I know, I’m know, I’m stretching the word ‘classic’ a little, but I’m allowed to take liberties with my own challenge. I unintentionally picked Death on the Nile to be my fifth classic exactly a year after reading And Then There Were None, a novel that blew me away. I bought a wonderful 1950s Penguin Classics edition from Skoob Books earlier this year because I knew it was one of her most popular novels.
I’d like to give you a little spoiler warning. I tend to think that anything mentioned when talking about mystery novels is a spoiler, but I haven’t said anything in this review that cannot be found in the blurb, which does say who is murdered.
It’s the 1930s and Linnet Ridgeway has everything. She’s beautiful, extremely wealthy, newly married, and admired by everyone. But her husband, Simon Doyle, was recently engaged to Linnet’s close friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort, who had unintentionally introduced the couple to each other in the hope that Linnet would give Simon a job. Understandably furious, Jacqueline begins to follow the happy couple everywhere they go, including on their honeymoon to Egypt. She’s stealthy, angry, and in a fit of emotion, she tells detective Hercule Poirot – also on holiday – that she would like nothing more than to shoot Linnet in the head. Shortly after, Linnet is found murdered.
As Death on the Nile was my first encounter with Hercule Poirot, I did not know quite what to expect before beginning the book, but what I found was a character who’s very self-assured, self-confident and I’d even say he is quite cocky, but no doubt you would be after solving so many crimes, especially in Agatha Christie’s world; so many of her characters so far seem blasé about murder! Poirot himself is a mysterious and elusive man – for a character who is constantly revealing the intimate details about other characters’ lives, we do not find out too much about him.
‘So it was she who told you.’
Poirot said gently, ‘Excuse me; she did not tell me.’
‘But then, how do you know?’
‘Because I’m Hercule Poirot I do not need to be told.’
Death on the Nile, surprisingly, often felt like a television drama. Jealously! Affairs! Revenge! Gossip! It was highly entertaining and I developed an affinity for Jacqueline de Bellefort in particular. I most likely shouldn’t, since she, let’s say, took it a bit too far! Yet I enjoyed her clarity and audacity and I was never completely sure whether she should remain a suspect or not. On a ship travelling down the Nile, tensions are high and everybody is suspect. Death on the Nile is also not exactly what we would call politically correct, and it really is fascinating to see what sort of language, cultural and social attitudes were deemed acceptable in the 1930s.
Death on the Nile, however, was much slower than And Then There Were None and so unfortunately I suspect it will not end up as one of my favourite Agatha Christie novels. It took nearly half of the book before a murder was committed and although I was quite enjoying the build up, it meant that the second half of the book – the attempt to solve the murder – was rushed. Even so, I’m very much looking forward to reading more Agatha Christie and I’d buy her entire backlist if I were able to. Next up, The Mysterious Affair at Styles!
Published: 1953, originally 1st November 1937
Publisher: Penguin Classics, but edition pictured published 2011 by HarperCollins
If you liked: And Then There Were None