Endless Night by Agatha Christie

Every night and every morn,

Some to misery are born,

Every morn and every night,

Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Michael Rogers – man who has spent his life bouncing from one place to another – tells the story of how he falls in love with both Ellie, a rich heiress, and Gipsy’s Acre, an old house that he plans to rebuild. There’s just the small matter of a curse on the property…

There aren’t that many Agatha Christie novels that I haven’t read. I got through the Poirot and Marple books at a very early age (although I am enjoying the occasional re-read) but for whatever reason, I basically ignored the rest. I’ve caught up with a lot of the non-series books, but Endless Night was overlooked. I’ve heard good things about it – apparently it was Dame Agatha’s favourite of her latter works – can I possibly disagree with the great lady herself?

Yup. Sorry, Agatha.

Fate is conspiring against me. The Apothecary Rose was hard to review without spoiling it (if indeed there was anything to spoil) and Endless Night is similar for both the same reason and another reason as well.

This is a book that requires patience – I was reading it on my Kindle and can state that the first criminal act that takes place, which is only a rock being thrown through a window, happens 48% of the way into the book. As for the inevitable death, that was around the 70% mark. Saying that this book takes its time is an understatement.

It was written in 1967, so it’s a very late Christie – I’ve seen it referred to as the best of her later novels (I disagree, as Hallowe’en Party was still to come… and for other reasons that will become apparent) so we have some of the slightly odd descriptions of sixties youth that tended to crop up in her work. However…

… stuff it, I’m going to have to be vague here, as there is a reason why I can’t criticise the story-telling here, and I can’t say any more than that. Any of my problems with the book would need to discuss the identity of the murderer and more besides and this is a spoiler-free blog. It’s astonishing, but never has a book constrained what I want to say more.

Right, I’m going to attempt to summarise my thoughts, but please accept my apologies for statements that I make without back-up.

  • It’s too slow for me. Others will say it’s building up tension, but I didn’t find that to be the case.
  • The rationale for repeating a trick from another, much better, book is weak.
  • I don’t think it plays fair, but I’m not going to re-read it to check. Not convinced that it’s supposed to, as it reads more like a psychological thriller at times.

It was an engrossing enough read, but I can’t see myself ever going back to it. This is one of those books that would have worked much better as a short story or a novella – there is a need for the action to be concentrated near the end, structurally speaking, but appreciating the reason for the delaying tactics and appreciating the tactics themselves are two different things.

So… recommended for the completist. It’s a long way from her worst novels, but just as far away from her best novels.

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
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22 Responses to Endless Night by Agatha Christie

  1. Shame you didn’t like this one more – I don’t know know if I was one of those referring to it as one of her better late offerings, but it’s the sort of thing I can imagine saying! Together with HALLOWEEN PARTY and BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS, I think these are the last Christies of any real interest from her twilight years. It is slow, definitely, and part of the enjoyment, for me, was the sense that although she ultimately re-uses a famous old gambit of hers, she is also embarking on slightly uncharted territory. Indeed, given the approach, you are unlikely to realise she is using the same trick until you get there at the end. I also think it’s quite well written in terms of prose style – by this stage she was often dictating her novels and things could get pretty shakey as a result. I am not sure it plays fair, but then I always thought that Christie often didn’t – and given the different apprach (no detective etc etc) I never thought it mattered much.

    It is not really a standard whodunit (though the ending is a bit of a surprise I think), closer to the psychological suspense of Ruth Rendell and Margaret Millar perhaps?

  2. You’re right about it being closer to a psychological thriller, but I can’t compare to Rendell or Millar as I haven’t read their work for that very reason – maybe I was looking for a more typical whodunit here, hence my enhanced disappointment. But I did think the rationale for the re-used idea was to fit the story, rather than to make any sense – which made it, for me, rather a cheat. Still, I think I’m going to be in a minority on this one. That’s two in a row, apparently.

