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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Christie Mystery And The Doyle Paradox

The Telegraph reviews well-received biographies of two of the most popular writers of detective fiction. In the "affectionate, admiring, perceptive and absolutely convincing" Agatha Christie: An English Mystery by Laura Thompson, the writer's famous disappearing act -- when she left her car beside a dangerous quarry and checked into a hotel in Harrogate using the name of the girl her husband was having an affair with -- is cleared up thus: "Agatha was in a fragile state, her mother having recently died and her husband being blatantly unfaithful. She wanted to frighten him into changing his behaviour." And in the "impeccably researched" Conan Doyle by Andrew Lycett, the biographer dwells on the writer's contradictions: "On one hand, he financed the proto-Fascist British Brothers League which, in the paranoid years before the First World War, lobbied to keep German Jews out of the East End. Yet he also fought fiercely on behalf of George Edalji, a Parsee Indian living in Staffordshire..." And again: "'Becoming a spiritualist so soon after creating the quintessentially rational Sherlock Holmes: that is the central paradox of Arthur's life."


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