This arrived in the post today.
I have never been a particular fan of crime writing,
beyond a lazy enjoyment of Miss Marple
(always Joan Hickson please) and
Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) on television.
I bought it on the strength of a description of the Queen of Crime
in 'An English Mystery - Agatha Christie' by Laura Thompson.
'All her life she was fascinated by the ordering of a home.'
In her 1957 book, 4.50 from Paddington,
she created a character called Lucy Eyelesbarrow,
an Oxford graduate who,
'in addition to scholarly brilliance,
had a core of good sound common sense.
She could not fail to observe
that a life of academic distinction
was singularly ill rewarded.
She had no desire whatever to teach
and took pleasure in contacts with minds
much less brilliant than her own.
In short, she had a taste for people,
all sorts of people - and not the same people
the whole time.
She also, quite frankly, liked money.
To gain money one must exploit shortage.'
That shortage was the post-war loss of servants.
'Lucy Eyelesbarrow did everything,
saw to everything,
She was unbelievably competent
in every conceivable sphere.
She looked after elderly parents,
accepted the care of young children,
nursed the sickly,
got on well with any old crusted servants
there might happen to be (there usually weren't)
was tactful with impossible people,
soothed habitual drunkards,
was wonderful with dogs.
Best of all she never minded what she did.
She scrubbed the kitchen floor,
dug in the garden,
cleaned up dog messes,
and carried coals.'
The secret to this happy life was that
she only did all these things for a fortnight at a time,
never booked herself for more than six months ahead,
charged the earth
and took frequent short luxurious holidays.
I have yet to discover if she is an accomplished
murderer too, but will let you know.