Death on the Nile By Agatha Christie
There are times in our lives when we need the literary equivalent of "comfort food". When the concentration required for a serious novel is difficult to summon up we can turn to a mystery novel by authors such as Agatha Christie, Donna Leon or John Harvey. These can be re-read every so many years, and you know exactly what you are going to get – a well-written and put together novel, a way to pass the time, a guaranteed time out from the troubles you are living with. I also read this sort of book as a relief after reading a disturbing and intense novel. I recently picked up Death on the Nile to cleanse the palate and replace visions of all-too-real desperation with the very make-believe murders of an Agatha Christie mystery novel.
I adore Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot, who seem one in the same to me. Hercule Poirot is such an endearing character. In this novel, the focus is a little less on Hercule's mannerisms and his very particular care of his person, and more on his investigation.
Hercule is on holiday – a cruise on the Nile.
Who doesn't dream of a cruise on the Nile, stopping to see the sights and spending dreamy days floating along the river banks? Of course, this is set in the 1930s – a very different world than we would find there today. These were the days of wealthy tourists traveling in luxury, along with lots of suitcases, trunks and servants. It is a very mixed lot of tourists on this particular voyage. There is the requisite American heiress, Linnet, on her honeymoon with her husband Simon Ridgeway. There is a mystery writer and her daughter; a wealthy old snob and her niece and nurse-companion; a couple of archaeologists, along with Linnet's American financial guardian and a British lawyer, also concerned about Linnet's fortune; and a British police officer seeking a notorious jewel thief.
The novel begins in England where Linnet has grown up and, on becoming an adult, has purchased an estate which she is restoring at great expense. We meet Linnet's friend, Jacqueline and her lover Simon. When Simon and Linnet meet for the first time it appears to be "love-at-first-sight" and marriage soon follows. Linnet and Simon arrive in Egypt to cruise the Nile on their honeymoon, and find that Jackie is there as well. Jackie proceeds to follow them everywhere claiming that she would sooner see them dead than suffer the loss of Simon's love. Hercule Poirot is much concerned about the situation and attempts to convince Jackie that she must put aside her distress and make a new life for herself.
When - surprise, surprise - Linnet is murdered, Jackie is of course the one most suspected. The other usual suspect would be the husband, but both Simon and Jackie have excellent alibis.
After another couple of murders and multiple red herrings, Hercule, of course, determines the solution and things end up mostly happily ever after for many of our voyagers.
There have been several films made from this story, but none can come close to capturing the story as told by the late Dame Agatha – always a pleasure, always an escape.