Death on the Nile
First published 1937
Christie assembles a more or less conventional cast of characters on a tourist boat on the Nile, with Hercule Poirot along for the ride. The victim is a likable and wealthy young lady, with friends and lovers and would-be lovers all along for the ride. There are also a host of other characters, any of whom, by authorial fiat, could turn in an instant from villain to heroine or vice-versa. In the event the culprit is someone I guessed half-way through the book, almost immediately after the murder is discovered.
As usual with all her books, the actual suspense is in game played between author and reader. Christie fills the narrative with red herrings and misdirection, while all the while having to play it 'fair' - i.e. to be able to say at the end: 'see, this was the logical solution all along, but only Poirot has the logical enough mind'. It is only rarely that it is possible to have a clue like the 'dog that did not bark in the night', where the fact can be made known to the reader, but the proper deduction from it is still so clever that it can be later revealed as an act of the detective-hero's genius. In the absence of such devices, detective stories succeed not by being elaborate puzzles for the reader, but by filling the story with a lot of rich and interesting background, or action, or social comment. A detective novel should also be, primarily, a novel. This book unfortunately is not. All the same, given Christie's reputation for surprising and satisfying resolution of the mystery ('...Roger Ackroyd', '...Orient Express') it is difficult to put this book down half-finished. As I do whenever I read one of her books, as and when the characters are introduced I try and guess who the victim is. And immediately after the crime is discovered and described I make a guess at the criminal, without necessarily being able to describe why and how. While reading rest of the book I look for clues in the way she takes the story forward (how she arranges the clues, whom she talks most about, and whom the least about and so on) to try and confirm my guess. This of course makes me read her books fully and derive enjoyment from them, and seek to read more. Maybe that is exactly what she has planned all along!