Bev's Reviews > Death in the Air

Death in the Air by Agatha Christie
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Aug 05, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: british-mystery, mystery, vintage-mystery
Read from August 04 to 05, 2013 — I own a copy

Death in the Air (aka Death in the Clouds) is another fine Agatha Christie outing. In this one, the murder takes place right under Hercule Poirot's airsick nose. Yes, fortunately for the killer, Poirot's famous little grey cells were sleeping their way across the Channel in order that he might not be aware of his discomfort--fortunately for a little while, that is. Because, of course, once Poirot is awake and realizes that a crime has been committed he's on the trail of the murderer.

The victim in this case is one Madame Giselle, a money-lender to the upper-class who uses a bit of judicious blackmail as security on her loans. She is found dead in her seat just prior to landing from what appears at first to be a wasp sting but soon proves to be from a dart tainted with an obscure snake venom. A blowpipe is found stuffed down behind Poirot's seat--of all places! There are a few of Poirot's fellow passenger's who may fit the profile of Madame Giselle's clients, but it seems impossible that any of them could have used a blowpipe to kill her within the small confines of the plane.

It doesn't take long for Poirot to spot the essential clues--objects that were listed in the tally of each passenger's belongings. But he is puzzled because the objects he expected are found on the wrong person. He will make several trips to France and interview all of the passengers and the stewards before the final pieces fall in place.

It had been quite some time since my first reading of this particular Christie novel (a good 20 years, I'd say). If I hadn't watched the production with David Suchet earlier this year (for the Book to Movie Challenge), I wouldn't have spotted the killer in this reading. I believe I was distracted by the same darn red herring in my first reading and during the watched episode. That's the beauty of Christie for me--if I go long enough between rereads it's quite possible for her to pull the wool over my eyes repeatedly.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the Suchet production and this reread. It's always a treat to watch David Suchet play the quintessential Poirot. And I also enjoy Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp. One thing I did notice between the show and the book--Christie's novels have taken a lot of flack for some of her racial representations and stereotypes. This time the production is a bigger culprit than Christie's original work. The production has Inspector Japp working closely with his French counterpart--in France (the only contact in the book is in England)--and Japp treats him pretty shabbily, just because he's a "Frenchy." The scenes in the novel show a much more collegial and respectful collaboration. I'm wondering if the writers/producer decided to emphasize Japp's supposed mistrust of French investigations and investigations as a replacement for the few racial comments made by other characters in the book.

Overall, a fine performance in both print and onscreen. Four stars.

First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.
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