Saturday, March 28, 2015

Agatha Christie : The Murder On The Links, 1923

Agatha Christie wrote The Murder On The Links in 1923.It is the second novel in the series Poirot, after The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the onset of 1920 at which appeared Poirot, and the third in general, because a year earlier, in 1922, was released The Secret Adversary,at which appeared the couple Tommy & Tuppence.
It is one of the novels that I liked most, of the many written by Agatha Christie. One reason: the text is a fresh, crisp, full of pitfalls, of false leads, clues true and false clues, and with a final fireworks display. Also is the novel in which the tender Captain Hasting falls in love with the beautiful Cerentola, and then to each other "yellow" mixes also a rose: in this way, the Christie laid the premises for some novel further, the friend of Poirot emigrated to Argentina, along with his better half, leaving Hercule alone to face from time to time the bad guys that the case puts in front. What do you want: more years pass, I become more romantic!
Poirot received a letter from a certain Mr. Renaud, a resident in France, who implores him to go to his aid for an imminent danger: for this he hires him, promising him a cachet that Poirot himself will have to set: therefore a subject has great economic possibilities. Poirot and Hastings embark, but when they get home to him, they find out that on the night he was murdered.
The wife is the only heir of the Renaud’s - because he, after a furious argument with his son Jack, disinherited him - was found tied so tightly that the strings have plagued meat. Moreover, at the sight of the corpse of Renaud, stabbed in the back with a dagger, memory of war, made by his son Jack, his wife faints. Poirot is convinced that she can not have killed her husband, who was found face down, donning a coat too long for him, where they find a compromising letter with a certain Belle, with below the underwear, lying on the ground, in a pit dug for him, on a golf course. The wife said during that night she was taken by force by two bearded men, by olive complexion, coming from South America (Santiago, Chile, because there Renaud had been in the past), who spoke about a secret that he would have to reveal; that all occurred at two o’ clock, and that her husband was forced, after wearing an overcoat, to walk away with them to a destination not too far away. It is found a clock with broken glass, but working indicating two o’clock. Giraud, a French policeman, opposite to Poirot for ideas (immanence opposed to transcendence, the mere hint material as opposed to psychological analysis) finds also a match and a cigarette butt, a long hair (woman or man). The two are as opposed from beliefs different as from mutual dislike.
Meanwhile, Capt. Hastings has made the acquaintance of Cinderella, a variety starlet that performs with her sister. At her request, he brings her to see the body (tells him to be a freelance journalist) and the dagger that was extracted, she faints, he carries her out, leaving ajar the door of the shed where the body is still preserved, and someone else steals the dagger. Consequence? Another is found murdered, in another shed nearby.

Dresses well but his hands testify that it was someone who did manual labor. No one recognizes him. It would appear that he had been killed with the same dagger, or else the same, but then it turns out that even he was dead before was killed Renaud, and who was stabbed after he was already dead for a seizure. Why?
To all the slaughter of false evidence, true, corpses galore, it is to add a story between Renaud and Mrs. Daubreuil who lives with his daughter Martha, in love with Jack Renaud, in a nearby villa: the wife of Renaud adds that they had a history together, but does not say that, instead, it was blackmail. It learns from the Secretary of Renaud, Stonor, speaking about large sums paid by Renaud to Daubreuil. Why? Who is George Conneau, tied to Mrs. Daubreuil, from a previous famous case of murder, a fugitive for a long time?
Poirot will come to the solution, not before two alleged killers, innocent, has been declared and they have declared themselves guilty (without being this), especially the second, to allow Poirot to frame the real murderer who after killing Renaud tried to kill even his wife.
Novel truly magnificent, with a young Poirot, especially in full mental health (to be enjoyed, his ruminations on his famous "gray cells"), is a constant whirlwind of situations some almost to the limit of the paradoxical, if not grotesque, while being dramatic. You don’t understand how Agatha Christie has given so rein to her imagination, inventing a plot so tangled yet so straightforward: there are two false solutions, obviously indicating two false killers, before the real, in which also enters Cinderella, or not Cinderella, but almost; real clues (those located by Poirot: a piece of pipe, the dirty rags); strange behaviors: why does Poirot  measure the length of the coat that Renaud wore when was stabbed ? false leads (those located by Giraud) and the broken clock, in addition to the dagger: there is one really? Or more than one? And why did Jack say the false swearing that during the night of the assassination of his father, he was away from home, while it was not true?
The set of situations and behaviors we rushed back through the years: there are the alleged criminals, with fake beards, who come from a country far away, where the victim had worked and where he met a "secret"; a famous process that emerges from the past; a strange double murder; a romance and gallantry of the past. There is still a freshness and ingenuity that the '30s will wipe out,  with their hypercomplex plots

