Posts from 24th September 2007

Sep 07

Character Witnesses

FT + The Brown Wedge5 comments • 725 views

Agatha Christie’s “Evil Under The Sun” and Georges Simenon’s “Maigret And The Old Lady” have a few things in common: seasides, murder, and a lady whose intelligence and good company charms the detective even though she might be a bad ‘un. I read the former on holiday in France and the latter the week after I got back. This was the right order. Christie’s seaside resort – an island off the Devon coast – is a flimsy concoction, nicely set up for a whodunnit but with no atmosphere, and “Evil Under The Sun” is an easy read even for smooth-rolling Agatha – just right for polishing off on an afternoon in the garden. Simenon’s setting is much better-drawn, a French fishing town as the tourist season winds down, which provokes plenty of brooding in Maigret, who is in the bad position of having Proustian flashbacks to holidays he took specifically to evoke images of other holidays he DIDN’T take as a child. It’s no wonder he spends most of the book necking Calvados.