Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Report/They Came to Baghdad

They Came to Baghdad
by Agatha Christie
unabridged audio read by Emilia Fox
mystery, 1951
finished, 11/9/08

The main character in They Came to Baghdad is Victoria Jones, and she could be a relative of two Helen Fielding characters, Bridget Jones and Olivia Joules. She is feisty, and really smart. She is quick-witted and she doesn't mind lying to make a story better. Nothing gets her down for long. As the book begins, she's working as a shorthand typist, but isn't very good at it. She has a very active mind and imagination, and the reader knows she should be living a different kind of life. Soon after meeting a handsome fellow, who is leaving for work in Baghdad, and losing her job, she decides to find a way to join him. She learns of a woman with a broken arm who needs a traveling companion. Soon Victoria arrives in Baghdad, knowing only the young man's first name and where he works. Using her ingenuity, she does find him, and they are both delighted.

In addition to their story, the reader meets many other people in Baghdad. At first we aren't sure exactly what their jobs are and how they connect with one another, but of course we learn all as the book moves along. There is a murder, and the victim ends up dying in Victoria's arms after whispering some words to her, as in Alfred Hitchcock's, The Man Who Knew Too Much.

This is not a Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot mystery novel. It is a mystery and a spy thriller and just a plain good book. The reading by Emilia Fox was superb. She made every character come alive. One of my favorites is Marcus, the owner of the Tio Hotel who is quite large, who subsists on only alcohol, and who likes everyone. He is cheerful and buoyant and delightful. There is an absent-minded, rather eccentric archeologist with the wonderful name of Pauncefoot Jones who expounds on sickness and health:

All these academic fellows who stick around universities get far too absorbed in their health. Shouldn't think about it - that's the way to keep fit.

And then, there is Victoria herself. I was so fond of her. She was surprising, amusing, and interesting.

I am turning into an Agatha cheerleader, but honestly I think she is a great, great writer. Her plots, her characters, her locales offer all that I could wish for in an entertaining, informative read.


  1. Nan - thank you for the kind comment you have just left on my blog and in return may I say I do enjoy Letters from a Hill Farm and I must leave comments more often.

    They came to Baghdad is one of my favourite Christies. I love her early ones with no detective in, just a spiffing yarn as this one is! Do try The Man in a Brown Suit, and Destination Unknown, great fun. The Secret of Chimneys all full of bright young things in the 1920s. Agatha haveing sheer fun.

  2. I read my first Christie at the age of nine and I've been a fan ever since. They Came to Baghdad is by no means my favourite, but it's a fun read more than half a century after it was written. And of course the setting has a special poignancy in view of what has happened in Iraq in more recaent times.

  3. I enjoyed reading this on too! your description makes it easy for me to recall why I found the main character to be such fun!

  4. Thank you Elaine, Martin, and Val for your comments. Here's something I found interesting - I read that Robert Barnard wasn't so wild about this book either:

    Yet, Elaine and Val and I all seem to be quite delighted with it. Thinking of my comparison with Bridget Jones and Olivia Joules (a book most critics didn't care for but I loved) I wonder if maybe, just a little bit, They Came to Baghdad is "chick-lit?!"

  5. Thanks Nan
    That was a really nice note.
    Yes little survivor Bailey boy is here beside me. Eating well, walking more each day.. a miracle he is here, really.
    Pet lovers know what it's like to almost lose a pet.
    My husband has worked 25 years in the quality dept of a major pharma co, and has had to travel all over the world, because it's a world wide well known co.
    They are laying of 7300 people world wide.
    But when it happens to you , and it is unplanned, it is hard for him to think starting over at another pharma co at age 59.And we just moved here and there are no job opportunities in his field here.We can hardly think of moving.. our 25 yr. son lives nearby and it's just been wonderful to be near him after being too far from him.
    We have to start paying our own health insurance, and many other details.
    Thanks for your concern.

  6. I'm a big Christie fan, and whereas this book was never one of my favorites, Victoria Jones is a wonderful and memorable character, and Emilia Fox an excellent reader. I enjoyed the CD very much. Fox also reads "Why didn't they ask Evans?" one of my favorite Christie mysteries, and she also does a fantastic job. Excellent characters too, especially Frankie, who's similar in some ways to Victoria.

  7. Hey, thanks, ala for stopping by to comment. I love it when people somehow see older postings, and take the time to write. I look forward to the Evans book - it sounds great!

  8. No need to tell you, Nan, I LOVE this book. This and THEY CAME TO BAGHDAD are the two Christie books I think I re-read most often. They are always on my bedside table. Especially when I am feeling a bit under the weather. ;)

  9. Yvette, thanks for coming by to read the posting. I so enjoyed this book.


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