Ramon Sunico's Reviews > At Bertram's Hotel

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
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's review
Nov 13, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: classic-favorite, krimi

I'm an Agatha Christie fan and have always thought The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (with Hercule Poirot) her best, or at least, her most craftily-written novel. Recently though, I came across this novel at a second-hand bookstore and, although I consider myself a Poirot partisan, this Miss Marple mystery has quickly threatened the standing of Mr Ackroyd on my shelf. From the delicious first chapter of the novel where she introduces the hotel itself with the care any other author would reserve for a major character to the painstaking portraits she paints of the many compelling personalities she peoples this story with (with the skill of an expert miniaturist), she simply enchants this reader with her magical, silken noose of suspense.

The first paragraphs
"In the heart of the West End, there are many quiet pockets, unknown to almost all but taxi drivers who traverse them with expert knowledge, and arrive triumphantly thereby at Park Lane, Berkeley Square or South Audley Street.

If you turn off on an unpretentious street from the Park, and turn left and right once or twice, you will find yourself in a quiet street with Bertram's Hotel on the right hand side. Bertram's Hotel has been there a long time. During the war, houses were demolished on the right of it, and a little farther down on the left of it, but Bertram's itself remained unscathed. Naturally it could not escape being, as house agents would say, scratched, bruised and marked, but by the expenditure of only a reasonable amount of money it was restored to its original condition. By 1955 it looked precisely as it had looked in 1939 -- dignified, unostentatious, and quietly expensive.

Such was Bertram's, patronized over a long stretch of years by the higher echelons of the clergy, dowager ladies of the aristocracy up from the country, girls on their way home for the holidays from expensive finishing schools. ('So few places where a girl can stay alone in London but of course it is quite all right at Bertram's. We have stayed there for years.')

There had, of course, been many other hotels on the model of Bertram's. Some still existed, but nearly all had felt the wind of change. They had had necessarily to modernize themselves, to cater for a different clientele. Bertram's, too, had had to change, but it had been done so cleverly that it was not at all apparent at the first casual glance."

From Chapter 2
"There were people who would have smiled in gentle derision at this pronouncement on the part of an old-fashioned lady who could hardly be expected to be an authority on nymphomania, and indeed it was not a word that Miss Marple would have used--her own phrase would have been 'always too fond of men.' But Lady Selina accepted her opinion as a confirmation of her own.

"'There have been a lot of men in her life,' she pointed out.

"'Oh yes, but I should say, wouldn't you, that men were an adventure to her, not a need?'"
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