It’s clear that the careful reader will find strange references, in this Agatha Christie unripe: the victim that recalls a distant land, a secret, an alleged assassination linked to that, of the criminals with fake beards, are all factors that call immediately to mind The Valley of Fear by Conan Doyle (1916), one of the four novels with Sherlock Holmes. But there is not only this. No, there is also the other. Who or what, does draw the twice investigator, the challenge between a serious (Poirot) and a ridiculous (Giraud), each committed to take in the other chestnut? I drew immediately Maurice Leblanc, and situations from feuelliton and recall specific to a compilation of two stories, by the French writer: Arsène Lupin contre Herlock Sholmes, where the French champion, gentleman-thief lent to the detection (Arsene Lupin) is opposed to a farcical and ridiculous English detective, Herlock Sholmes, bad copy of the most famous Sherlock Holmes .. The challenge between the cousins ​​across the Channel, which had been marked by Leblanc, stating the French intelligence on stolidity English, here is turned with a challenge not between English and French cousins ​​, but between French and Belgian cousins, where the Belgian is both personification of the English spirit.
That Christie could know the work seems plausible to me, given that the two writings Leblanc are ascribed to the years 1906-1907 and the volume was published in 1908. For the rest, here as well as in the original French, we have situations of hilarity spread: the French policeman, who searchs  for clues like a bloodhound, complete with a magnifying glass, hands and knees on the floor, is opposed to the former policeman Belgian Hercule Poirot (but living in England), who discovers the clue fragment check, just because obsessed to put order where there it is not: and so under a carpet badly put, he finds the clue, escaped the most. This discovery is not a coincidence, but is the product of the method by Poirot, according to which "the order arises from confusion" : as it is necessary for in the study by Renaud the carpet is smoothed roughly and his flap is put back in place, because is inconceivable to Poirot that something is in disorder, so it is necessary that in the context of the problem all the tiles fall into place naturally, without forcing. And then, when there is something in the order of his gray cells can not be explained, it can not be guessed even if it appeared to be that at first sight.

Poirot opposes to mere material evidence, the acute psychology of his gray cells. The false clue from broken clock is a masterpiece, but it is even more the clue coat: his explanation is pure class. Not to mention the dagger, or rather of the two daggers: yes, this is the icing on the cake. The second body, which is stabbed by the same dagger found on the first victim, you know he was already dead when was found Renaud: so how did the same dagger to be in body of a man stabbed before? It’s clear that there should be two daggers! But then the other will happen again and you will find that the daggers were actually ...
For the rest, bad women opposed to good and defenseless women, and a chaperone as Hastings, ready to throw everything to the winds for the beautiful Cinderella, in one of the most compelling novels of the first period of Agatha Christie.

Pietro De Palma

Monday, March 23, 2015



Since my blog was born , I would not have hoped for a similar result!

                             Soon will take up to publish new things.

      Thanks to all those who have become regulars of my space.

