Closed Casket.

Last week I read another of Agatha Christie’s Poirot follow-on novels, by Sophie Hannah. I can see why the estate/ family of the ‘queen of crime’ appreciates- and authorizes- this author’s literary offerings.

I don’t know how many of Agatha Christie’s own books I’ve devoured, but there are never enough of them, are there? Hercule Poirot’s moustaches, Miss Marple’s knitting needles, Tommy and Tuppence’s quirky relationship… I sometimes crave an Agatha Christie novel as one would crave chocolate.

(aside: Netflix! Please put the TV adaptations back on…. Please.)

In Closed Casket, we meet Michael Gathercole, a grown up orphan, for whom Athelinda Playford’s Shrimp Seddon books had been a lifeline during his unhappy childhood. How many of us bibliophiles can recall certain books (or series of books) which captivated our youthful imaginations?

(Some of my favourite childhood series were the Little House books, Anne of Green Gables stories, and Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.) Yours…?

Furthermore, I am a witness that clever, engaging books can add depth and variety of experience, flavour and interest, to any day — or night- in the life of a busy adult. There’s nothing to compare with a hot bath or cozy bed with a favourite novel…

I appreciated this particular novel’s exploration of such issues as compulsive lying, the need to always have scientific proof, childhood neglect and its long term consequences on adult character and mental health, unconditional love in the face of awful behaviour, and character vs. personality.

One aspect of Agatha Christie’s detective novels, which Sophie Hannah carries on delightfully, is Poirot’s genius being bearable due to his foibles (such as vanity about his facial hair, and fastidiousness about order and method)… Just like in real life, I find it a lot easier to enjoy the company of flawed characters.

In my high school literature class, reading T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock, I first discovered the pleasure of making connections via literary references. Closed Casket is laced with Shakespeare references (especially King John), including the book title itself. It’s a perfect example of the ‘sommelier effect’, making me want to read this particular play by the Bard to further appreciate the precision of each such quotation inserted into her mystery story.

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