Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Bit of Agatha Christie On A Beautiful Sunny Day in April.

One of many reasons why I adore Dame Agatha's writing:

(The following is an interlude between dead bodies at the English Country estate of Lord Caterham where a body with a bullet in it has just been discovered by a maid. The police are on the scene, Lord Caterham plans on leaving all the details in their hands as well as in those of George Lomax (known as Codders), a government toady who is on his way over from a neighboring estate. The dead man was an important and very hush-hush dignitary.)

"Well," said Lord Caterham, eager to escape, "I'll leave you here, Inspector. You'll be able to find me if you - er - want me. But Mr. George Lomax is coming over from Wyvern Abbey shortly, and he'll be able to tell you far more than I could. It's his business really. I can't explain, but he will when he comes."

Lord Caterham beat a precipitate retreat without waiting for a reply. "Too bad for Lomax," he complained. "Letting me in for this. What's the matter, Tredwell?"

The white-haired butler was hovering deferentially at his elbow. "I have taken the liberty, my lord, of advancing the breakfast hour as far as you are concerned. Everything is ready in the dining room."

"I don't suppose for a minute I can eat anything," said Lord Caterham gloomily, turning his footsteps in that direction. "Not for a moment."

Bundle [Caterham's daughter] slipped her hand through his arm, and they entered the dining room together. On the sideboard were half a score of heavy silver dishes, ingeniously kept hot by patent arrangements.

"Omelet," said Lord Caterham, lifting each lid in turn. "Eggs and bacon, kidneys, deviled bird, haddock, cold ham, cold pheasant. I don't like any of these things, Tredwell. Ask the cook to pouch me an egg, will you?"

"Very good, my lord."

Tredwell withdrew. Lord Caterham, in an absent-minded fashion, helped himself plentifully to kidneys and bacon, poured himself out a cup of coffee, and sat down at the long table. Bundle was already busy with a plateful of eggs and bacon.

"I'm damned hungry," said Bundle with her mouth full. "It must be the excitement."

"It's all very well for you," complained her father. "You young people like excitement. But I'm in a very delicate state of health. Avoid all worry, that's what Sir Abner Willis said - avoid all worry. So easy for a man sitting his consulting room in Harley Street to say that. How can I avoid worry when that ass Lomax lands me with a thing like this?..."

With a sad shake of the head, Lord Caterham rose and carved himself a plate of ham.

"Codders has certainly done it this time," observed Bundle cheerfully. "He was almost incoherent over the telephone. He'll be here in a minute or two spluttering nineteen to the dozen about discretion and hushing it up."

Lord Caterham groaned at the prospect. "Was he up?" he asked.

"He told me," replied Bundle, "that he had been up and dictating letters and memoranda ever since seven o'clock."

"Proud of it, too," remarked her father. "Extraordinarily selfish, these public men. They make their wretched secretaries get up at the most unearthly hours in order to dictate rubbish to them. If a law was passed compelling them to stop in bed until eleven, what a benefit it would be to the nation! I wouldn't mind so much if they didn't talk such balderdash. Lomax is always talking to me of my 'position.' As if I had any. Who wants to be a peer nowadays?"

"Nobody," said Bundle. "They'd much rather keep a prosperous public house."

Tredwell reappeared silently with two poached eggs in a little silver dish which he placed on the table in front of Lord Caterham. "What's that, Tredwell?" said the latter, looking at them with faint distaste.

"Poached eggs, my lord."

"I hate poached eggs," said Lord Caterham peevishly. "They're so insipid. I don't like to look at them even. Take them away, will you Tredwell?"

"Very good, my lord." Tredwell and the poached eggs withdrew as silently as they had come.

The book was published in 1925, only Christie's sixth mystery. But I don't even mind the adverbs. I am in love with Lord Caterham. He is one of the few men in literature that I would willingly marry. Ha!

I've lost track of how many times I've read THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS, but I suspect I'm not done yet.


  1. I have yet to read this one. There's something so charming about Agatha Christie's books that I can't not keep reading them. If you married Lord Caterham you'd get to be "Lady Caterham." Inducement, no?

  2. I can imagine Agatha cracking herself up as she wrote this at her trusty typewriter. I read SECRET OF CHIMNEYS ages ago when I was a teen. Didn't recall it being this funny. I may have to re-read this one. I've probably forgotten the entire plot by now and it'll be like reading it for the first time.

