Agatha Christie Lovers discussion

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Book of the Month Reads > CLOSED April 2014 - Death Comes as the End

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message 1: by Carolyn F. (new)

Carolyn F. | 4597 comments Mod
Originally published 1945.

In this startling historical mystery, unique in the author's canon, Agatha Christie investigates a deadly mystery at the heart of a dissonant family in ancient Egypt. Imhotep, wealthy landowner and priest of Thebes, has outraged his sons and daughters by bringing a beautiful concubine into their fold. And the manipulative Nofret has already set about a plan to usurp her rivals' rightful legacies. When her lifeless body is discovered at the foot of a cliff, Imhotep's own flesh and blood become the apparent conspirators in her shocking murder. But vengeance and greed may not be the only motives...


message 2: by Carolyn F. (new)

Carolyn F. | 4597 comments Mod
This is our April 2014 book.


message 3: by Randee (new)

Randee Baty I don't remember reading this one before and I thought I had read all of AC's books. I'm excited to start!


message 4: by Carolyn F. (new)

Carolyn F. | 4597 comments Mod
I thought the same thing Randee when I read the blurb. I don't have it in the audiobooks I have and I don't think I have the paperback, so I may skip this book if I can't find it.


message 5: by Luffy (new)

Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) | 115 comments I currently don't find AC infallible, especially with non Poirot/Marple books. I won't be reading this book for now.


message 6: by Katherine (new)

Katherine I read this book one time in the past and didn't care for it, so I won't be reading it again.


message 7: by Brad (new)

Brad Friedman | 191 comments Oh, you people!!! There is a LOT to discuss about this book! Such as, it's perhaps the first in the genre of historical mystery! And how this may be Christie's most insightful portrait of the role of women (as she sees them) in any society! And yet, with all the research Christie did to create a true portrait of an ancient Egyptian household, it still feels like an English country house mystery. And the death count is second only to And Then There Were None.

I hope SOMEONE intends to read this one.......


message 8: by Sharla (last edited Apr 03, 2014 11:35AM) (new)

Sharla Brad wrote: "Oh, you people!!! There is a LOT to discuss about this book! Such as, it's perhaps the first in the genre of historical mystery! And how this may be Christie's most insightful portrait of the role ..."

I've already read it but would like to reread since it's been a few years. I do know I loved it and thought it was one of her most original and unique books.


message 9: by Randee (new)

Randee Baty I definitely intend to read it!


message 10: by Gary (new)

Gary Vassallo | 11 comments I'm going to read it. I like the idea of the historical Egypt setting.


message 11: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Williams (carsinger) | 18 comments I will be reading it! Hope to start this weekend...and likely finish as well!


message 12: by Asti (last edited Apr 04, 2014 08:40PM) (new)

Asti | 13 comments I own the book but lost it somewhere (or forgotten who borrowed it), so I haven't re-read it.

From what I remember, one of the impression is like Brad wrote: "...yet, with all the research Christie did to create a true portrait of an ancient Egyptian household, it still feels like an English country house mystery."

But I definitely like the message, that no matter the location or time settings, people characters are not that much different.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I have finished reading it. And wow it came up with unpredictable malevolant culprit I would never guessed !


message 14: by Brad (new)

Brad Friedman | 191 comments Well, it's mid-month, and many must have read or re-read the book by now. For me, the mystery aspect of this novel is okay, and Christie uses a variation of one of my favorite of her devices: the look over the shoulder. I won't go into that here for fear of spoiling too much, but we could have a great chat about THAT device for quite a while. (Think A Caribbean Mystery, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side and Murder is Easy, for starters). Alfred Hitchcock was also fond of this device, and it appears in many of my favorite Hitchcock films (Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, and The Wrong Man, to name a few.)

I'm sure those of you who like historical mysteries found that aspect of this book interesting. I know Christie did a lot of research to prepare for writing DCATE. I'm not a big fan of historical mysteries myself, and as I said before, these characters still seem pretty 1940's British to me, even if they're wearing linen togas!!! What's most interesting to me is Christie's take on women in this book. The male characters are the poorest drawn: Imhotep is fun, but the brothers are each a type: the dutiful eldest, the braggart and the bratty youngest. And both Renisenb's suitors are almost interchangable as characters to me. But the women are interesting, and the power they hold in this community fascinates me. Satipy controls Yahmose with her tongue, Kait's mother instinct borders on insanity, Esa acts as detective, and Henet is a great example of the cringing servant in the mold of Uriah Heep. Most interesting is the victim Nofret. There's a very telling scene between her and Renisenb where she almost softens toward the girl and then reverts to her hateful self. You get the sense without receiving much information that Nofret was frightfully poor and lower class and HAD to become the concubine in order to achieve any sense of power over her own fate. I think most of these statuses resemble those Christie observed in her own time, which gives this book a very classic tone to me, sociologically-speaking. Only Renisenb herself seems less formed to me. I don't want to be mean, but she's just like one of those drippy heroines out of a Mary Westmacott novel.


