Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter E

Endless Night (Agatha Christie Collection)…

Endless Night by Agatha Christie was first published in 1967.

She usually spent three to four months writing a book, but she wrote Endless Night in six weeks. It differs from most of her other books in that it is a psychological study. In fact it reminded me very much of Ruth Rendell’s books, writing as Barbara Vine. It has the same suffocating air of menace throughout the book, with more than one twist at the end.

The title comes from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are born to Sweet Delight.
Some are born to Sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.

It’s hard to write about this book without identifying the murderer.  Don’t read the Wikipedia entry if you don’t want to know,  as that gives it away completely.

The narrator is Michael Rogers, a young man with grand ideas who’d had many jobs and not enough money to buy everything he wanted. He longs for a fine, beautiful house designed by his architect friend, Santonix and after seeing the Sale Notice of ‘The Towers’ and its land, known locally as ‘Gipsy’s Acre’, he dreams that he would live there with the girl that he loved.

His dreams come true when he meets and falls in love with Ellie, an American heiress. They marry when she reaches 21 and she buys the ‘The Towers’ . Santonix designs and builds them a new, modern house and they live there – but not happily ever after because ‘Gipsy’s Acre’  is said to be cursed. Indeed, old Mrs Lee, who tells fortunes and prophesies the future warns Ellie:

‘I’m telling you my pretty. I’m warning you. You can have a happy life – but you must avoid danger. Don’t come to a place where there’s danger or where there’s a curse. Go away where you’re loved and taken care of and looked after.  You’ve got to keep yourself safe. Remember that. Otherwise -otherwise- ‘ she gave a short shiver. I don’t like to see it, I don’t like to see what’s in your hand. (pages 32-3)

It’s Michael  who dominates the book, with his aspirations, his determination to get what he wants, his optimism and also his difficult relationship with his mother, his inability to get along with Ellie’s family and her companion, Greta, who Michael thinks has an undue influence on her.There is little or no detection, and no investigators – no Poirot or Miss Marple – to highlight the clues to the murders, for there are several.

I read Endless Night very quickly and easily, convinced of the characters and the locations. But thinking about it now I can see that it’s deceptively easy to read and I read it too quickly, hardly taking in hints and clues along the way, although I did begin to sense who the murderer was. It’s a study of avarice, of the effect of the pursuit of wealth, of the restless desire to possess. It’s also about evil, love, hate and desire – and ‘endless night’ is a terrible fate.

11 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter E”

  1. Margaret – I’m so glad you chose this! I have to say I love the atmosphere of this one. And it’s a good example of the way that Christie could create a really eerie story with that sort of creeping suspense to it.

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  2. Glad you highlighted this one….it’s been a very long time since I’ve read it. And all I have in my head at the moment is the film with Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett (who I keep thinking of as Michael Redgrave). Looks like I may need to reread! Here’s my Letter E.

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  3. Great review! I just found your blog and am enjoying reading the back posts. I am reading all of the Christie books in order and blogging about them. It is really interesting to see the social changes over time during which she wrote.

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  4. I was glad to see an Agatha Christie book featured, and your review is very good. I sometimes read too fast too, and miss things. I figure that means it is well written and interesting. I want to read more Agatha Christie and am looking for recommendations, so this came at a perfect time for me.

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  5. I re-read this a couple of years and to my great surprise found that it was pretty good. I know others who consider it inferior Christie and part of that slide late in her career but to me it is perhaps, along with BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS, her real last hurrah, and largely succeeding in doing something new even though, in retrospect, we can see how the narrative has links to ploys she had used even 40 years earlier. The film adaptation is definitely worth seeing and has a great setting of Blake’s eponymous poem by the great Bernard Herrmann.

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