Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile

Originally published at Daily Kos on Nov 7, 2011

I can’t think of Agatha Christie without some Art Deco image coming immediately to mind.  It may be as a result of the era she wrote about and in, or it may simply be the style of the covers that I remember from my youth.She will always, for me, bring to mind elegant elongated women in fur or feathered boas and turbans, and draped with long strands of pearls in flapper skirts posed with cigarettes in extended holders.  And the men will always have side-parted, slicked back, black hair and be dressed in white dinner jackets while holding clear martini glasses with one olive.  With music by Scott Joplin.Death on the Nile is filled with such people.

The Cast

Linnet Ridgeway Doyle the beautiful, charming heiress to a great American fortune living in England and appearing to enjoy the best of everything.

Joanna Southwood, “a tall thin young woman of twenty-seven, with a long clever face and freakishly plucked eyebrows,” apparent friend to Linnet.

Jacqueline de Bellefort (Jackie), a friend of Linnet’s from their days together at school.  Her father lost the family money during the 1929 crash, leaving her in reduced financial circumstances.

Simon Doyle, an Englishman, the love of Jackie’s life and her fiancee, who goes to work for Linnet as a land agent and within three months becomes her husband.  (He is blond, but I’m willing to bet he wears his hair parted and slicked back.)

Mrs. Allerton, a cousin of Joanna Southwood, of whom she disapproves, and her son, Tim, who appears enjoy Joanna’s correspondence more than her company, and is devoted to his mother.

Mrs Otterbourne, who writes erotic novels and wears dreadful turbans and her daughter,Rosalie, repeatedly described as being sulky although pretty.

Andrew Pennington, Linnet’s American trustee who races to Egypt to meet Linnet when he hears of her marriage.

Louise Borgett, Linnet’s maid,

Signor Guido Richett, Italian archeologist

Miss Van Schuyler, wealthy American snob, her young poor relative and traveling companionCornelia Robson, and her nurse, Miss Bowers.

Jim Fanthorp, nephew of Linnet’s English solicitor, although unknown to her personally, he is sent to Egypt when his uncle learns of the presence of Pennington.

Mr. Fergusson, a rather outspoken, shabbily dressed anti-capitalist.

Dr. Bessner a German physician travelling on the Karnak.

Colonel Race, “a man of unadvertised goings and comings. He was usually to be found in one of the outposts of Empire where trouble was brewing.”  He joins the Karnak at the Second Cataract.

The Story

Agatha Christie is at her usual best, weaving multiple sub-plots in and out of the murder mystery that drives the novel.  Although her books have never been character studies, the people are drawn with just enough depth to make them appear real, if slightly stereotypical.

Seeming to already have everything, but lacking a love of her own, Linnet Ridgeway steals her friend Jackie’s fiancee, Simon Doyle.  Deciding to honeymoon in Egypt, they are followed everywhere by Jackie de Bellefort.  Always polite and never directly threatening, Jackie even appears on the Karnak for the Nile cruise.

Hercule Poirot is on the same ship as part of his planned vacation and encounters the Doyles and the other characters (except Joanne Southwood, who is the only one not on board). Before sailing he has a chance, at Linnet’s request, to try to disuade Jackie from stalking the Doyles.  During their conversation, she indicates that she would very much like to shoot Linnet in the head and shows Hercule the small handgun she carries in her purse.

While onboard the Karnak, Linnet Doyle is shot in the head exactly as Jacqueline de Bellefort described.  But Jackie was in her cabin supervised by Miss Van Schuyler’s nurse, Miss Bowers, at the time of the murder, having just shot her ex-fiancee, Simon Doyle, in the leg during a quarrel.

So, who killed Linnet Doyle?  And what secrets do the others hide?

My Favorite Quote

“There’s no reason why women shouldn’t behave like rational beings,” Simon asserted stolidly.
Poirot said dryly: “Quite frequently they do. That is even more upsetting!”

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