message 15: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Malernee | 3 comments I started in Junior High when there was a book available for a reading requirement. I kept going to the local library and discovering new books. I since have read many Agatha Christie books. I do have a few first additions withe the dust jackets (from the 1920's) and continue to explore, read and re-read her work.


message 16: by Gary (new)

Gary Vassallo | 11 comments I really enjoyed reading this one. I liked the historical setting and couldn't put it down as I read the final chapters. It was a good mystery and a very interesting look at ancient Egypt.


message 17: by Mitali (new)

Mitali | 52 comments I read this one just last year, so I remember a fair bit of it, and didn’t feel like rereading it now. But I’d like to post some of my thoughts on it just the same (if that’s ok).

I didn’t know what to expect when I first picked up this book. A murder mystery set in ancient Egypt? I wasn’t sure Christie could do justice to the setting – after all, one of the things I enjoy in her books is their quintessential Britishness. What would a book of hers in such an alien setting be like?

Turns out, I needn’t have worried on that count. Christie has done a remarkable job in conveying the setting. The landscape, the house, the tomb are all vividly drawn, and details such as the food, the clothes, the occupations, etc. of the characters seem to be based on solid research.

But once you get past the exoticness of the setting, there really isn’t much to this story. The mystery itself is very run-of-the-mill – I guessed the murderer early on, and nothing in the rest of the story made me rethink this guess. I get the sense that Christie poured all her creativity into the setting, and then had none left over for the plot. Usually, her plotting is impeccable, but in this book, it seems as if she literally couldn’t think of anything to do with her characters, so (view spoiler)

I had a hard time sympathizing with the protagonist, Renisenb. She seems so … bland and passive and superficial. Her reactions seem odd at times – especially at the end: (view spoiler)

I wanted to say something more about the rest of the characters, but Brad has already done a great analysis of the female characters, and I don’t have anything to add that.

There are a few anachronistic elements in the book, such as Renisenb thinking that she would like to learn to read … why? Literacy was a specialized skill in her culture, and useful only if you wanted to work as a scribe. There were no books for a casual readership (and barely any concept of ‘books’ in the modern sense), and the only things written down were accounts, business letters, and inscriptions on tombs and temples.

But that’s just nit-picking on my part – some modern attitudes are bound to creep into a historical novel. And overall, this one isn’t a bad novel – just not one of Christie’s best.


message 18: by Brad (new)

Brad Friedman | 191 comments Mitali wrote: "I read this one just last year, so I remember a fair bit of it, and didn’t feel like rereading it now. But I’d like to post some of my thoughts on it just the same (if that’s ok).

I didn’t know w..."


Great comments, Mitali. I'm not sure Christie was normally capable of focusing on plot AND character AND setting. Plot was normally her strong suit, but here, as you put it so well, she put all her energies into creating a powerful setting. In our next book, she concentrates on character, and the mystery plotting becomes almost ludicrous!!


message 19: by Brad (new)

Brad Friedman | 191 comments Mitali wrote: "I read this one just last year, so I remember a fair bit of it, and didn’t feel like rereading it now. But I’d like to post some of my thoughts on it just the same (if that’s ok).

I didn’t know w..."


Well said, Mitali. I think Christie was seldom capable of delivering great plot AND setting AND character all in one. Only the greatest of her books, like Five Little Pigs or And Then There Were None, manage that feat. Usually, plotting was her strong suit, but here, as you showed us, she concentrates on setting, perhaps to the detriment of a good mystery. Our next book is all about character, and the plot is almost ludicrous.


message 20: by Omar (new)

Omar ُEzz El deen (omarezz) | 2 comments That was a marvellous novel , I started it and read it one shot , couldnt sleep before knowing the killer and actually my breath was taken throughout the novel , I loved how the plot is perfectly written and loved the description of characters and the psychological part of oneself !


message 21: by G (new)

G Hodges (glh1) | 1 comments I am about half way through, and so far agree with the comments about the thinness of the plot, but plot and character development usually go hand in hand. So far I am intrigued, but not totally engaged as I have been with many of her other novels.


message 22: by Sharla (new)

Sharla Brad and Mitali have both done a great job summarizing the most interesting aspects of this book. Another aspect that struck me was the way Renisenb sees her father upon their meeting after her time spent away from him. He is no longer the towering figure of her childhood but an ordinary man, with his foibles and failings. My favorite aspects of this book were the rich detail in portraying the historical setting and the attention to strong female characters.


message 23: by jennifer (new)

jennifer (mascarawand) | 95 comments Here I am trying to play catch-up.
I've just finished this one, and while I struggled to get into the story for the first chapters, I ended up liking it.
I think it's the strangest Christie so far, because it's a blend of modern English with Ancient Egypt, and I think Christie wanted to cater to her readers, who expected wealth, extended families and a big inheritance to fight over, while doing something different and exotic.

