Programming note: Tomorrow, for Armistice Day, Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, we will have a special edition of The Mark Steyn Show.
~Ahead of that, here we go with Part Four of our autumnal audio diversion: The Mysterious Affair at Styles - the first novel Agatha Christie ever published and the book that introduced the world to Hercule Poirot. Lawrence Brennan, a First Month Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Florida, writes of last night's episode:
A feature of detective stories is the necessity of detailing the scene and people's actions and their daily lives. More than any other literature, the detective story opens a window on the contemporary life to a greater degree than any other type of fiction. Because the writer has to provide the clues the detective uses to solve the crime, the descriptions must be complete enough to give the reader the same hints, assuming it's not one of those last minute ex machina things of some of the genre's worse examples. (Only the detective knows the murderer was a left-handed Irishman, which none of us knew until the parlor reveal.)
It's one of the things that makes the best dramatizations so exacting.
In that case, tonight's episode is going to prove particularly exacting, Lawrence. But you make a good point: so much of the plot hinges on a subtle variation in the preparation of a sleeping powder or the housemaid's delivery of a mug of cocoa. Oddly enough, however, details that are extremely tedious when contemporary become semi-fascinating once they're obsolete - at least to me.
At any rate, in Episode Four of The Magnificent Affair at Styles, M Poirot does his best to prove Lawrence's thesis:
On the chest of drawers there was a tray with a spirit lamp and a small saucepan on it. A small quantity of a dark fluid remained in the saucepan, and an empty cup and saucer that had been drunk out of stood near it.
I wondered how I could have been so unobservant as to overlook this. Here was a clue worth having. Poirot delicately dipped his finger into liquid, and tasted it gingerly. He made a grimace.
"Cocoa—with—I think—rum in it."
He passed on to the debris on the floor, where the table by the bed had been overturned. A reading-lamp, some books, matches, a bunch of keys, and the crushed fragments of a coffee-cup lay scattered about.
"Ah, this is curious," said Poirot.
Tales for Our Time is now in its fifth year. So, if you've a friend who might be partial to our classic fiction outings, we have a special Gift Membership that, aside from dozens of audio yarns, also includes video poetry, live music, our Clubland Q&A (which returns next week) and more.
Please join me tomorrow evening for Part Five of The Mysterious Affair at Styles.