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A Failed Christie Mystery
Nov 21, 2023 12:48 PM 406 Views

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Somewhere in the middle of this year I had decided to go back to reading. My target was to finish at least 20 books by the end of 2023. A tall order. Unfortunately, I got stuck with Ashwin Sanghi - The Magicians Of Mazda - I guess it was. Yes it was. Too much of history. This was the first time I was bored with Sanghi.


The other exception was Postern Of Fate - a Christie Mystery which failed in many ways but still I pulled through. Perhaps it's her style. Perhaps I found more to it than was narrated. Perhaps it's curiosity which led me on. This was one of those rare books of Christie which I had not read even once.


Had it been my awed by Christie days I would have been very very disappointed by this book. But getting older endows one with more empathy. I understood what it must have been like when the dame wanted to carry on with her passion with a failing memory.


I read somewhere that Postern Of Fate was one of the books written by Christie in her later years when age was taking over her memory and she was finding it difficult to remember things. She would narrate the story with the help of a dictaphone rather than typing it out herself.


It's quite apparent the way the narrative lacks action and is fully based on dialogic exchanges between Tommy and Tuppence, the endearing characters created by the dame. However, now that they have aged and retired to the countryside with the faithful Albert and their fierce watchdog, Hannibal, both look forward to a sedentary life, but as it happens with the couple with a penchant for sleuthing, there is yet another mystery remaining to be solved.


Coping with age and related issues like fudged memory and physical disabilities which prevent quick action and thinking, both husband and wife find it rather cumbersome to decipher a cryptic message hidden in an old book - "Mary Jordan did not die a natural death. It was one of us." To uncover a crime which is kind of undated and most probably has taken place even before the First World War is like looking for a pin in a haystack.


Christie makes it an espionage thriller(sans the thrill) somewhere gone wrong. Unfortunately, most of it is rambling between the two lonely, aged couple who are missing their earlier adventurous life and also the fact that they cannot reverse the arms of the clock even if they want to.


There are loads of indications like money trail, financing of organized, international crimes and the actual crime per se that is the who and why and how part. It appears Christie did actually know a lot about the workings of the Secret Service but somehow she tries to clothe it up in puzzling paraphrases without disclosing much. Perhaps it's her background of Services provided during the War and the Oath of Secrecy which prevent her from coming too close to talk openly about the functioning of the underworld of spies and counter spies.


Though this book is criticised as one of her worst and nothing seems to happen or come out into the open by the end but what definitely comes forth is the unrepresentability of a matrix which is too complex to be fathomed and too intricate to be unwound. Christie does succeed in making home that it is not always possible to put your finger on the actual culprit and as civilization progresses so does the viciousness and invincibility of crime whether in the name of patriotism or in the name of personal vendetta.


Mary Jordan is not just a name. She is the past about which the entire village of Holloquay talks about. It's a past the rural society holds on to because it gives their mediocre lives a colour, an event, a history and a narrative.


The actual occurence of the crime is now part of unlocatable bygone. Then why unearth it? Because past shapes the present. The commitment of the crime though foggy in the minds of the people rings a bell . People talk. And when past wakes up to haunt the present it's sure that the cause of the crime is still very much existent, though may be in a different form in a different milieu.


Christie underscores the continuity of crime. It may have a variant DNA but it's root lies deep down. It is not possible to erase history because it cradles the virtues as well as vices of mankind. It changes forms to suit the contemporaneity and relevance of time. But it never releases its hold because it is as ancient as mankind.


In a way Postern Of Fate is a treatise on how to view, analyse and evaluate crime with historical undertones of victory and defeat. Those who are defeated prepare to strike again and again. Those who are victorious wish to control more and more. Both, victory and defeat, become channels of change, revenge and control.


The continued process requires money. So starts a new regime of money. Even muscle power is bought by money. Ultimately, money manages. Money controls. What can it not do?


There are people who handle the money. There are people who handle the crime. In 1973, three years before her death, Agatha Christie, segregated the two vital aspects of organized crime - finance and execution.


This book should be read by all who have interest in criminology, espionage and psycho-social aspect of crimes and criminals.


It's not an usual Christie. You have to wait for action. The logical deducing of crime is not adequately clear. You have to forget you are reading a Christie. Yet it pulls you along.


There are frequent references to how age catches on. Tuppence mentioning how impossible it is to comprehend when so many oldies talk at the same time - pensioners who have nothing left but the past. How Tommy keeps telling Tuppence to take care of herself. The writer's own physical and mental condition amply depicted in her adorable characters. Yet it's a Christie which though in a blabbering kind of way lays before the readers the anatomy of crime through hints, guesses and probabilities.


With patience you may try reading this one.


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