This is the second book featuring Superintendent Battle, who seems to be called in when affairs of state are tied up with a crime. The first book was The Secret of Chimneys. Much of action in The Seven Dials Mystery also takes place at Chimneys, and many of the characters from the first book return in this mystery.
Agatha Christie described this book as a thriller in her autobiography,:
I had followed up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with The Seven Dials Mystery. This was a sequel to my earlier book The Secret of Chimneys, and was one of what I called "the light-hearted thriller type". These were always easy to write, not requiring too much plotting and planning.This Agatha Christie mystery did not disappoint, although I would not place it among my favorite Christie novel.
PROS:The characters are delightful, from the main characters to the bit players. I find Superintendent Battle to be very appealing, and I like the role he plays in this story. Lord Caterham and his daughter Lady Eileen are very unique and charming characters. They provide a lot of the humor that makes this book stand apart for me.
I especially enjoyed the character of Lady Coote, who features most prominently in the initial chapters of the story, and the contrast she provides to Lady Eileen, known to friends and family as "Bundle". Lady Coote worries about everything: people coming late to dinner, how to deal with the gardener. There is an extended conversation with MacDonald, the gardener, regarding doing some work on the estate, and he circumvents her wishes very easily. As soon as Bundle is back on the estate, she asks him to do exactly the same things and takes no flak from him when he demurs.
Overall, I found this to be a fine and engaging story. Initially, I was not impressed with the plot, which seemed too light and silly. For the first half of the book, I was aghast at how unbelievable the story was, though even at that point I enjoyed the various character portrayals. Very shortly, the plot picked up, the story came together, and made more sense.
Even though I was making no effort to guess the perpetrator of the crimes, I was totally surprised by the identity of this person. As many point out, this is a thriller and as such is not trying to lay out clues for the reader to discover, but still, I though Christie did a great job of obfusating the bad guys.
CONS:I wasn't thrilled with the element of the secret society in the plot, but that was par for the course in thrillers written at this time, and an element that Christie used more than once. Other than that and the time it took to get engaged in the plot, I was quite happy with this book by Christie. I liked it better than The Secret of Chimneys, but some Christie fans go the other direction.
- Review of The Seven Dials Mystery at Ryan's blog, Wordsmithania
- My review of the first Superintendent Battle mystery, The Secret of Chimneys
- Yvette of In So Many Words reviews the film version of The Seven Dials Mystery starring John Gielgud
This book was my choice for the Crimes of the Century meme, hosted by Rich at Past Offences. I also read this book for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries In Paradise, which I am working on very gradually. And it fits into the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt in the "Hand Holding Weapon" category.
Publisher: Bantam Books, 1981. Orig. pub. 1929.
Length: 217 pages
Series: Superintendent Battle, #2
Genre: Adventure, spy thriller
Source: Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, 2015.