Murder at Hazelmoor
Having immersed myself in the works of Agatha Christie for the last few months, I was very happy to discover two gems of hers that could easily be overlooked. Endless Night and Murder at Hazelmoor are not your typical Agatha Christie works. Neither book features her most well-known characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. Each book is very character driven and, while murders certainly do occur, the unraveling of the mystery isn’t really the most interesting part of the story. It’s easy to forget that, in addition to crafting clever puzzles and surprise endings, Christie was just a really good writer who drew the reader into her world with ease and deft.
Endless Night is one of the later Christies having been published in the U.S. in 1968. Its modern tone is a little jarring at first (Should the phrase “sex personified” really appear in an Agatha Christie book?). It is, I think, one of her darker works. Christie seems to have a soft spot for romance and usually throws a happy couple into her stories. No such happy couple here. Most of the book concerns the courtship and marriage of Mike and Ellie. After their marriage, they settle in a custom-built house on some supposedly cursed land called Gypsy’s Acre. The murder doesn’t happened until almost three quarters of the way in, but once it does other bodies begin piling up at an alarming rate. No spoilers, but Christie aficionados may spot some previously used devices.
Murder at Hazelmoor is, in contrast, a very early work (published in 1931). It has a lighter, more madcap feel to it. An elderly gentleman in an isolated village has been murdered. Was his murder predicted at a séance? His best friend doesn’t think so, but is worried enough to travel six miles in a snowstorm to find out. Many red herrings follow with all the village inhabitants and the dead man’s family coming under suspicion. Emily, the plucky fiancée of the deceased’s nephew (aided by aspiring journalist, Charles Enderby), tracks down the truth. Unlike Endless Night, which really has no detective, Murder at Hazelmoor has Inspector Narracott on the case. He’s a rather dull character, but perfectly functional. It’s really Emily and her friend who steal the show. I was completely surprised by the ending. Of course, with a master like Christie, I always am.
M. B. Newbill
Southern History Department