Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Murder at HazelmoorThe Murder at Hazelmoor by Agatha Christie
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Years ago I read several novels by Agatha Christie, and I did not like them too much, regardless of whether they featured Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, or were non-series. Not only did they not have, in my view, any literary merits, but also I could not learn from them anything new about people or the world. True, they provided a relatively painless, perhaps even pleasant way of spending time, but with so many better books around this was wasted time. Curious about my current, foggy-brained geezer reaction to Ms. Christie's prose I decided to read her standalone "Murder at Hazelmoor" (the British title is "The Sittaford Mystery"). Alas, the best thing I can say about the novel is that it reads very fast - there is virtually nothing there to focus on.

The location is a tiny village on the fringes of Dartmoor in Devonshire, and the time is about 1930. A group of people are participating in a table-turning séance in Captain Trevelyan's house. The spirits tell them that the owner of the house, who temporarily lives elsewhere, is dead. Inspector Narracott of the Exeter police handles the case, but there is also a parallel investigation led by young and energetic Emily, who has a personal stake in the case.

All characters are paper thin; these are not real people. The dialogues sound artificial, even when one takes into account that the book was written about 85 years ago. A substantial portion of the novel is dedicated to clumsy manufacturing of holes in alibis of various characters. The writing is pedestrian and occasionally quite awkward (e.g., "Adroitly, unperceived by the other, Emily managed to discard her gloves [...]") There are two little things, though, that I liked about the novel: a mention of a "charabanc" (I had to resort to Google search), and the fact that the fictitious village of Sittaford would be only about 20 miles or so from the town of Liskeard, near which I spent few weeks 43 years ago.

One and a half stars.

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