Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Murder is Easy - Agatha Christie

Please look away now if you are easily offended.  The following sentences make some anachronistic reference to cats.

One of the things that I like about Agatha Christie, a quality that means that I have moved straight on to a new Christie novel, is that she was writing from a different age.  Her social comments then - for example, the tensions between different generations, give us some sense of how things have, and have not changed.

What stood out for me - as a lover of language - is the use of pussy, or 'old pussy' to describe the ageing spinster women in the village of Wychwood.  The phrase is somewhat pejorative; it describes single women who are gossips, inclined to be fanciful and likely to have a cat as their closest companion.  Christie uses the word with a casual affection, however; and her 'old pussies', as Miss Marple, or Miss Pinkerton in this case, ably demonstrate, are generally underestimated - they are the ones who solve the crime.

Which, of course, is what I didn't do.  I knew who the killer was from the first moment I met the character.  Then, having followed a narrative that introduced a range of other plausible suspects, my suspicions were confirmed - my chosen suspect was the one.  Christie, however, simply toys with her readers - me as well.  She allowed me a few pages of I knew I was right smugness before she upended the novel and showed me that I was wrong all along.  Well done you 'old pussy'

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