#42 – Towards Zero

February sees someone planning murder. May and August see Mr Treves and Superintendent Battle are changing their holiday plans. September sees various parties converging on the sea…and all heading inexorably towards zero hour.

Nevile Strange would like his first and second wives to get on well and so makes sure that all three of them visit Lady Tressilian at the same time. This makes for a decidedly awkward houseparty which is not improved when their hostess is killed. It seems to be an open and shut case but once the visiting Superintendent Battle starts investigating it becomes clear that it is anything but.

This is possibly the only Christie novel that I haven’t read before (I’m hazy on They Came to Baghdad and Destination Unknown) but unfortunately I once caught the end of the Miss Marple TV adaptation (yes, clearly she isn’t the book but with only twelve novels what is a TV producer to do?) and so I didn’t get the full impact of this one. This means I find it quite hard to decide whether it is top drawer or not.

However it was definitely enjoyable and Christie set out to do something specific and I think she achieved her aim.

And now off to start watching the new BBC adaptation of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”.

Recurring character development

Superintendent Battle

Has five children of which Sylvia, aged 16, is the youngest.

His wife is called Mary.

Has a nephew in the police, Inspector Leach.

Signs of the Times

The story is probably set in 1938 given 12th September is a Monday.

Having survived his suicide attempt, Angus MacWhirter faces the “prospect of being hauled up in front of a police court for the crime of trying to take his own life”. In England and Wales this was the case until 1961.

Thomas Royde had the childhood nickname of “True Thomas”. Sir Thomas de Ercildoun (c.1220-1298) also known as Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas was meant to have been incapable of lying and was supposed to have prophesied various events in Scottish history.

Nevile has a Burberry coat. Burberry was founded in 1856 and became known for its waterproof coats. Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, and George Mallory all wore Burberry on their adventures.

References to previous works

A Lady Tressillian (two Ls) was Carla Lemarchant’s grandmother in Five Little Pigs, but for various reasons can’t be the same person as the victim in this book. It was clearly a favourite name of Christie’s as she also used it (with one L) for the butler in Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.

Battle refers to Hercule Poirot’s methods and mannerisms and something about the crime scene reminds him of him.

Vintage Mystery Challenge

Fulfils “What – Number in the title”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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