Thursday, January 18, 2018

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

Being a huge fan of Dame Agatha Christie, I have read many of her books—maybe most of them (she wrote not less than 73 novels—source: wikipedia). Still, her books never bore me. When I thought her method must have been more familiar with my next read, I would be amused to found yet a new unexpected one. And Towards Zero was one of these.

"When you read the account of a murder--or say, a fiction story based on murder, you usually begin with the murder itself. That's culmination of a lot of different circumstances, all converging at a given moment at a given point. People are brought into it from different parts of the globe and for unforseen reasons. […] The murder itself is the end of the story. It's Zero Hour."

It was quoted from Superintendent Battle, who was our detective in this book. If you are familiar with Agatha Christie’s, Battle has appeared with Poirot on several cases. In this one he worked alone, though Poirot’s name still had chance to appear as his inspiration. Anyway, what made Towards Zero very special (at least to me) is the unusual order in which Christie wrote it. Usually a murder committed; then the detective started the investigation. With Poirot (because I am more familiar with him than Marple), it means taking himself into the circle of people connected with the murder—and  into their confidence—in the hope that they will unintentionally reveal their secrets. The order would be: first, the major event (the murder) which leads to small incidents (maybe more murders to cover the murderer’s secret), then Poirot or other detective completed the puzzle, and finally the revelation.

Towards Zero was started from minor unrelated events of some people. Then on certain point they were gathered in a same place, where eventually the murder would happen. This new method allowed us to see the characters unprejudiced, because we still don’t know the victim-to-be and the crime scene. I have never encountered the same method in Christie’s before, and I liked it. Finally, after so many years with my three favorites: Curtain, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and And Then There Were None, now I officially declare that Towards Zero has become my fourth favorite!

a scene from a French adaptation: L'Heure Zero


Intentionally I did not tell you what the story is about, because it’s almost impossible to tell anything without spoiling the surprises—and there were many, including the ending twist! And, of course, the interesting psychological aspect! Maybe I can only safely say that there would be many coincidences in this story; that it involves a triangle love story of a husband and two wives (ex and current) in the centre, but there are also other lovers beyond it; that there are invalid old lady and old gentleman; and there is also a stranger who had attempted suicide. One of them is cunningly and methodically planning a would-be-perfect-murder. But—and this is what Christie was trying to tell us—there are a lot of things beyond us that can happen; that even the most complex murder could possibly be revealed. Sometimes, the thing can just be a tiny, completely unrelated coincidence. We might call it… miracle.

Final verdict: 5 of 5 - Perfecto!


2 comments:

  1. It's one of my favourite Christes too. I also love "The Pale Horse" and "The Secret Adversary", the latter mostly due to the great main characters.

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    1. Ahh.. The Secret Adversary, the first Tommy & Tuppence! I agree, it was unforgettable. I'm not sure whether I have read The Pale Horse--I have read so many Christie's, sometimes I can't remember the titles :)

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