This week’s post for the Tuesday Night Blogger’s is far from serious. There have been many books which have extrapolated advice on relationships from the works of Jane Austen and as I have been immersing myself in holiday themed detective fiction this month I felt it appropriate to do the same for some of Agatha Christie’s novels – though this time the advice is on holidays. Holidays in the world of Christie’s novels are not your usual safe relaxing retreats from work and ordinary life. Holidays in Christie’s world can actually be bad for your health and are full of opportunities for murders to execute their, at times, mind boggling plans.
SPOILER WARNING: If you have not read Death on the Nile or Death in the Clouds then you will want to skip over Rule 4. The same applies to Rule 5 if you have not read Murder in Mesopotamia and if you haven’t read Evil Under the Sun you best skip Rules 6 and 8. There are also major Death on the Nile spoilers in Rule 7.
Rule No. 1: Don’t decide on your holiday destination based on following cryptic notes or people’s final words.
It may seem like a good idea at the time, proof that you really are spontaneous and go with the flow, but as Anne Beddingfield in The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) and Victoria Jones in They Came to Baghdad (1951) can attest to, such an option is fraught with dangers entailing many near death experiences and the accommodation (kidnappers can be so inconsiderate) is not always up to scratch.
Rule No 2: Don’t take expensive jewellery on your trip.
Although you want to look your best on holiday, splashing your cash around and flashing your prized jewellery is not the way to go about it. The American heiress Ruth Kettering certainly learnt this lesson the hard way in The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928), as thieves can also be killers.
Rule No. 3: Be prepared for weather problems.
Taking the train back home? Then make sure you pack clothes suitable for all weather occasions, as you may well have left a warm country but there is always a chance there will be weather related delays on your return trip. This chance of course becomes a reality in Christie’s The Murder on the Orient Express (1934). You would bitterly regret being in similar circumstances with only shorts and T shirts.
Rule No. 4: Keep your eye on the staff
Waiters, maids and stewards may seamlessly blend into the background of your holiday, ensuring you are fed and watered with clean rooms but don’t forget they’re there. If you are a prospective murderer planning on doing the deed whilst on holiday (killing two birds with one stone) then there is always a chance you might be seen and get blackmailed, a problem the guilty in Christie’s Death on the Nile (1937) certainly came up against. But there is also the chance that someone pretending to a member of staff may be plotting your death, a scenario which comes up in Death in the Clouds (1935).
Rule No. 5: Be careful when looking out of windows and don’t be riled by childish pranks.
Childish pranks on holiday can be annoying, especially when you are trying to relax. Equally looking out of your window to admire the view or to people watch can be a tempting proposition. But beware! Such situations can be a killer’s playground, which one woman learned to her cost in Murder in Mesopotamia (1936).
Rule No. 6: Don’t spend time by yourself (especially if you have annoyed several of your fellow holidaymakers)
No one’s perfect and when on holiday where you meet those who are familiar or who are strangers, there is always a chance personalities are going to clash and you could well be the instigator of such animosity (voluntarily or involuntarily). If this unfortunately does happen then spending time by yourself where you cannot be seen is a no-no. The victims of Appointment with Death (1938) and Evil Under the Sun (1941) can certainly vouch for that. An additional warning Evil Under the Sun gives out is to not agree to meeting new acquaintances by themselves at secluded spots – it never ends well.
Rule No. 7: Be careful who you take as your travelling companion
Your holiday companion can make or break your trip. A good travelling companion will make the good moments of your holiday even better and will contribute to the many laughs you’ll have and in an emergency can be depended on. A bad holiday companion though can lead to arguments, eternal whinging over blisters, awkward silences and in extreme cases such as Death on the Nile (1937) your own demise. So pick wisely!
Rule No. 8: Be wary of holiday romances
The holiday romance is a key motif in many novels and films and some people in real life have met their significant other in this fashion. But Christie advises caution in this area, as people are not always who they say they are and their intentions may not always be good ones. The extreme negative consequences of pursuing a holiday romance can be found in Evil Under the Sun.
Rule No. 9: Always makes sure you know where you’re going
If Destination Unknown (1954) tells us anything about holidays, trips and general adventures then it is that you should always know where you’re going and that it is easy to find on a map, as if anything does go wrong then the appropriate rescue team needs to know where to find you. This story also shows us to be aware of package holidays, as resorts may have all you could want, but there may well be a catch, with the catch in the novel being you can’t leave.
Rule No. 10: Be careful about gossiping about other guests, (especially ones with murderous secrets).
After a few days getting to know your fellow holiday makers at your resort it can be tempting to gossip with others and share fellow traveller’s secrets. Yet Christie in A Caribbean Mystery (1964) shows there are some deadly pitfalls involved in such a course of action, which in the case of the story led to Major Palgrave’s death. Although in fairness I think it depends on the nature of the information and the person you are gossiping about. The fact so and so is not a natural blonde might not led to your own demise, though it could lead to a drink in the face.
Over to you
Taking such advice on board you’re bound to have a safe holiday this year! Let me know if you can think of any other safety tips Christie gives about holidays, but remember to give spoiler alerts.