The amount of anachronisms makes me think they were intentional. The existence of buttons, references to the devil, calling someone a Lord, like he was English aristocracy, modern phrases like "handsome is as handsome does." It seems like Christie had to have done these things intentionally.


message 24: by Mitali (new)

Mitali | 52 comments jennifer wrote: "The amount of anachronisms makes me think they were intentional. The existence of buttons, references to the devil, calling someone a Lord, like he was English aristocracy, modern phrases like "handsome is as handsome does." It seems like Christie had to have done these things intentionally. "

I don't know about the buttons, but the rest of it can be explained as a simple translation convention. The proverb "handsome is as handsome does" can be understood as being the English equivalent of a similar proverb in Ancient Egyptian. "Lord" is commonly used as a title in history books to convey a title that has no suitable equivalent in English aristocracy nomenclature. And so on.


message 25: by jennifer (new)

jennifer (mascarawand) | 95 comments That's my point, that Christie must have intended to make this book approachable for her particular audience rather than providing more authentic phrases to a story set in Ancient Egypt.

After finishing the book, I read a review that was just one sentence, along the lines of "I kept waiting for them to put on top hats and speak in an English accent."


message 26: by Mitali (last edited May 14, 2014 12:51AM) (new)

Mitali | 52 comments I don't know what she intended ... but surely it's likely that she didn't know enough of the language spoken in Egypt in 2000 BC to provide any authentic phrases from it.

There's also the Lord of the Rings type explanation. In the Appendix of LOTR, Tolkien explains that most of the inhabitants of Middle-Earth, including the hobbits, spoke 'Westron' (a language of his invention), which he had deliberately 'translated' fully into English, in order to convey how normal and familiar the language was to the main characters. So, for example, even though the hobbits called their land 'Sûza', this was translated to 'The Shire' in order to make it sound more familiar to English-speaking ears, and therefore indicate how familiar the hobbits found it.

So Christie might be following a similar idea, i.e. that by making the names and concepts in the book seem more English, she might be trying to show how familiar they were to her characters.


message 27: by Brad (new)

Brad Friedman | 191 comments I think you've all hit upon the solution of language here. Since all the characters actually spoke in an ancient Egyptian dialect, Christie had two options: have them speak in a stilted, formal manner ("What, ho, Renisenb, thou art more fair than yonder Nile, yet thy father's concubine lies still with sightless eyes"), or let them converse in 1940's British vernacular. I think she made the right choice. As for other modern idiosyncrasies, such as buttons, Christie boasted in her autobiography about the intense research she did for this book. I think it shows, and it admit I love how, despite the wealth of research that is evident, the British manor mystery still manages to show through. For me, it's one of the novel's main charms.


message 28: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 262 comments I actually did think that they spoke in a rather stilted manner, although not to the extent you suggest!


message 29: by Renee (new)

Renee | 447 comments I have many books to catch up on from previous reads before I joined the group, but for now just catching up on the ones from this year that I'm just getting around to now.

I loved your comparison of Henet to Uriah Heep Brad. He's a creepy, slimy untrustworty character who wants you to think he's always on your side and can be trusted. And he's one of those characters you just love to hate. I never thought of her like that until I read your post but she is like that isn't she? She's constantly proclaiming her devotion to the family (perhaps too much at times and seems a bit evil and untrustworthy even though Imhotep trusted her completely) while patiently waiting to stab you in the back and take what she thinks should be hers (she'll be running things now she thinks). Made her a great character to keep an eye on as being the murderer since she hated everyone already!

Took me a few chapters to get into this one but I ended up liking it and was very surprised at how many people died in this book! I haven't read a lot of Christie yet, but in most of her books only one or two people die, yet here the whole family is being killed off. Loved the ending scenes when you find out who the murderer is and it all comes together.

I also found it to seem a little more British than I thought it would be but that, at least for me didn't detract from the story at all and I really enjoyed it. The setting was great and I thought the characters were good also. I liked the way their behaviours are analysed to get to who the murderer is. It was very interesting to see the changes in everyone's behaviour before Nofret came to live with them and after the first murder.


message 30: by Carolyn F. (new)

Carolyn F. | 4597 comments Mod
A lot of people have been talking about the book being very British Renee.


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