THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF AGATHA CHRISTIE by Charles Osborne

THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF AGATHA CHRISTIE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Chatty, erratic Osborne (W. H. Auden, The Complete Operas of Puccini, etc.) offers no new insights into either the life or work of Dame Agatha here--but Christie fans may certainly want to browse through this informal yet scrupulously comprehensive rundown on the vast Christie output. Moving chronologically, Osborne writes briefly about every mystery novel, almost every short story, the plays, the Mary Westmacott fiction, the movie versions, even Christie's poems and autobiography--with interpolated bits of biography here and there. As for the famed disappearance: ""The strongest likelihood is that a very unhappy Mrs. Archibald Christie had come close to nervous collapse, and that it was in a condition of considerable mental turmoil that she, nonetheless deliberately, staged her disappearance in such a way as to cause the maximum distress"" to her faithless husband. Otherwise, there's little of substance in the biographical updates (though Osborne does refute a detail or two of An Autobiography). And the mini-essays on the canon are an agreeably buff-ish mÉlange of plot summary, literary criticism, and trivia-hunting: Osborne notes virtually every anti-Semitic reference in Christie, with appropriate tut-rutting; he's more interested than most in political colorations (which leads him to be far too kind to Passenger to Frankfurt); he suggests some real-life models for a few characters; he bestows convincing praise on the best Westmacotts (especially Absent in the Spring); he is aware of Christie's flaws but emphasizes her strengths; and his footnotes offer bibliographic sidelights, whimsical musings, and stern corrections of mistakes in other Christie critiques. Robert Barnard's A Talent to Deceive remains the most focused, thoughtful critical study of Christie thus far. (Osborne gallantly refuses to give away any solutions--thereby limiting the analytical possibilities.) But this cheerfully eclectic grab-bag is easily the best annotated work-list around--and, despite a deficient index, of definite value wherever a detailed Christie reference-volume is needed.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1983
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston