I first learned about Sherlock Holmes — yes, we will talk about Agatha Christie later. THIS IS IMPORTANT — when I was an elementary student. When I was still a kid, we had — and I guess we still have — this children magazine named “BOBO”. Originated from the Netherlands, “BOBO” magazine had such a long affection and connection to Indonesian children as it became part of our childhood. I remember I read Sherlock Holmes’ ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, translated to Indonesian, in the magazine.
From there, I entered a wonderful world of detectives genre on literature.
As my admiration to Sherlock Holmes grew and as I learned more about the fictional detectives, I, too, learned about Agatha Christie and her famous Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
Unfortunately, it was an unsavoury experience as I found everything by Agatha Christie as “dull” and “rambling.” I was used with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fast-paced short-stories style, I couldn’t stand to read a whole novel of one single case.
I didn’t even bother to read Agatha Christie’s works until a couple of years ago (?) I saw ‘And Then There Were None’ on Netflix.
No. I didn’t watch it. I only saw the thumbnail on the Netflix app.
I watched it only for the first 10 minutes then I got too scared (I’m serious.) Yet the curiosity started. What is this about this lady, Agatha Christie, that she could build such legacy with her detectives? Surely a proud Belgian man and a chatty elderly lady should do something extremely right that made the world fall in love with them?
Last week, we went to a bookstore in KL East after we had dinner in Cafe Chef Wan. The bookstore’s name is ‘BookXcess’ (read: Book Excess.) This bookstore is the parent group of Big Bad Wolf Book Expo, a really famous book expo in Southeast Asia (mainly in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia) for super cheap price. I kid you not, the price can be third or even quarter of the actual price.
Then I saw this Agatha Christie box set. Five novels: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Evil Under the Sun, The ABC Murders, The Five Little Pigs, and Murder on the Orient Express.
I took it without second thought. That, and because the price is not super exorbitant so my wallet can still breathe after my multiple stints with Neil Gaiman’s graphics novels and Kinokuniya Bookstore.
I decided to open my journey with a murder of a gentleman in a, supposedly, closed room: “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”
And I had to remind myself again and again, “this is 1926. You do NOT yell, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE DICTAPHONE IS REALLY BIG? SONY HAS ONE THAT’S SMALL ENOUGH FOR YOUR POCKET” because for God sake, we have this thing called history of technology.”
Reading detective novel is fun. You found yourself trying to guess from the very first page. This man looks suspicious! Oh, this lady looks like she knows nothing— but who knows? You tried to outsmart the author. You wished you could scoff and remarked, “HAH! I KNEW IT!” in such triumphant manner. You, a reader, able to guess whodunnit! That’s surely an achievement worth to brag about!
Then came ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ and when Hercule Poirot uttered the name of the killer, I found myself in Error 404 Not Found for five seconds.
Then a complete 5 minutes of, “are you kidding me, are you serious— WHAT,” and aggressively turned the pages again and again, from chapter one to the last chapter, tried to connect the dots, “did I miss anything?”-panic, and ended up with a quiet realization followed with a final, “… Now I know why.”
I admire Agatha Christie’s way of portraying her characters, especially the women. I love how she breathed such variations on the women — they can be a schoolgirl dabbled in occultism or a naive temptress. I love how Agatha Christie able to give different perspectives and personalities on one single character — somebody that we thought using other people for their own expenses yet craved, and manipulated, by another (‘Evil Under the Sun’.)
Now, I keep turning the pages, craving for more.
Thank you for the magnificent works, Agatha Christie. My deepest apology, as it took me 36 years to recognize you.