  3. Patrick says:

    I *hate* this book. Positively *hate* it. It was decent enough on the first read, but it didn’t stand up even remotely on a re-read. It’s a poor, derivative carbon copy of an earlier work, except this time Christie decides to go all psychologist on the reader. And this is my biggest problem: the characters have to be so… RIDICULOUSLY… *stupid*… for… the plot… to work!

    ***SPOILER ALERT!***
    *****************************
    *****************************
    *****************************
    *****************************
    (“Oh gosh, is that a pill lying on the ground? Wonderful! I’ll just pick this up and use it in a few weeks for my allergies because that is clearly going to help, right?”)

  4. Oh, good, someone who agrees with me. Cheers, Patrick.

    • Oh, if you want to watch me and my opinions get it in the neck on a regular basis, just head over to Patrick’s site where at present I am regularly in the minority – good job we both really like Craig Rice!

  5. richmcd says:

    I dunno. I don’t love it. But I think as a mystery it’s actually BETTER than the book you’re circumspectly comparing it with. Because at least Endless Night isn’t COMPLETELY broken. I think all of Patrick’s complaints and more can be equally applied to [that other book].

    But I’m becoming a real stickler for consistency in my mysteries.

    One thing I will say about Endless Night. It’s the only one of Christie’s books (apart from And Then There Were None) that I find even remotely tense or eerie. She just wasn’t very good at pulling that off.

    • Clearly you’re not a fan of the other book – to be fair, I’ve not read it for yonks – possibly only once, in fact, at least twenty five years ago. So I can’t recall any major plot points other than the obvious. But it was one of the books that got me into Agatha Christie and I’m pretty sure that if I’d read Endless Night that early on, it might well have had the opposite effect.

      Rather than discuss the merits of the other book here, give me a month or so and I’ll dig out a copy and review it – then we can discuss the apparent problems of it without spoiling this one.

  6. richmcd says:

    Fair enough. (Although you raise an interesting point. Am I not a fan of that other book? I genuinely can’t tell. I, too, am very nostalgic towards it. And I think it contains some of Christie’s best writing, humour and characterisation. I frequently re-read sections from it. But, in the end, does the mystery part of a mystery novel not have to take precedence? I seem to change my mind every day. A month or so will give me enough time to think about these things properly!)

    A few more things about Endless Night now that you remind me of it.

    It’s probably the only one of about two of three Christies that I didn’t manage to solve. I’m not sure that that’s necessarily a great endorsement (after all, it’s not difficult to write an unsolvable or surprising mystery, just remember not to make sense or add any clues!) but I think maybe it’s affected my rating of it. I like being surprised.

    Regarding whether or not it’s fair, and whether or not it matters: I get the impression that Christie herself thought it was fair, so it would be interesting (at least for me) to see if she was right or not. It would be impressive if it was. I can imagine a lot of linguistic gymnastics being required. But I can’t ever bring myself to read it all again. So I guess that has to be a pretty massive negative mark against it. (Or does it? Is there anything wrong with a mystery that’s only enjoyable to read the first time?)

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  8. Bev says:

    It’s been too long since I read this one….All I know is that it wasn’t one of my all-time favorite Christies. Evidenced only by the fact that at the time of reading (over 20 years ago). I logged it with two stars–one of lowest ratings for any of her books. Maybe it’s time for a reread….

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  11. Rach says:

    Don’t worry, it’s not just you! I actively remember deciding this was my least favourite Christie book when I read it – and I’ve since read them all but Curtain (I just can’t bear to say goodbye to Poirot!) and would still say it’s my least favourite!

    I remember finding it very slow (like you did) and dull, and the whole style is so different from the rest of the Christie novels that I don’t think you could even classify it alongside the rest of her crime novels.

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  14. ZUrlocker says:

    While the pace is definitely slow, I found it intriguing nonetheless. I actually thought the [tricky literary device] used in this book was better than in [that other book]. But its definitely a personal preference. Not a ton of complex plotting otherwise.

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