The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) by Agatha Christie

It seemed such a smashing joke – Gerry Wade always overslept, so his jolly old chums sneaked into his room and surrounded him with ticking alarm clocks. But Gerry never woke up again, having overdosed on sleeping pills. Oddly, the clocks had been re-arranged, with one of them missing.

Soon after, Lady Eileen “Bundle” Brent comes across a dying man. His final words include the phrase “Seven Dials”. Could the two crimes be linked? Soon Bundle and her allies find themselves allied against the mysterious Seven Dials society – but who is the mysterious number Seven?

Apparently, this was not appreciated when it was first released, and to an extent, it is something of a forgotten Christie. I’d read it a long time ago – and I do mean a long time – but had completely forgotten everything about it. But also, I’ve rarely seen it mentioned. I read a lot about Golden Age crime fiction, a lot of which is naturally about Dame Agatha and even so, this one rarely comes up.

It’s a sequel to The Secret Of Chimneys from four years previous, another book that I’ve forgotten almost everything about, and I think it’s poor reputation isn’t really deserved.

First of all, it’s rather funny. There’s a lovely bit at the beginning where the gardener at Chimneys walks all over the people renting the house, but falls quickly into line when Bundle makes the same request. The upper-class chums running around solving crimes may seem a little like something out of Enid Blyton but Christie does a very good job of weaving an actual mystery plot around the capers.

It drags badly in the middle section where not a lot happens, but Christie makes up for it with the finale, once again demonstrating her unsurpassed skill at turning a mystery on its head by a simple misdirection. One has to question Battle’s tactics at some points as he seems to swing between knowing the killer, not knowing and then knowing again, but this only occurs to the reader if they think too hard about it. Or if they read this. Sorry.

Anyway, not perfect, but definitely not one to overlook.

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHY – Made into a television adaptation (once upon a time)

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