Death on the Nile

We have quite a few Agatha Christie movies on DVD, the ones in which Peter Ustinov plays Hercule Poirot.   Of these, I think probably the best is Death On The Nile.  I'm talking about the movie adaptions here, not the original books.  I presume I'm safe mentioning spoilers on a story that was published 75 years ago...if not, avert your eyes now.

Would you go on a cruise with these people?
These films are done very well indeed.  The cast probably helps.  Even when they're hamming it up as hard as they can go, actors like Ustinov, David Niven, Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury can hardly go wrong, and in passing, it's fascinating to watch the future Miss Marple as a suspect who dies.

I tend to watch these films with the critical eye of a mystery writer.  They're traditional mysteries, of course, and that's quite a different thing to a modern cozy.  My own stories have more than a little in common with Poirot's traditional methods, because Nico, like Poirot, has no CSI to spoil the pure logic of the puzzle.

Yet in Death on the Nile, I was deeply struck by how, in the traditional denouement during which Poirot reveals all, that at the last moment, he tells Doyle that gunshot residue can be lifted from his hands using hot wax.  This is indeed a test that works.  The interesting thing is that this is early CSI, and it's in an Agatha Christie.  Poirot does so because the perps have correctly pointed out that he doesn't have any evidence that would fly in court.  The test is what provokes the inevitable confession.

If a CSI team had been available, this story would have been over within 5 minutes of the murder.

Death On The Nile would be absolutely unwriteable in the modern world.  And that's a pity, because it's brilliant fun.  I have a theory that's why so many recent mysteries have retreated into past times.


Stephanie Thornton said...

I bought my husband Death on the Nile to read on our Nile cruise, and I think he's since read every Agatha Christie book in print. I read And Then There Were None when I was a teenager and it quickly became one of my favorite books.

And we have Death on the Nile on DVD too--I'll have to dig it out to watch again soon. It's been a long time.

Gary Corby said...

That would have to be the perfect setting to read this book!

It just occurred to me, Stephanie, given your predilection for all things Egypt...have you heard of a lady by the name of Amelia Peabody?

Stephanie Thornton said...

You know, I've picked up several Amelia Peabody books, but always put them back down in favor of straight historical fiction. Do you recommend them?

Gary Corby said...

The early ones are very good, especially if you know your 19th century Egyptologists and sensationalist literature.

Personally, I think the series goes off track a trifle after Nefret comes on the scene, so that The Last Camel Died At Noon is the last of the pure Peabody books. It goes seriously off-track after her son Ramses is fully grown into a caring, sharing, new age guy, in 1910. I think she should have ended the series when the true identity of Sethos the Master Criminal was revealed.

So I'd say read the first 6 for sure (there are 20 in the series!), then see how you feel about the others.

L. T. Host said...

I LOVE Christie. I'm always surprised by her work, which is saying a lot considering how prolific she was. Every mystery has a different twist and they are all good! She was certainly a master.

I recently read AND THEN THERE WERE NONE for the first time and devoured the whole thing. (Formerly TEN LITTLE INDIANS). Despite the world we live in, I still find myself able to read her work with enough credibility that I can avoid thinking about CSI and the like.