Murder on the Orient Express, which I took out from the library last week in hopes of learning something about how to structure a mystery. (That reminds me—if anyone out there wants to produce an animal murder mystery called Death In The Monkey House, I'm really the guy you should call.)
After finding the first hundred pages delightful, the book turned into a slog, making me so angry that—in my typical breaking news style—I wrote an angry review about an 80 year-old classic. Behold!
I hate cozy mysteries. I don’t care who poisoned Lord Dalrymple, and it doesn’t matter to me how ingeniously Detective Chief Inspector St. John Woolybottom cracks the case. If a mystery contains a map of a manor house or an elaborate timeline of each suspect’s movements before and after the power went out, I will put it aside and reach for a thriller with some teeth. Chandler, Hammett, Crumley, Cain—these are the men I will take to my desert island. Dorothy L. Sayers can stay home and suck an egg.
But something has always appealed to me about Agatha Christie. I read And Then There Were None in middle school, staying up late at night and finding it made me very afraid of the dark. As tedious as clockwork mysteries are, she is regarded as the best, and The Best is always appealing. After years of ragging on manor house mysteries, I’m writing a play that parodies the form, and I’ve found that orchestrating a large cast of characters—giving everyone a motive, an alibi and a secret—is trickier than it looks. What, I wondered, might Christie have to teach me?
Read on, my pretties. Read on.
And because the article concludes with some Pink Panther talk, you'll want a little Clouseau.