Moving into the penultimate post on my in-depth look at Fear and Trembling – the story so far can be found here:
Chapter XVI Find The Lady
In which Bathurst casually plugs yet another earlier title – The Case Of The Purple Calf – making it four in total – five if you count mentioning “The Fortescue Candle” on two separate occasions. The majority of the chapter is a head to head meeting between Bathurst and another characters, with Bathurst pouring on the charm. There’s a reference to an obscure title from 1901 – Count Hannibal by Stanley J Weyman – in such a way that a quotation is expected to be (and indeed is) recognised by any well-read person. Odd for a book that I’ve never heard of. Also, we get a train from Blackfriars to Victoria (which sounds like the underground as it’s referred to as heading west) and yet it has first, second and third class. Any experts want to confirm or deny this? Anyway, by the end of the chapter, Bathurst has some clear information to go on…
Chapter XVII At Closer Quarters
Bathurst decides to play the action man and rather stupidly puts himself in danger. You know, if he had waited a bit… Must admit, I can’t envision Poirot doing what Bathurst is doing here. If I’d read more Allingham, I could be more certain of this, but he seems to be in the mold of Albert Campion here – detective but not unwilling to beard the lion in his den. But, it’s worth pointing out, he doesn’t have a Lugg to back him up.
Chapter XVIII Things Improve
Well, that’s a good thing, as they looked pretty bleak at the end of the last chapter. This is definitely the first time I’ve encounter Bathurst being so interested in a woman – the romance feels like a more serious version of something from a Carr book, with all the flirting coming across as each trying to outdo the other. We also get a description of Bathurst – “Tall, slim and well-built. Darkish hair. Well-dressed, wore an overcoat and generally suggested a man of good social standing. Age – in the early thirties.” I’ve speculated on Bathurst’s age before, so I’ll file this away for later thought.
Chapter XIX Digby and Desmoulais
In which we finally get an idea as to what the macguffin driving the plot is about – although not enough to elicit a clear picture. And I also encounter for the first and possibly the last time the word “crow-gurgle” being the noise that a woman makes when a man who’s been flirting with her pays her a compliment. A “delicious crow-gurgle”, in fact.
Chapter XX The Mill End Coffin-Maker
We get to see the other side of the MacMorran-Bathurst relationship where MacMorran takes amusement in Bathurst not knowing what’s going on. So while Bathurst revels in his perceived intellectual superiority, MacMorran finds it funny when things don’t go Bathurst’s way practically. Anyway, after interviewing the undertaker of the title and learning something important that went completely over my head, Bathurst knows the truth. Well, he thinks he knows the truth, but he’s a cocky so and so…
So, what the heck is going on? Should I have worked it out? Is there anything to work out apart from what the villain’s plan is? Or have I been looking in the wrong direction the whole time?
One more instalment to go…
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You’ve heard of Count Hannibal! You’ve read Postern of Fate, haven’t you? (Or is it a suppressed traumatic memory?)
Well, Postern Of Fate is Agatha Christie’s last book and so abominable that it is best forgotten !
It’s seriously underrated as a brilliant experiment in the technique of the nouveau roman.