With a post title such as this, it is inevitable that spoilers will be abounding in this post. But to give you a heads up in this order the following titles are mentioned: (Victims) Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Murder on the Orient Express, The Body in the Library, Towards Zero, (Killers) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Death on the Nile, Curtain, Nemesis and Crooked House.
I was drawn to writing to this post, as I recently reviewed Cards on the Table (1936) and I found myself thinking how unusually memorable Mr Shaitana is as a murder victim, as with some golden age detective novels, the victim is no more than a starting point for an investigation which focuses much more on the suspects or the ‘how’ element of the crime. I’m not quite sure what made Mr Shaitana such a memorable victim for me, perhaps it is the sinister aura given to him or the way that he is set up as a challenge to Poirot, only to die shortly afterwards. You can certainly say he has presence. Of course this left me wondering which of Christie’s other victims were memorable and then naturally my mind turned to her killers. So in short I decided to do a post looking at just that.
- Simeon Lee in Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1939)
Like Mr Shaitana I think the reason why Lee stuck in my head was because of his unpleasant nature, though it is probably unpleasant in a different way, more traditionally tyrannical.
2. Samuel Ratchett in Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
I remember Ratchett more for the overall mystery he is a part of rather than being remembered for his own sake. Although his back story of abducting and killing a child does make him an apt choice for murder victim.
3. Pamela Reeves and Ruby Keene in The Body in the Library (1942)
What impressed me when reading this book for the first time was the killers’ notion of swapping the bodies of the two victims around and it was interesting to see how interchangeable people can become. Moreover it is engaging to see Miss Marple giving the victims time and attention, attention which reveals the tell-tale signs of the swap.
4. Audrey Strange in Towards Zero (1944)
Some may think this is an odd choice as to be technically correct Audrey is an intended victim rather than an actual one, as the mystery is solved correctly before she is wrongfully arrested for murder. But I’d still like to include her for that very fact, the fact that although there is already one dead body, it is only there are part of a much more elaborate plan to bump off Audrey. Audrey is also a really interesting character to watch in the story as her behaviour is deliberately ambiguous and it makes her hard to read, which all adds into the mystery of the book.
- Doctor Sheppard in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
This is probably not a surprising choice, but no less deserving a one nevertheless. To have your murderer narrate the story and hide this fact so well is genius and I think it is this fact which makes Doctor Sheppard a memorable killer for me.
2. Justice Wargrave in And Then There Were None (1939)
Wargrave’s inventiveness as a killer and his twisted sense of justice are both key reasons for why he is a memorable murderer. Moreover, the way he sets about bumping his victims off and the dramatic way he eliminates suspicion from himself are two further things which make this book one of Christie’s most loved mysteries.
3. Simon Doyle and Jacqueline de Belleforte in Death on the Nile (1937)
Again, like Justice Wargrave, Doyle and de Belleforte are memorable for the murder method they construct, which is elaborate to say the least. Perhaps also because of the David Suchet TV adaptation of this book, I find there is a certain poignancy surrounding this murderous couple, as their greed and desire for wealth leads them to their own annihilation and permanent separation from one another. Though of course one wonders whether they could have been poor and happy.
4. Stephen Norton and Hercule Poirot in Curtain (1975)
What makes Norton so memorable is how he doesn’t get physically involved in murdering people, but through psychological influence and manipulation he causes others to do this and there is something very sinister and frightening about that sort of a person. I have also read a novel this year where there is a similar type of deviant and again this is a person who is hard to forget as a character and also one that makes you feel uncomfortable. I can’t of course not mention Poirot. How can anyone forget a fictional sleuth of his magnitude taking on the role of the murderer? But also what a finish! Christie certainly ends his career in a much more dramatic way than she does for Miss Marple. Then again I can’t really see Miss Marple taking Colonel Mustard out with a lead pipe. Maybe a poison tipped knitting needle?
5. Clotilde Bradbury-Scott in Nemesis (1971)
Unlike her medieval namesake, Clotilde is anything but nice and I think one of the reasons she has stuck in my head is due to the Joan Hickson adaptation of this novel and the memorable showdown between Clotilde and Miss Marple. Furthermore, Clotilde is a perfect example of how love can be become twisted and violent, all the while being encased in a person who appears perfectly respectable and normal.
6. Josephine Leonides in Crooked House (1949)
I don’t have as strong memories about this final character and in truth this is another book which should be added to my mental list of books I need to re-read. Yet the two things which did stick in my mind were her young age (is she Christie’s youngest killer?) and also her end, which is dramatically taken out of her hands.