Wednesday, 12 March 2014

n or m?

On Saturday I finished N or M? by Agatha Christie. It wasn't very good, as I have found to be generally the case when I read one of hers which tries to be a spy adventure/thriller. It was also one of those where the characters spend a lot of time suspecting people and building theories in one direction so that you know they must be wrong (slightly different from the problem with Why Didn't They Ask Evans, which was one of those where the characters spend so much time coming up with all kinds of theories for so many different people that it all feels very pointless to bother reading it). And also, fairly unusually, there was a pointer in the middle of the book to who was a bad'un which seemed far too obvious, and then another.

The most interesting thing about it was to read a book published in 1941 and set at the time, with characters talking about the war as it was going on (which would have been read by people having similar conversations; not a historical novel). The most interesting detail in it is that where in a lot of detective novels before then there might have been a character who was suspicious because he was a Jew, this one had a character who was suspicious because he wasn't a Jew (being a German refugee).

The book gets a surprisingly detailed Wikipedia entry (with some surprisingly positive review quotes), where I learned two things. Firstly, 'The title is taken from a catechism in the Book of Common Prayer which asks, "What is your Christian name? Answer N. or M."' Secondly, that she was supposedly investigated because she called a character Major Bletchley (as in Bletchley Park); this was presumably picked up from the brief mention on the book's page on the official website or from this interesting Guardian article, which makes it sound plausible.