Agatha Christie novels have such convoluted plots that they sometimes feel like protracted solutions to SAT questions. Sometimes I wonder why they’ve been so successful and continue to be so. This morning, at about 4am, a piece of the answer came to me.

I was listening to a terrific audiobook, narrated by the gifted Emilia Fox, and it was to her great credit (and perhaps my great detriment) that the narration was so fantastic that I could not go back to sleep. In the first few chapters she describes the train voyage of Mrs. McGillicuddy, in which she witnesses a horrible crime through the window near her seat.

I really recommend listening to the whole thing, but especially to the first few chapters:

The solution, etc., is interesting, but what I find really grabs my attention is Christie’s sensitive and deeply relatable description of Mrs. McGillicuddy’s frustration at not being believed. She doesn’t have to spell out “ageism” and “sexism” for the reader (or listener) to be irate on Mrs. McGillicuddy’s behalf, as she is being pooh-poohed by various railway employees who think she is fantasizing. The relief you feel when she gets to her destination–her old friend Jane Marple’s home–and is finally believed, her evidence taken seriously and respectfully, and her mind set at ease as Miss Marple takes over the investigation. Whether or not one loves the usual Christie machinations that follow, those first few chapters are such a gem.

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