I’m a thriller/murder mystery junky. I tell people Agatha Christie is my god. There was a book in our home I saw lying here and there since I was a child, that book was “A Murder Is Announced”. I used to write my name on the pages of “A Murder Is Announced”. Actually I practiced writing my name after learning how to write my name, and used “A Murder Is Announced” as a copybook! Now I go through that book, see my unsteady name on its pages and feel stupid.
I have the entire collection of Agatha Christie, but I don’t write my name on its pages anymore. I’m a grownup now and I write my name with a steady hand, I write it, sign it on official forms and also like everybody else have developed a personalized style. Ahem…ahem! I have read “A Murder Is Announced”, obviously. The second Agatha Christie or to be more exact Ms. Marple book I read was “Nemesis”. I was speechless. The story was so unique. I don’t want to reveal the story, because there are still people in the world who haven’t read Christie yet. God bless them! See here I’m trying to be sarcastic but I know I dare not because there are zillions of books I myself haven’t read yet.
We were talking about “Nemesis”, yes. The way this story starts slowly in St. Mary Mead with Ms. Marple reading her morning paper and then takes up pace and ends with head whirling outcome. That subtle hint of homosexuality presented by Christie is well crafted. It was like out of curtsy Christie could not openly citing it but giving enough reasons for reader to decide the obvious. When Ms. Marple was given that poisoned milk because she got too close to the murderer, I was biting my nails; I sat up on my bed in tension and finished rest of the novel. The gloom and sad terror of that house engulfed me. I guess you have to read it to know it.
With Agatha Christie I fell in love with English countryside. It gives me a sense of calm, a sense of peace, and a sense of belonging, and why do I of all people feel a sense belonging to English countryside I don’t know, it’s a mystery! Just now while actually writing the last sentence I realized that what these books gave me was an escape. After a while I came across Ruth Rendell and Val Mcdermid. But how did I come across Rendell and Mcdermid? When I was sadly realizing with unnatural restlessness that Ms. Marple and Poirot cases were rapidly being solved because of my devouring them at an alarming pace, I started looking for other similar types of books. I blatantly and very crudely googled “other authors like Agatha Christie” and found and liked Rendell. First Ruth Rendell book that I read was “From Doon with Death”. It was also Rendell’s first Wexford mystery. It also had something very similar to “Nemesis”. Truth to be told I was re-reading “Nemesis” last week and realized that “”Nemesis” and “From Doon with Death” have a subtle similarity. But it is not a surprise because Rendell is often times called modern Christie. And I hope she did not mind, but then who would! Through Rendell’s Wexford mysteries I got the chance to again walk through English countryside. Rendell and Christie’s countryside, the society, people are quite similar. In the first book there was nothing about Reginald Wexford, the detective’s personal life, but as I read more his entire life unveiled in front of me. No, he does not have a life of an adventurer. He is quite domesticated with wife and two daughters. Entire Wexford series covers his life when his daughters are in their teens to when his grandchildren are off to college. What makes him a hero of a story is his extra ordinary detection skill and what makes him a human is his momentary lapse when he cannot help but feeling attracted to a beautiful girl though he loves his wife Dora to death. In “The Monster in the Box”, there is a description of Wexford-Dora love story and the subsequent marriage. There is aloso Wexford’s trusty associate Mike with whom he always go to some new restaurant that has opened in the town. Their venture into these new theme based restaurants is always hilarious.
I found Val Mcdermid through Steig Larson. In “Girl with Dragon Tattoo” Blomkvist would go to that cabin in Hedeby Island and to fight off loneliness he would buy few books of Val Mcdermid. Mcdermid’s England is a contemporary and modern England. Her Detective duo is DCI Carol Jordan and Dr. Tony Hill. Carol Jordan is a strong woman who runs her own team. While handling a case she will come in contact with Dr. Tony Hill, a psychiatrist. There will be a mutual attraction but it will soon come to the light that Dr. Hill is impotent. I was shocked because I have never seen a detective who has such fallibility, but it has only made Tony Hill a human just like Wexford but for reasons that are poles apart. And the mysteries! Yes, they were worth my time, my mind and my nights. It was in one of Mcdermid’s book “The Mermaid Singing” that for the first time I came across few pages that I actually skipped for its brutality. And I read John Sandford and Pierre l’ Maitre for god’s sake!
As I told earlier in Tony Hill-Carol Jordan books the England is the present England. Here various characters frequently frequent curry houses meaning Indian restaurants. There are often mentions of poppadum, onion pakora, butter chicken, nans. I like these detailed descriptions. In any novel detail description of a house, rooms, dresses, food help me connect with the story and characters more. I want to know what was there on the table by the window; I want to know the colours of the curtains, the upholstery. I want novels to be like pre-Raphaelite poetry where they paint with their words and wrote with colours.
Be it Christie, Rendell or Mcdermid, the mornings, the evenings, love, hate, crimes, twisted human minds and adamant intelligent detectives with their tenacious continuous effort to bring justice is always the same. But whatever thriller I read, at the end I find they are just another story of people.