Monday, October 3, 2011

Murder In Mesopotamia

62. Murder in Mesopotamia - an Hercule Poirot mystery
by Agatha Christie
mystery, 1936
Kindle book, 39
finished, 9/17/11

Here's an Agatha book I just didn't care for that much. I liked the narrator, and the device used at the beginning of the book to introduce her. There is a foreword from a doctor, Giles Reilly in which he explains that this four year old case has been wildly misrepresented in the 'American Press.' He wants the facts to be set down by an unbiased person, a person who was there but not a member of 'the expedition staff' in Mesopotamia, now known as Iraq. I loved this way of setting up the book, and it was fun seeing Poirot portrayed through someone else's eyes besides Hastings'. Miss Amy Leatheran is a wonderful character and brightens up a book that, to me, would have been most dull without her.

I found I didn't like the psychological aspect of the book. I suppose that really all mysteries are about 'the psychology of the individual' - the phrase Jeeves often says to Bertie Wooster in the Wodehouse stories. But this one bored me with all the psychological talk. Because the first murder occurs some distance into the book, I shan't divulge here the name of the person killed. What I can say is that there's a woman suffering from nerves, as they used to say. Her husband hires our bright, common-sensical nurse narrator to take care of his beloved wife. There are many characters, working on various aspects of the archeological dig. When the murder takes place, it is discovered that Hercule Poirot
has been disentangling some military scandal in Syria ... and he will actually pass through Hassanieh on his way to Baghdad
That Hercule certainly does get around, and is always in the right place at the right time!

Agatha's second husband was Max Mallowan, an archeologist and she frequently accompanied him on expeditions. My much referred to Reader's Companion

has an aerial view of the dig in Mesopotamia

and a photo of the beloved author 'on excavation at the Chagar Bazaar in 1936'

I would expect any books dealing with the subject of archeology, set in locales Agatha Christie knew well, to be interesting and illuminating but this one just wasn't to me. Of course, it is entirely possible that I have been spoiled by Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series. To my mind, the fictional bar on this particular subject is higher than any other writer - past, present, or future will ever be able to reach, even the great Agatha.

You may be interested to know that on the Mallowan 1936 dig, there was a major find:
seventy cuneiform tablets that demonstrated a connection between the site and the Assyrian royal family around the year 1800 BC.


  1. I can't remember whether I liked Murder in Mesopotamia - but your review has made me move Amelia Peabody up my TBR list. For an author to outshine Dame Agatha - this I MUST read!

    P.S. It was very interesting to learn of the find on the Mallowan dig - thanks for 'digging' up that tidbit!

  2. Oh, witty one! If you go here:

    The books are in latest published order. Scroll down to find the first one. This is a series it is worth reading in order. Marriage, children, children growing up. Years pass. Oh, how I love these books.

  3. If I remember my non-fiction book correctly, Agatha Christie was very happy in the second marriage to Max Mallowan. I wonder if her writing might have suffered somewhat in the sense that she was giving more attention to her husband? This is just a thought... I don't begrudge her a thing. If I could write one tenth as well as Agatha Christie, I would be over the moon!

  4. I think I watched this one on PBS!! I have yet to get past 1 AG book read so far but I'm going to work on that problem soon!!

  5. There are so many AC books I haven't read yet.

    You are really enjoying your Kindle aren't you? I wish ALL of my books were in on my Kindle now:)

  6. Fascinating background on Christie.

    I'm now about half way into Thirteen Problems/Tuesday Club Murders and am enjoying it.

    That Hercule certainly does get around, and is always in the right place at the right time!

    I remember having a similar feeling about Father Brown. No matter where a crime took place, there he'd be on the periphery of the crowd, peering benignly at all the suspects and putting everything together much more quickly than the police.

  7. I am a HUGE fan of the Amelia Peabody books too, Nan. Never miss an opportunity to recommend them.

    DId you see that comment I quoted from SPEAKING OF MURDER - during an interview with Elizabeth Peters, the interviewer asks something like: Is it true that you are the illicit child of H. Rider Haggard and Dorothy L. Sayers?

    Peters responds: Make that illicit grandchild.


    Unlike you, Nan, I did enjoy MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA and reread it now and again. My only quibble with it was the 'recognition' factor. Know what I mean?

    I didn't find that too plausible.
    But I loved the setting and the odd assembly of characters.

  8. I have not read Murder in Mesopotamia for a while. I think the last time, it was one of those BBC audio dramatizations (I love those!). I tend to get the ones that are set abroad mixed up in my mind a bit.

  9. Elizabeth Peters is now on my list. I won't go out of my way to look for Murder in Mesopotania -- I'm just trying to pick up an Agatha whenever I visit a used book store. And I have started on Hercule.

  10. It looks like I liked this one more than you did. But I haven't read the Elizabeth Peter's series so I didn't have a comparison. I liked all the pictures you shared from The Reader's Companion. I really must get myself a copy.

  11. Kay, I'm not sure that is the case since she wrote a lot of great books after that marriage. I think it is more my own personal opinion. I'm sure many love this book!

    Staci, I'll be interested to read your reviews.

    Diane, actually not so much. I use it because it is easy to hold at bedtime. Period. I never bring it downstairs.:<)

    HKatz, I have read only one Father Brown years ago, and found it odd so didn't continue. Should I pick up another?

    Yvette, I did read that! So funny. I can see why you liked it, but it just didn't strike my fancy that much. I think others have had a bit of trouble with that 'plausibility' too.

    Belle, that's why I love the companion books I have. It is fun to be able to look up actual books, or names. She wrote so much that it is impossible to remember everything!

    Oh, Sallie, I love Amelia!

    Margot, I didn't really mean to compare them, but it's just I love the Amelia series so much that any fictional archeological digs belong to Emerson and Amelia!:<)


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