My Book Notes: Murder is Easy (1939) by Agatha Christie


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HarperCollins, 2010. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1210 KB. Print Length: 274 pages. ASIN: B004APA54M. eISBN: 978-0-0074-2270-8. First published in Great Britain by Collins, The Crime Club on 5 June 1939, and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in September of the same year under the title of Easy to Kill. The book was first serialised in the US in The Saturday Evening Post in seven parts from 19 November (Volume 211, Number 21) to 31 December 1938 (Volume 211, Number 27) under the title Easy to Kill with illustrations by Henry Raleigh. The UK serialisation was in twenty-three parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday, 10 January, to Friday, 3 February 1939, as Easy to Kill. Christie’s recurring character, Superintendent Battle, has a cameo appearance at the end, but plays no part in either the solution of the mystery or the apprehension of the criminal.

Murder-is-EasySynopsis: Agatha Christie’s ingenious murder mystery thriller, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. In a quiet English village, a killer is about to strike. Again and again. Officer Luke Fitzwilliam is on a train to London when he meets a strange woman. She claims there is a serial killer in the quiet village of Wychwood. He has already taken the lives of three people and is about claim his fourth victim. Fitzwilliam dismisses this as the rambling of an old woman. But within hours she is found dead. Crushed by a passing car. And then the fourth victim is found. Each death looks like an accident. But in Wychwood nothing is as it appears…

More about this story: Here Agatha Christie again turns away from her established detectives to try something new. A string of apparently unrelated deaths turns out to be devious multiple murder plot. Perhaps tiring of her little Belgian, Murder is Easy is an early example of Agatha Christie dropping her famous detective in favour of the lesser known Superintendent Battle. Here she plays with one her favourite themes, devious multiple murders disguised as accidents. The story is considered to feature all the Agatha Christie staples of country village life. It was adapted for TV in the US in 1982, featuring Bill Bixby as Luke and Helen Hayes as Livinia, who would later go on to star as Miss Marple. Clive Exton adapted the story for stage in 1993 and in 2008 it was included in the TV series Agatha Christie’s Marple. Miss Marple was played by Julia McKenzie while rising star Benedict Cumberbatch featured as Luke. In 2013, the story was dramatized for BBC Radio 4.

My Take: After years of service as a policeman in the Straits Settelments, Luke Fitzwilliam has returned for good to England to enjoy his retirement. On an unplanned stop, he loses his train bound to London and has to take another one sharing a compartment with an elderly lady that reminds him of Aunt Mildred, his favourite aunt, although he is certain she won’t remain in silence to London. Indeed, after some minutes, he finds out she is heading to Scotland Yard. Her local constable doesn’t seem to her the right person to deal with serious crimes, and she believes it will be better to go straight to Scotland Yard. In fact, it is a matter of several murders. First was Amy Gibbs, then it was Carter and Tommy Pierce came afterwards. Now she is worried for Dr Humbleby, who is such a good man. Carter drank and Tommy Pierce was a dreadfully cheeky impertinent little boy, but Dr Humbleby is different, he must be saved. Fitzwilliam is sure that in Scotland Yard they will know how to deal with her adequately. When saying goodbye, he finds out her name is Pinkerton. But when she makes a remark that at first she thought he didn’t believe her and he answers that’s rather hard to do a lot of murders and get away with it. She estates seriously: ‘No, no my dear boy, that’s where you’re wrong. It’s very easy to kill –so long as no one suspects you. And you see, the person in question is just the last person anyone would suspect!’.

Everything could have remained just like that, had it not been that Fitzwilliam read in The Times the next day that one Miss Pinkerton was run over by a car that didn’t stop as she was crossing Whitehall and died. Later on, he read as well that a certain Dr Humbleby had died suddenly at his residence in Wychwood-under-Ashe. And the story that at first had seemed to him improbable, though not impossible, begun to seem to him that it might be true and must be investigated. Fitzwilliam decides to take matters in his own hands. After all, once a policeman, always a policeman. And he does find the way to travel to Wychwood, concealing his true intentions.

