It is the last day of The 1938 Club, hosted by Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Stuck in a Book. So it’s time to write about Agatha Christie’s Appointment With Death. It is one of Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, which on the whole I like a little less than the Miss Marple ones. But it had been a while since I had read any of Christie’s books, so I was ready for my next dose of her mysteries.
Appointment With Death takes place in the Middle East, of all places. The Boynton family with its sadistic mother, five cowed adult children, and the oldest son’s wife are on their way to Petra, Syria. Also traveling to Petra are two doctors, Dr. Gerard and Dr. Sarah King, two English ladies, Lady Westholme and Miss Pierce, and Mr. Jefferson Cope, who happens to be an acquaintance of the Boyntons. While at Petra, Mrs. Boynton meets her untimely, but not unwelcome, end, and Colonel Carbury turns to his guest Hercule Poirot to solve the case within the next 24 hours.
In my opinion, this is not one of Christie’s strongest mysteries. I didn’t care too much for any of the characters, and Poirot seemed particularly arrogant. However, the setup is quite clever, since every single person who traveled to Petra has a motive for the murder. And as usual, the solution was unexpected, although not entirely convincing.
Next I watched the 2010 movie, which is only loosely based on the book—something I was not aware of. In the movie, Mrs. Boynton has a husband, an archaeologist who is searching for John the Baptist’s head. In the book, Mrs. Boynton has a needle mark on her arm, an almost overlooked detail that leads one of the doctors to suspect foul play. In the movie, Mrs. Boynton gets stabbed to death, and her knife wounds could never be missed. Also, in the movie, she is not the only murder victim.
At first, the plot liberties taken in the movie were a bit confusing to me. I actually double-checked to make sure I had checked out the right movie. But once I adjusted my expectations, I did enjoy the movie. It was atmospheric, with nice nature shots and beautiful music. The film’s reason for why the Boyntons were traveling in the Middle East was more convincing than the book’s. The movie also wove a story around the title, Appointment With Death, that the book was missing: a man meets Death and is so scared that he rides across the desert to Damascus to escape. But at the end of the journey, there is Death waiting for him. When the man utters his surprise, Death explains that he was surprised as well when he met the man for the very first time, since their appointment had always been in Damascus. I love the irony in this story. In fact, I almost like it better than either the book’s or the movie’s stories.
In short, if you are looking for some light entertainment, pick up either book or movie. But don’t expect more than that.