Thursday, 7 April 2016

they do it with mirrors

On Sunday 3rd April I finished They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie. It was okay; I wouldn't specially recommend it to anyone as a good read or an ingenious structure/plot/solution.

Sometimes with old crime novels it's hard to know whether something in it is falling back on a well-used cliche or is in fact an early use of an idea which has become a cliche. There were a couple of those in here; but 1952 - the date of publication - is perhaps a bit late for them to be early versions; but then also with Agatha Christie, who used so many ideas so many times in so many ways, even when an idea seems familiar you wonder if it's being used as a bluff, or as a double bluff...

One of the neatest things she does is hide things in plain sight sometimes. The title, for example, clearly relates to tricks and misdirection; but an obvious use of misdirection can also be a misdirection...

A combination of these two elements - 'cliche' and 'misdirection' - led me, unusually, to see (without trying to work it out) what the solution probably was. Though equally it's interesting to try to then read a book keeping attentive to other possibilities, because if you get fixated early on upon what you think the solution is, you can easily see everything that feeds into that solution and ignore the things which would lead you to see the actual solution.

An interesting thing on the copyright page (of course I read the copyright page - don't you?) was to notice that the book was copyright to Rosalind Margaret Clarissa Hicks and William Edmund Cork. The former was her daughter; I don't know who the latter was (but he wasn't her son-in-law, which thwarted my hypothesis that the gift of copyright was something like a wedding present).

First line: Mrs Van Rydock moved a little back from the mirror and sighed.
Last line: 'I don't suppose you can,' said Miss Marple. 'It was all a long time ago ...'
Dedication: To Matthew Prichard

The cover of my 1986 edition is part of the series (no design credit) which leads with Agatha's name and the title (in big, retro font), with a relevant object or two on a soft colour background. Not especially grabby, but if you're looking for an Agatha Christie you'll spot it.

And it has a house floor plan, as country house crime novels often do, which is always nice, though often not particularly necessary (I looked at it at the start, and didn't pay particular attention to it, but looking at it afterwards one might consider that the fact of it being there at all is a clue).