I’ve come across the library collection of BBC audio-books and I love them, now that I’m home most of the time! Technology-adverse me has yet to invest in such a modern thingy as an i-pod… or even a portable CD-player… yes folks, I still have a portable cassette player that works… I hear you gasp!
I’ve listened to BBC dramatizations of Ellis Peters’ and PD James’ novels, but I rather have the original book read to me unabridged. Dramatizations are just like TV without images, it’s not the same feeling as a book.
Lately I’ve listened to Agatha Christie’s Elephants can remember (1972) and Lord Edgware dies (1933) read by Hugh Fraser (the actor who plays Hastings in the TV series). Both were a lot of fun, and listening to them made me realize a lot of double-entendre that had escaped me when I’d read them as a teenager. I was an intensive consumer of Christie’s mysteries back then… it was like having an ice-cream binge, you’re not very selective and careful about texture and flavor when you just swallow one after the other.
I especially liked how Poirot highlights his role as an outsider in Lord Edgware Dies… : because he’s a foreigner, what he’s told does not matter as much as if he was British. I think it tells a lot about the British mentality of that time, all the more as the plot around Lord Edgware has a lot of innuendos about English and American differences (Lady Edgware being an American actress who married a British Lord and who wants to get rid of him).
In Elephants Can Remember, the mood is slightly melancholic. Christie was already 82 when she wrote this, and it has a lot to do with old people going down memory lane and remembering past crimes. It takes a long time to understand why anyone would be interested in solving a mystery that happened about 15 years before (this part is a bit shaky, in my opinion), but it soon becomes a case where everyone misremembers circumstances and throws the investigation in a totally new direction.
This novel features Poirot but also Christie’s comic alter-ego, amateur sleuth-cum-mystery writer Ariadne Oliver. I love how Christie lets her speak about mystery writing, how her imagination runs wild with the slightest dramatic hypothesis. The opening scene at a literary luncheon is very funny when shy Ariadne doesn’t know how to accept her readers’ compliments and tries to pull through with polite platitudes. Then a total stranger asks her the question that will kick off the whole investigation: “I’ve always wondered… Did her father kill her mother or did her mother kill her father?”. This is such a good opening line, don’t you think?
PS. I’ve just realized that Lord Edgware Dies was known in the US as Thirteen at Dinner. I wonder why Christie’s titles had to be changed when they crossed the pond…