Pietro De Palma

Monday, February 23, 2015

Minette Walters: The Scold's Bridle, 1994

In 20s and 30s, the C series of the novels , confronted with that of today, would win if not blatantly, surely with a difference of points.
However it is also true that sometimes (thank God!) some of the contemporary writers is notable for complexity and freshness of invention.
I recently read a novel by the British writer Minette Walters, I own for many years and that I was never able to read first: The Scold's Bridle, 1994 (Gold Dagger Award 1994).
In it there is the story of a crime and shameful secrets, tortuous and devastating that a woman has noted in her diaries.
Mathilde has a daughter, Joanna,  and a granddaughter, Ruth: together they form a trio of "witches", wicked women, devoted to destruction of the other, but which are beings destroyed in the depths of their souls: Mathilde, beautiful woman and from a family extremely wealthy, the Cavendish (the father, was indeed a member of parliament, but also alcoholic), so exuberant at parties and so desired, in the center of the events of British country in which she lives, in reality she was raped by her uncle ogre, George Cavendish , when she was still a minor, and the shock of this youth violence, perpetrated in the birth of the fruit of violence, it is transmitted to the small Jeanne, daughter unintended, born in the hate and doughter from the hate.
At the time of the birth of Joanna, illegitimate daughter of her uncle, among others, in turn, a victim of his subnormality (he is the product of the crossings as part of a family in which tares have developed exponentially), Mathilde found a person who was agreed to marry her, James, in turn impotent. James figures as the legitimate father of Joanna, but following a family dispute (due to his betrayal), abandons his wife and daughter and moved to Hong Kong. One day reappears and decides (after having had an interview with his ex-wife, due to a certain collection of watches of value inherited from his father, declared stolen by his wife and compensated by insurance, but in fact only set aside) to make tit for tat to Mathilde, who has cheated him: he reveals to the daughter the actual paternity, and as George Cavendish, her actual father and great-uncle,  had broadcast his inheritance, exclusively, instead became property of the  mother. In fact, precisely because of genetic defects of George's father, he had ordered that, his son's death, the property would go to his brother still alive, the second son, the father of Mathilde: this to preserve the property and avoid that excessive generosity of George, due to his subnormality,  finally liquidated it in no time at all.

The conflict between the two personalities from Mathilde and Joanna, never got along, then deepens due to the property that each of the two claims as her own. At two adds Ruth, daughter from Joanna, born in the desperation of a marriage gone bad even before accomplished, daughter of a failed musician, drugged and died from an overdose, he spent all the money earned is not in support of his daughter (to which he wanted very well) but in drugs.
Mathilde is as if he needed to Joanna, but over time he can not stand because without her money Joanna can not carry on in modest: she has become a call girl by high board, prostituting herself in London. On the other hand the same niece Ruth, is remained prey, in her insecurity, of a certain Hughes, a young illiterate but by great charm, who has bent her to his purposes: he is at the head of a gang of youths, younger than him, that he has weaned the rape of young girls even more rich, blackmailed and forced on the basis of threat of rapes, to steal money and valuables from their family homes. It’s also the case of Ruth, raped by Hughes and granted him the pack who raped her in turn for five hours. Ruth has bent to the will of her executioner-rapist-lover, stealing money and valuables from the house by Mathilda. The matriarch, not wanting to leave her estate to her daughter and grandson, because she fears that it could be liquidated in less than no time, resorts to a ruse, imaginative but that will have devastating repercussions on raising of family and on the environment citizen: as she has established a solid friendship with her family doctor, Sarah Blakeney, and also (but you will come to know later) with the husband by Sarah, Jack Blakeney (painter not yet recognized but very talented, so much to be portrayed fully nude, while being older), kicked out of the house for an extramarital relationship, to the doctor she  leaves her entire fortune, wanting in this way to give a jolt to the environment (and to do this, she shall instruct a camera crew to shoot a video with the music of background). Although the video has yet to be completed, someone, seizing the right moment, kills Mathilda: the old woman is found in the bathtub with her wrists cut, and wearing a terrible medieval instrument of coercion, "the bite the shrew ", an iron mask holding a muzzle, a pillory that imprisons the tongue.
However,  thorny twigs too symmetrically arranged inside the mask, so as to torture even more the victim, leads investigators to classify the death, a murder.
Many among those who could benefit from them: the daughter and niece first, but would alibis bombproof (truly removable alibis); Sarah and her husband; James, the first husband by Mathilda; Jane and Paul, friends of Mathilda, who fear she spreads their secrets: Jane was the lover of James, while Paul has fucked Mathilda, and from the relationship was born a creature, which was previously thought to be male, then turns out to be a female. To complicate the plot, there is also the pair of Violet and Duncan, tenants of Mathilda, who live in a wing of Cedar House: Violet has sent letters about the event, while Duncan was definitely another lover of Mathilda.
Obviously, the murderer shall be really the less likely, in a memorable final.
Extraordinary novel by Walters, The Scold's Bridle is a wonderful blend of Mystery and Thriller, which assumes sometimes even the movements of social novel, according to a contemporary narrative that would define Crime Fiction. The two kinds indicated are plumbed with a deep psychological cut, even merciless, which dissects the story in its innermost recesses, moment by moment. The connotation strong and intensely dramatic, is enriched by ashes hard-boiled, which give verve and rhythm, to a narrative that for a way to analyze the story very closely, could also be slow.
The typical design by Minette Walters, author born in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire in 1949, and English author by successful  (also winner: John Creasey Awarddel Crime Writers' Association for the best first novel, The Ice House, 1992; the Gold Dagger Award in 1994 for The Scold's Bridle own; the MWA Edgar Award and the Macavity Award in 1993 for The Sculptress, and again in 2003 the Gold Dagger for Fox Evil) that is, to describe dramas within broken families , here, better than in any other case, are exploited to perfection, giving us a glimpse of the social community citizen, intimately linked to embezzlement, theft, rapes, incest, betrayal, murder, shameful secrets, blackmail, fraud, including its representatives, all related in one way or another to each other, except at Mathilda, according to a typically British scheme, in which the victim is almost always belonging to the high bourgeoisie unless aristocracy.