The investigation will proved to be rather difficult. Each murder has been different. Each mysterious death has seem to be the result of an accident, an illness or an error, without the involvement of any another person. And it doesn’t seem to exist any denominator in common. Although there is no lack of possible suspects, they don’t seem to have a motive that could have explain each and every one of the killings. The only plausible explanation is that they could have been the deed of a sick mind.

Ultimately, Murder is Easy is a good example of a classic village murder mystery with a hint of romance or, in other words, what has come to be called Mayhem Parva, a term coined in 1971 by Colin Watson to refer to the detective stories that unfold in a quiet country village, if by any chance this term is still in use. In my view another quite entertaining read, that falls a bit short from as to be included among Christie’s best, but which is certainly worth reading and I highly recommend it.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Murder is Easy has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Cross-Examining Crime, Mysteries Ahoy! reviewingtheevidence (1), reviewingtheevidence (2), Books Please, Mysteries in Paradise, ahsweetmysteryblog, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Dead Yesterday, and Countdown John’s Christie Journal,

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1939)

About the Author: Agatha Christie is the world’s best-known mystery writer. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her writing career spanned more than half a century, during which she wrote 80 novels and short story collections, as well as 14 plays, one of which, The Mousetrap, is the longest-running play in history. Two of the characters she created, the brilliant little Belgian Hercule Poirot and the irrepressible and relentless Miss Marple, went on to become world-famous detectives. Both have been widely dramatized in feature films and made-for-TV movies. Agatha Christie also wrote romantic novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. As well, she wrote four non-fiction books including an autobiography and an entertaining account of the many expeditions she shared with her archaeologist husband, Sir Max Mallowan. Agatha Christie died in 1976. (Source: Fantastic Fiction)

Harper Collins UK publicity page

HarperCollins US publicity page

Home of Agatha Christie website

The official Agatha Christie website

Notes On Murder is Easy

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Agatha Christie page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki

Matar es fácil, de Agatha Christie

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Sinopsis: En un tranquilo pueblo inglés, un asesino está a punto de atacar. Una y otra vez. El oficial Luke Fitzwilliam está en un tren destino a Londres cuando se encuentra con una mujer extraña. Ella afirma que hay un asesino en serie en el tranquilo pueblo de Wychwood. Ya se ha cobrado la vida de tres personas y está a punto de atribuirse su cuarta víctima. Fitzwilliam descarta esto como las divagaciones de una anciana. Pero a las pocas horas la encuentran muerta. Atropellada por un vehículo en marcha. Y más tarde se encuentra la cuarta víctima. Cada muerte parece un accidente. Pero en Wychwood nada es lo que parece …

Más sobre esta historia: Nuavamente aquí Agatha Christie se aparta de sus detectives arraigados para intentar algo nuevo. Una serie de muertes aparentemente no relacionadas resulta ser una trama retorcida de asesinatos múltiples. Quizás cansado de su pequeño belga, Matar es fácil es uno de los primeros ejemplos de Agatha Christie descartando a su famoso detective a favor del menos conocido Superintendent Battle. Aquí juega con uno de sus temas favoritos, intrincados asesinatos múltiples disfrazados de accidentes. Se considera que la historia cuenta con todos los elementos básicos de Agatha Christie sobre la vida rural. Fue adaptada para la televisión en los EE. UU. en 1982, con Bill Bixby como Luke y Helen Hayes como Livinia, quien luego interpretaría a Miss Marple. Clive Exton adaptó la historia para el teatro en 1993 y en 2008 se incluyó en la serie de televisión Marple de Agatha Christie. Miss Marple fue interpretada por Julia McKenzie, mientras que el prometedor actor Benedict Cumberbatch interpretó a Luke. En el 2013, la historia fue dramatizada para la BBC Radio 4.