  3. People always look at me curiously when I say I RE-read my favorite authors' books - including Christie - regularly. It's nice to know I'm not the only one, Yvette!

  4. Lauren: Don't miss this one. It's a bit dated of course. But it's one of my favorites. My paperback copy is falling apart. :)

    Yes, I'd be Lady Caterham (ha!) and get to live on an English estate with Tredwell the impeccable butler and Caterham the dotty peer. Love him.

  5. Oh, John, so many of her books had tons of humor. Occasionally even dark humor.

    SECRET OF CHIMNEYS is really more of a farce than anything else. I think it would make a great play.

  6. I think there are tons of us, Les. I reread all the time. Especially during lunch which is when I always crave a vintage mystery along with my vittles. :)

  7. this is one of my favorite books of hers as it never fails to entertain me.

  8. Yvette, I haven't read this one either and I'm moving it up my list of Agatha Christie books that I still have to read. A friend of mine once envied me because I have quite a few of her books left to read well as he can only re-read them, which is like a second treat anyway.

  9. Wonderful choice Yvette! Everyone knows "And Then There Were None," so highlighting a lesser known novel to Christie newbies is an excellent idea. This was the first novel by Christie that I read that did not feature Poirot or Marple and it remains a favorite of mine too!

  10. I read this last year when PBS broadcast a version of THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS. Both the book and the TV episode were well done.

  11. I too read this as a nipper and have never looked at it again - I would love to re-read more, but I always get qualms after thinking about the hundreds of thousands of books I have yet to read for the first time ... You could argue, however, that with a genuine passage of time it can feel like reading a book for a first time even if you remember some of it just because you have changed so much (I'm certainly not the teenager I was thirty years ago in terms of my reading preferences)

  12. My mom and I are re-reading all Christie's books in publication order - we've got three done, so next it's The Man in the Brown Suit and then The Secret of Chimneys! Now I can't wait to read it again. I think it's one of her funniest books.

  13. Ryan, I do wonder what it is about this book that is so enchanting? I have a sneaking suspicion it's nostalgia for a world gone by. :)

  14. Thanks, Caftan Woman - and very cinematic too. I can see Sir John Gielgud in his heyday as Lord Caterham. :)

  15. Prashant: I'll bet that Agatha Christie is one of the world's most re-read authors. Once is just not enough with her books. You're in for a definite treat with this one.

  16. Gilby 37: Oh definitely a favorite of mine as well. Dame Agaths is an author of many flavors besides Poirot and Marple. :)

  17. George: Wait, don't tell me, I'll bet they inserted either Poirot or Jane Marple into the story on PBS. :)

    The books is very special, I can't think of anyone who's read it and didn't enjoy it. It's just so much fun.

  18. Sergio: You can never reread too much Agatha. :)

    Most especially if you don't remember the book. But even if you do, I mean, I can practically quote parts of the dialogue in some (and a few of her expressions have crept into my vocabulary)and I'm still rereading my favorites.

    It's like visiting with old friends. Make the time.

  19. Elizabeth, I thought SECRET OF CHIMNEYS was her second book? I'm confused. Oh well, maybe I'm wrong, but even so it's a very early one and yes, one of her funniest. I love it.

    THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT is another special favorite of mine.


    Three without Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot. Even though I love them as well.

    Was watching NEMESIS the other nigh with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Such a wonderful adaptation.

  20. I think it's THE SECRET ADVERSARY, the first Tommy and Tuppence novel, that's second. I haven't read it for years, though.

    I've not read CHIMNEYS. I enjoyed SEVEN DIALS (which must have Agatha's most complicated twist) but the only version of Chimneys I've seen is a slightly strange comic book edition which probably didn't do it justice.

    Oh! And the horrible new TV version which I couldn't watch all the way through.

  21. rich: I think you might enjoy the early pbs version of SEVEN DIALS with Sir John Gielgud as the finicky earl. He is simply wonderful and practically steals the show.

    You're right about THE SECRET ADVERSARY, it was the second. As usual, I got everything half-assed backwards. :)

  22. Thanks for contributing this to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival Yvette. I've enjoyed reading all the comments and your responses too.

  23. You're welcome. I like to contribute whenever I can. Especially since I am one of Agatha Christie's biggest fans. :)


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