Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Agatha Christie - While the Light Lasts

Some of Agatha Christie’s earliest stories – including her very first – which show the Queen of Crime in the making…
A macabre recurring dream … revenge against a blackmailer … jealousy, infidelity and a tortured conscience … a stolen gemstone … the haunting attraction of an ancient relic … a race against time … a tragic love triangle … a body in a box … an unexpected visitor from beyond the grave…
Nine quintessential examples of Agatha Christie's brilliance are contained in this collection of early short stories - including the very first one she ever wrote - and provide a unique glimpse of the Queen of Crime in the making.
Comment: This book is one of the few by Agatha Christie I hadn't read yet. I've been writing down more titles by her I want to read too and one day I'll finish my collection. This one in specific wasn't such a priority for me for it was simply a good set of stories but I'm glad to have read them.

In this volume, we have a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie, written in different years and with different types of content, from just psychological content narratives to the investigation of incredible Poirot.
In my Portuguese edition, there were also a few notes after each story where we got to have some extra information about when the story was written, how it was connected to the author's career and where they were originally published.

The nine stories are the following, I'll just include a short summary, comment and grade on each one:

The House of Dreams
A young man has a boring job, is not considered important enough but the daughter of his boss is intrigued. Upon visiting he meets her friend and falls in love at first sight. However, that woman has a complicated family history when it comes to health and she refuses him. He travels to Africa and dreams about the house where they be living...
Very moody, more suggestive than creepy, quite dramatic.  6/10

The Actress
A famous actress is recognized by a man who used to know her when she was not famous and he knows a secret that might destroy her, so he decides to blackmail her. While proving she is really an actress and not just a beautiful woman who achieved her success through looks, she invents a plan and saves her reputation.
Using the "we only see what we want" notion, this is a study on how we can be influenced by our fears rather than logic. 7/10

The Edge
A "proper" woman who has waited for the man she loves to choose her, sees him marry someone who is not so reserved. One day she discovers that woman's secret and blackmails her by provoking comments here and there until the woman takes on a decisive solution.
Quite intriguing psychologically speaking and similar to the last story in terms of resolution to a problem. 7/10

Christmas Adventure
A story featuring Poirot and his clever and often simple deductions, where a crime is staged at a house party. Secrets, thievery, misleading plans...this is a more classical story in the lines of what the author is famous for. 6/10

The Lonely God
A man and a woman meet while admiring a little statue in a museum. The common interest makes them talk and it seems thy are falling in love until the woman disappears. Many years later they meet again.
This is supposedly romantic and a little dramatic, there's some paranormal clues if one reads it as such. Not the strongest story in my opinion. 5/10
Manx Gold
A couple participates in a treasure hut with two other family members so they can determine who gets their uncle's inheritance.
Based on a request Christie has accepted on behalf of her husband to promote tourism in the Isle of Man, this was predictable and a little boring. 6/10

Within a Wall
An artist becomes famous for some paintings until he does one of his wife that he dislikes. Their daughter's godmother financially provides money even when that puts her in debt. When she dies, he discovers the whole truth regarding her and his wife expensive habits but is unable to escape an unbearable situation. 
Very intriguing, psychological interesting about only knowing things too late and, again, not recognizing what's in front of you. Interesting subjects to debate. 6/10

The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest
Another Poirot story, also included in another collection of tales, this is a smaller version of a man murdered, a wife worried and her male friend accused of the crime. Wanting to help save him, she asks Poirot's help and the solution is quite simple in the end. 7/10

While the Light Lasts
A woman goes back to Africa, where her great love died. She later married another man but upon returning, she discovers he is alive and they meet and he plans on being with her again, if she leaves her current husband. She seems to initially agree but is later reluctant and he wrongly assumes why, something she does not explain properly. He solves the matter but at a high price.
Very thought provoking, more psychological and dramatic than mysterious. 7/10

❃All stories have good points, I obviously preferred some to others. The ones I liked most had some sort of read between the lines vibe, some hidden meanings and explanations and things that characters could have avoided "if only".
The psychological aspects of the novels is what made them interesting but in their majority they don't fit with what readers more often expect of this author's work. 
Nevertheless, this was a good read, the writing is in most of them well done and I did like the time spent reading the stories.
Grade: 6/10

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