The ability of Minette Walters to deeply understand the mentality perverse by murderer is not free even to make the potential weakness: the murders are not games of chesses with investigators, as in the classic mystery, but are duels painful  from which no out injured only the killers but also the detectives, all affected in the soul. So the murderer here, is not an evil, but a person who kills because he can only do so, the victim of fate, and also of Mathilda, who is both a victim, because raped in her lost childhood for a childbirth not wanted, and executioner, in her bully all those around her, when not in blackmail others with her memoirs written in the famous Diaries, sought in vain by the police and instead destroyed by the murderer.
Mathilda is the key element of the story and the same narrative structure gives us more figures of detectives who in turn, support the weight of the narrative: Sarah, Sergeant Cooper, Inspector Jones, the faithless husband of Sarah: Jake. Will be he, avenger of Ruth, redeemed husband able to recapture with a tenderness never revealed so thoroughly, his wife, and at the same time able to thoroughly analyze the action coming to reconstruct the figure of the murderer, freeing the action Investigation from the plate. To four investigators who take turns in the story, is adding a fifth figure detective we would like to say, constantly present: is the character  of Mathilda, who, with a different page come from her Diaries, introduces each chapter, and at the same time directs and explains the narrative action and the choices of the other subjects. It’s this a scheme already adopted by other novelists (eg. as in Rim of the Pit, by Hake Talbot).
But there is not only the presence of impersonal and intrusive Mathilda to direct the speech, but also that of a sixth detective, the great playwright William Shakespeare, who  illustrates hand by hand the personalities and situations, with specific references and quotations from his works. The presence of Shakespeare is not random, but even necessary, because just with the figure of a his character, will explain the death of Mathilda, her torture and her relationship with the menage of her surroundings.
The result is a highly evocative writing, full of ideas and cultural destinations
, and very flexible in the explanations of disturbed personalities of the characters (all in various ways, victims of circumstance or of themselves), but at the same time, never heavy, and instead extremely multifaceted and rich in rhythm.
Pages that are read with extraordinary pleasure, and that lead to a final no obvious and to a murderer, not fallen from heaven, but instead very true, in his humanity and in his despair.
Wanting to better fathom the narrative material, what emerges is a duplicity of motives, which run within the story on two parallel tracks, and that are crossed by various people. The two tracks, are two temptations always present in the human soul, but that have characterized the last two decades of the twentieth century: money and sex. All the characters more or less, are pervaded by them, but at only one character, the two temptations, bind and fuse each other (although the motive deeper will be the sex): at the soul of the murderer.

Pietro De Palma