book if not for the excitement of finding out who killed who and why? But I digress.
Agatha Christie is frequently known as the Master of Mystery, and not without justification. She is, in my opinion, both a gifted intellect and a powerful writer. I lack significant knowledge of accomplishments with the pen, but after reading After the Funeral I can surmise her work will never disappoint.
“He was murdered, wasn’t he?”
What at first appeared to be nothing more than a callous comment at the funeral of Richard Abernathie seems much more pertinent when his sister, Cora Lansquenet, is found brutally murdered the following day. With this new development, questions start to arise that bring a new light to the death of Mrs. Lansquenet’s wealthy brother. Did he die of natural causes? What did Mrs. Lansquenet know that resulted in her early demise? Desperate for answers, retired detective Hercule Poirot is called to find out if this pair of tragic deaths was mere coincidence or if darker motives were involved.
As Poirot delves deeper into the other members of the family, suspicions begin to surface. But would any of the other relations go so far as murder to obtain what they want?
Mystery, intrigue, and good old fashion murder are only enhanced by the enriching writing of Agatha Christie. I’ve read a lot of mystery novels in my life, and I thought those experiences had given me the discerning ability to understand the form and flow of the genre. However, I now find myself being shown a remarkably different specimen which only improves my idea of what is the perfect mystery.
As a writer I by no means claim to understand the intricacies of story telling. My biggest weakness is character development. Those reading may feel inclined to raise an eyebrow at this statement as this weakness is such an important part of every story. I also see this and practice it as frequently as possible. After the Funeral is a prime example of what a book can accomplish when the author is in full awareness of the strength of her characters. This book, with all it’s puzzles, plot, and dialogue would be a shadow of it’s current self it not for Christie’s masterful prowess in creating characters of refined detail and personality.
This last point is the one which captured my fancies. In the young adult fiction that comes out so frequently today it is almost as frequent to find characters that are remarkably the same. They are either gifted with strength of mind, of body, or of spirit and often more than one of these. Their physical appearance is beautiful (either in description or assumed from the amount of attention it attracts) and often have the feeling of being more than our everyday selves. In contrast, I was both intrigued and excited to find most of the characters, including the illustrious Hercule Poirot, to be as real as anyone you would meet on the street. Though I hope no one takes my previous comments as reproach for the archetypes found in much popular fiction, it was surprisingly refreshing to interact with such literary people that bring out the best and worst of human nature in a realistic fashion.
I loved this book for it’s intellectual content and masterful storytelling. The only critique I can make isn’t something I see to be a problem, but others may disagree. The story, unlike some of her other books, is much more winding; the plot, seemingly pointed in one direction, will suddenly shift with a small, casually disclosed fact which may confuse the reader. As previously mentioned, I was impressed and pleased with the book and plan to read more of her work in the future. There is little better than a book that will challenge me mentally and Agatha Christie has certainly put me to the test.