again Poirot is trying to take a vacation, this time to Jordan, when a
body crops up. In this case the murder victim, Mrs. Boynton, was a
villain in her own right, but Poirot never backs away from the truth and
sets out to find the solution. The tiny wrinkle here? He has
twenty-four hours to get his man before the suspects scatter in the
roast, definitely pot roast level for this installment. Very good but
not my favorite, I had a problem with a singular detail in the big
reveal (No, I can’t tell you. Spoilers. But if you send me a message, I
will tell you). As I read the forums and such, I seem to be alone in my
issue but that’s okay; no book is ever read and interpreted the same way
twice. In any case, this was a nice solid outing which showed Poirot’s
resolve to find justice for every victim (even for those who many feel
don’t deserve it), “The victim may be one of the good God’s saints - or,
on the contrary - a monster of infamy. It moves me not. The fact is the
same. A life-taken!” (pg. 125).
From the first page, the location of the murder - Petra, Jordan -
completely distracted me! Well, at least until I focused on the
mystery.... Why you ask? Having grown up during the 80’s, I watched
Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones in a bunch of movies. Now if you
possess certain deductive powers, read this blog regularly and have
knowledge of movie trivia then you might guess why Petra would be
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade was one of the first
movies I went and saw by myself that wasn’t G rated (Hey no laughing,
the bump to PG-13 was exciting! I got carded! A lot! Now I enjoy being
carded for a much different reason...). A portion of The Last Crusade
was filmed on location at The Rose City, aka Petra. From those few
first glimpses the city caught my imagination (my day dreams were really
good that year, foreign lands and being an archeologist was my goal
until age 14 when I wanted to be a writer) and I still think it is one
of the most beautiful man-made creations I have ever seen - and I have
only seen pictures! Can you imagine it’s beauty in real life?
Splice the location together with the snake on the cover of the
edition I was reading and for the first few chapters all I could think
about was The Last Crusade. Rather distracting, but
that really isn’t Christie’s fault. I had hoped a snake would be
featured in the narrative, but alas I was doomed to disappointment.
Digitalis, not snake venom, was used to do in our victim. Curiously
enough, snake venom is used only once in the Christie cannon, in Death In The Air
where Boomslang venom was administered to an unsuspecting victim. So I
couldn’t use the quote, “Snakes, why’d it have to be snakes?” in my blog
this week but there’s still hope I suppose (hehehe!).
Western archeologists, real and fictional, have flocked to Petra over
the last two hundred years, including Christie’s husband Max Mallowan.
Christie herself accompanied her husband on his digs throughout this
region, thus setting a mystery in Petra was rather natural (Christie is
said to have stayed in the caves she described in the mystery - if you
travel there now you must stay in a hotel loosely adjacent to the site,
*sigh*). Interestingly enough, Petra was built around the 6th century
BC, but remained virtually unknown to the west until 1812. Since then,
the Rose City provides scientists and historians with excellent examples
of ancient water engineering and management, mines, tombs (ordinary and
royal), churches, temples, and the sheer artistic beauty of the
rock-cut city. By a crazy random happenstance the legendary Dr. Jones
(father and son) travelled to Petra in 1938 in search of the Holy Grail,
the very same year Appointment was first published as a full
length novel! (but I suppose crazy links can be found almost anywhere
and that’s the reason why we have the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,
btw I am at 3)
So whether you are a fictional archeologist, mystery novelist or a tourist it seems Petra holds a bit of something for everyone!
“...Americans are disposed to be a friendly race. They have not the uneasy suspicion of the traveling Briton.” (pg. 29)
“That old woman ought to be murdered! Arsenic in her early morning tea would be my prescription.” (pg. 43)
Interesting Facts: Sadism and Agatha Christie, not two things you would normally put together, but in Appointment With Death
that changes. Our murder victim, Mrs. Boynton, enjoyed inflicting pain
on those around her and the investigators labeled her as a sadist. Mrs.
Boynton controlled her family through subtle threats, emotional
manipulation, and money. (I am not giving anything away here, you read
this and figure out she isn’t very nice pretty early on). She was a
former prison warden, a position she relished and never really gave up,
even when it meant treating her family like prisoners. She seems to have
a bit of the "Mommy Dearest" quality to her....
Haven’t heard of Mommy Dearest? Well depending on who we
believe - Joan Crawford (a legend of the silver screens during
Hollywood’s golden age) bears a striking resemblance to Mrs. Boynton.
Joan Crawford’s need for control and her alcoholism fueled her explosive
sadistic behavior which focused on her two eldest children. After
Joan’s death, Christina exposed the horrors of her childhood in the book
Mommie Dearest, where Christina alleges Joan tried to kill
her, beat her and had one very odd encounter with a wire hanger. While
her younger brother supports the claims made by Christina in her book,
her two youngest siblings categorically deny the events in the book took
place (it seems family tensions were strained even before Joan’s death
as she cut Christina and her brother out of her Will). Famous friends
and former employees fall on both sides of the fence in this particular
controversy. The book has gone in and out of print over the years and
was turned into a so-bad-its-good movie starring Faye Dunaway;
seriously, it is awful.
The legacy of Mommie Dearest the first
celebrity-child-tell-all, was that there were several similar books
published harpooning the memory of a celebrity/parent. Children of Bette
Davis and Bing Crosby penned similar tales to Mommie Dearest
alleging abuse at the hand of their famous parent. Bing Crosby’s eldest
son’s book seems to have created the most ripples, accusing Bing of
being physically and mentally abusive. Two of Bing’s sons quietly
supported his claims while the youngest vehemently denied the claims.
Christie is fortunately clear of basing her character Mrs. Boynton on
either star as the tell-alls were written years after this installment
(unlike using an event in Gene Tierney’s life as a basis for The Mirror Crack’d).
She does a great job of showing the insidiousness of the sadistic
behavior of Mrs. Boynton while not being gratuitous about it. While Mommie Dearest
was well after this installment Christie’s writing is comprehensive
enough we can recognize the sadistic qualities in a completely unrelated
novel - and that is nothing to sneeze at!
And for those of you who were worried I couldn't work a Star Trek
reference into this week's post - did you know Denise Crosby who played
"Tasha Yar" on Star Trek: The Next Generation is the
grand-daughter of Bing Crosby? Tasha Yar was chief of security, friends
with Data and died in the line of duty - and she is said to have
provided bedrock for the character of Kara Thrace or Starbuck on the new
version of Battlestar Galactica.
Cheating: Did you know Appointment was first published in a serialized format in 1937? The same year The Hobbit was
published by Tolkien! So with this knowledge, here is my answer on if I
cheated this week or not, the translation into the script created by
Tolkien is provided by Online Tengwar Transcriber.