Mi opinión: Después de años de servicio como policía en las Colonias del Estrecho, Luke Fitzwilliam ha regresado definitivamente a Inglaterra para disfrutar de su jubilación. En una parada no planificada, pierde su tren con destino a Londres y tiene que tomar otro compartiendo compartimento con una anciana que le recuerda a la tía Mildred, su tía favorita, aunque está seguro de que no se quedará callada hasta Londres. De hecho, después de unos minutos, descubre que ella se dirige a Scotland Yard. Su policía local no le parece la persona adecuada para ocuparse de delitos graves y cree que será mejor ir directamente a Scotland Yard. De hecho, se trata de varios asesinatos. Primero fue Amy Gibbs, luego Carter y Tommy Pierce vino después. Ahora está preocupada por el Dr. Humbleby, que es un buen hombre. Carter bebía y Tommy Pierce era un niño terriblemente descarado e impertinente, pero el Dr. Humbleby es diferente, hay que salvarlo. Fitzwilliam está seguro de que en Scotland Yard sabrán cómo tratarla adecuadamente. Al despedirse, descubre que su nombre es Pinkerton. Pero cuando ella hace un comentario de que al principio pensó que él no le creía y él responde que es bastante difícil cometer muchos asesinatos y salirse con la suya. Ella dice seriamente: ‘No, no mi querido muchacho, ahí es donde te equivocas. Es muy fácil matar, siempre que nadie sospeche de ti. ¡Y ya ves, la persona en cuestión es la última persona en quien alguien sospecharía!’.

Todo podría haber quedado así, si no hubiera sido porque Fitzwilliam leyó en The Times al día siguiente que una tal Miss Pinkerton fue atropellada por un automóvil que no se detuvo mientras cruzaba Whitehall y murió. Más tarde, leyó también que cierto Dr. Humbleby había muerto repentinamente en su residencia en Wychwood-under-Ashe. Y la historia que al principio le había parecido improbable, aunque no imposible, empezó a parecerle que podía ser cierta y debía ser investigada. Fitzwilliam decide tomar el asunto en sus propias manos. Después de todo, una vez policía, siempre se es policía. Y encuentra la manera de viajar a Wychwood, ocultando sus verdaderas intenciones.

La investigación resultará bastante difícil. Cada asesinato ha sido diferente. Cada muerte misteriosa parece ser el resultado de un accidente, una enfermedad o un error, sin la participación de ninguna otra persona. Y no parece existir ningún denominador en común. Aunque no faltan posibles sospechosos, no parecen tener un motivo que pueda explicar todos y cada uno de los asesinatos. La única explicación plausible es que podrían haber sido obra de una mente enferma.

En última instancia, Matar es fácil es un buen ejemplo de un clásico misterio de asesinato en una aldea con un toque de romance o, en otras palabras, lo que ha llegado a llamarse Mayhem Parva, un término acuñado en 1971 por Colin Watson para referirse a las historias de detectives que se desarrollan en un tranquilo pueblo rural, si por casualidad este término todavía está en uso. En mi opinión, otra lectura bastante entretenida, que se queda un poco corta como para estar incluida entre las mejores de Christie, pero que sin duda merece la pena leer y la recomiendo encarecidamente.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Agatha Christie es la escritora de misterio más conocida del mundo. Sus libros han vendido más de mil millones de copias en inglés y otros mil millones en 44 idiomas extranjeros. Es la autora más publicada de todos los tiempos en cualquier idioma, superada solo por la Biblia y Shakespeare. Su carrera como escritora abarcó más de medio siglo, durante el cual escribió 80 novelas y colecciones de cuentos, así como 14 obras de teatro, una de las cuales, The Mousetrap, es la obra de teatro mas representada de la historia. Dos de los personajes que creó, el pequeño y brillante belga Hércules Poirot y la imparable y constante Miss Marple, se convirtieron en detectives de fama mundial. Ambos han sido ampliamente dramatizados en largometrajes y películas para la televisión. Agatha Christie también escribió novelas románticas bajo el seudónimo de Mary Westmacott. Además, escribió cuatro libros de no ficción que incluyen una autobiografía y un entretenido relato de las muchas expediciones que compartió con su esposo el arqueólogo Sir Max Mallowan. Agatha Christie murió en 1976.

3 thoughts on “My Book Notes: Murder is Easy (1939) by Agatha Christie

  1. Glad you liked this as well. I have seen other bloggers whom I respect give this one mixed views. This was the second Christie I read after “And Then There Were None” as a teenager many years ago.

    While Luke is not the best detective and his romantic connection with one of the characters isn’t fully credible; nevertheless, I like the choice of the truly fiendish murderer and motive. I have re-read this one several times.

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