The Cool Down with AC, Summer Read-Along of Agatha Christie continues with the next short story in the story portion of our Agatha extravaganza. I thoroughly enjoyed spending two train rides reading what has been called one of Agatha Christie's best short stories, "Three Blind Mice." The story is the inspiration for the longest-running play in theater history, "The Mousetrap." Indeed, the play is so popular in the UK that "Three Blind Mice" has never been published there, so as not to give away the ending. (source: MysteryNet.com)
This story features neither Miss Marple nor Hercule Poirot and is set just after WWII in a guest house outside London that has just been opened for business by a newlywed couple. As the story begins, a woman is murdered in London and the clues left behind by the murderer include the phrase from the children's nursery rhyme, "Three Blind Mice," along with a note pinnned to the dead woman that reads, "'This is the first." The story moves along at high speed as various guests arrive at Monkswell Manor, followed by the police, who claim that the killer is among them.
I loved how everyone in this story is simultaneously scared at the prospect that a murderer is lurking, yet also goes about their daily lives within the guest house (complaining, eating, playing the piano) as if nothing is happening. One guest, a Mr. Paravicini, even comments on the story-like quality of the predicament they find themselves in, saying, before they know who the killer is, "I always think explanations should be kept to the very end--that exciting last chapter, you know."
When reading the "Tuesday Night Club," the characters almost relish the topic of murder, and you get the sense that they wouldn't mind being at least tangentially involved in a real case. In this story, it may sound strange, but I felt as though this band of travellers had somehow "lucked out" that there was an actual murderer right in their midst. I think it speaks to Christie's skill as a writer that she manages to convey both this sense of play along with a very real sense of danger.
"Three Blind Mice" is a longer short story than "The Tuesday Night Club" - at about 70 pages. If you haven't read it yet, give yourself a treat and do. And if you have read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the questions below or any other observations!
1) Was this the first Christie you've read, or the first of her short stories?
2) What did you think of the various characters and how Christie painted them, each a distinctive type?
3) How many people did you guess was possibly the murderer before learning the truth? Were you surprised?
4) I liked how the war played into this story, in terms of its lasting effects on the people who lived through it. It reminded me of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. Did you notice that similarity?
I look forward to reading everyone's answers and welcome you back here on August 1st for a discussion of the final short story in our readalong, "Witness for the Prosecution." And be sure to visit these other discussions and giveaways of Christie's books and films going on now and throughout July:
July 11th-July 17th: Miss Marple on The Sunday Book Review
July 18th-July 24th: Murder on the Orient Express: A Hercule Poirot Mystery on Booking Mama