Unearthed Classic: Death On the Nile by Agatha Christie

Given my propensity for all things Ancient Egypt, I’m actually a little surprised it has taken me so long to finally read this book. I’ll admit that mystery is not generally my go-to genre when trying to decide what I should read next, but it’s good to broaden one’s horizons and . . . well there’s a movie of this coming out next month for which my attendance was voluntold (I did not resist very mu– at all).

But what better author to start exploring this new genre with than one of the four Queens of Crime herself, Agatha Christie.

I think I’ve only read one other Christie novel before — also a Poirot mystery — which was And Then There Were None. I feel I must have watched some Ms. Marple shows at some point, and I remember being somewhat furious by the ending of Murder On the Orient Express (the 1974 version, not the ‘new’ 2017 version which I haven’t seen).

In any case (pun intended), I would consider these credentials quite elementary (dear Watson (and yes I know that’s a different author)), and so I was anxious to begin digging into the work of a master, especially in a setting so near and dear to my heart.

What I enjoyed:

Namely, the fun of trying to solve the mystery! This was a fun and very puzzling case. Christie seems to bust out all the stops here, relying on more than just murder to keep her readers guessing. In Death on the Nile, there are no less than five crimes committed, and probably as many immoral actions which aren’t technically illegal, but certainly seem to offend the various 15 passengers of the SS Karnak.

Yea. Lot’s to keep the old noodle uh . . . noodling? Anyway, Christie manages to keep it all moving smoothly and deftly keeps our focus away from the clues while still leaving the trail for us to follow. An adage I’ve heard often (at this point almost a cliché) applied to all kinds of writing, but especially to mysteries is “Surprising yet inevitable.” I felt the reveal in Death on the Nile hit this note perfectly, and it was one of the only mysteries I’ve read, that didn’t leave me feeling cheated or betrayed.

What I did not enjoy:

The DRASTIC under use of Egypt as the book’s setting. For lack of a better way to say it, Christie really missed the boat on this. While she does include some temple names, and sprinkles in a few mentions of Ancient Egyptian deities, they’re just window dressing with zero relevance to what’s happening in the mystery or any of the other plots and subplots. For the first half of this book, I thought the real mystery to solve was why all these people want to go to Egypt in the first place (I suppose you don’t really need a reason). In truth, this mystery could have taken place on any boat, sailing any river, anywhere in the world and it still would have played out exactly the same.

I also felt there were some inappropriate representations of many cultures and peoples throughout the book, but I’m chalking that up to the time period, and am not going to dig too deep into it, as it’s not something I’m very versed in nor eloquent at (Grace Byron‘s article Revisiting Agatha Christie’s Orientalism in ‘Death on the Nile’ for Observer is probably a better starting place). I’ll just say it took me out of the story a few times.

So . . . read?

Despite the flaws (and missing the best reason to write a story in Egypt!), I still enjoyed this novel immensely. There is always something thrilling about seeing a master of a craft put their talent on display. I felt Death on the Nile did so, and I’m looking forward to reading more Christie mysteries in the future.

If you haven’t yet, give this one a read . . .

Anyway, that’s all for this time. Have you read this classic? What were your thoughts? Better yet who did you think had dunnit? Leave your answers in the comments. Excited to talk about this one!

Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Unearthed Classic: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. As mentioned earlier in the post, Christie didn’t really take advantage of Egypt as a truly incredible setting in this mystery. I tried not to make the same mistake in my own story, Narmer and the God Beast.

This short story is pretty much what it says on the tin: Ancient Egypt and Dinosaurs (how cool is that?!). A lot went into this idea, and I’ve posted a bunch about my influences for this story on the blog, but really most of the insight on my process and inspiration comes each quarter to readers of my newsletter. Subscribers can also expect a new piece of exclusive short fiction each quarter as well as well as a copy of the first story I ever wrote which is about a warlock doctor, so please consider signing up.

Anyway, thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

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