I always enjoy reading novels by Agatha Christie. Her works not only entertain me, but make me think as I try to guess the clever twist she always has in store. My favorite of her novels is Evil Under the Sun. The novel begins when a beautiful and seductive woman named Arlena Marshall is strangled on the beach. Everyone in the beach town seems to have a motive to kill her, including her jilted husband, the jealous wife of her lover, and her depressed stepdaughter. It is up to our ever debonair hero Hercule Poirot to find out the truth before the murderer strikes again.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Evil Under the Sun was the way it confounded my expectations. While reading the novel, I continually thought of Arlena Marshall as an evil character. I expected the story to unfold much like Murder on the Orient Express, another classic Agatha Christie novel. In that book, the murder is actually revealed to resemble justice. Christie skillfully sets up a reader to believe that this will be the case in Evil Under the Sun as well. She pulls the rug out from the reader's feet at the end, however, and reveals that the opposite is true. This is one of the reasons I enjoy Christie's work so much; she constantly remins me that the truth may not be what it seems. The suspected villain always has his or her own story, and may have been misunderstood. At the same time, someone the reader never expects is revealed to be the criminal. Beyond the fact that her books are thrilling, Christie's characters are also a lesson in our own lives.
The way Agatha Christie portrays the characters in Evil Under the Sun is consistently nuanced and interesting. She offers magnificently observed details of her characters. The way she describes, say, the "faint smile that curved Rosamund Darnley's ironic mouth" offers us insight into the character with great economy and precision. Although the amount of words written describing each character is actually quite few, the reader is still given a vivid understanding of each character. I frequently see pieces of myself in her characters as well.
Hemingway's iceberg theory suggests that only a samall part of what the author knows about a character should be put in the text. The mystery this leaves the reader with enriches the text, while still leaving readers with enough grounding to expand their own ideas about the characters. Christie's writing is exemplary of this theory. She provides just enough detail about each character, and allows readers to infer the rest. Ultimately, her characters become a mirror for myself as I see aspects of myself and my peers in her writing. In this way, her writing has granted me great insights into my life.