Friday, April 22, 2016

The Harlequin Tea Set: More Christie short stories

     Agatha Christie. The Harlequin Tea Set... (1997) Except for the last two, these are stories published in various magazines and not collected until now. All except one were written in the 1920s and 30s, they cater to the taste of that time. Christie shows she can write romance, often with a touch of the supernatural, psychological studies, and of course whodunits. Christie had mastered the craft long before she became the Queen of Crime.
     The plots generally have a twist calculated to surprise the reader, such as a star actress who doubts her skills, yet uses them to trick a would-be blackmailer into leaving the country, thus proving to herself that she’s a real actress. All are written to create an ambience, a mood: small statue of some pagan god displayed in a museum becomes the occasion of two lonely people meeting and falling in love. Poetic justice figures in most of them, as in the story where a woman marries well after losing her first love, who reappears, and then kills himself so that she will not be tempted to leave her husband. But she will now forever know that he died not realising that she had become a morally lazy lover of creature comforts who would never have left her rich husband.
   And so on. Christie fans will be happy, and the casual reader will be entertained. ** to ***

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