The Clocks by Agatha Christie


The Clocks, Agatha Christie, 1963

My favorite quote: “One gets infected, it is true, by the style of a work that one has been reading.” (Which is probably why I feel so compelled to kill so many folks in my books when I read Agatha Christie — which is frequently. From now on, when my dead characters start bitching and moaning that they’re dead, I’m telling them to it take it up with Agatha Christie)

Most interesting characters: Sheila Webb, a typist who makes a ghastly discovery; Hercule Poirot, the only man who can solve the crime

Opening scene: Miss Martindale, Principal at the Cavendish Secretarial and Typewriting Bureau (who nags her underlings a little too much for my taste) sends Sheila Webb to the home of an elderly blind woman, Miss Pebmarsh, to take dictation. Sheila is told to just walk in if Miss Pebmarsh isn’t there … which she does (I’d fault her for that if she weren’t in an Agatha Christie novel, but she is, so you gotta do you gotta do)

The gist: When typist Sheila Webb begins her new assignment, the last thing she expects to find (though I don’t know why it should surprise her — she IS in an Agatha Christie book, after all. She knew the risks!) is a well-dressed corpse (we’ll call him Mr. Deadbody) with a stab-wound to the chest surrounded by clocks. She promptly shrieks, throws her hands up, and flees the house (but not before the blind Miss Pebmarsh arrives, nearly stepping on the corpse — the whole thing is quite a debacle, guys) and in her panic, runs right into Colin Lamb, an intelligence specialist working a nearby case. He checks things out, assessing that it is indeed a homicide scene (I guess Sheila wasn’t quite sharp enough to draw that conclusion herself) and enlists the only man he knows of that might be able to figure it out. And that man, of course, is … wait for it … Agatha Christie’s most famous detective, Hercule Poirot!

Greatest strengths: Of all the Agatha Christie books I’ve read (which is a lot at this point) this one, The Clocks, features one of the most intriguing set-ups. What’s the deal with the clocks surrounding Mr. Deadbody? Is there a reason that four of the six of them are stopped at 4:13, exactly one hour ahead of the actual time? Mr. Lamb and company are very perplexed … and so is the reader. And by reader, I mean me. I was perplexed. Not to say I’m not easily perplexed (I still can’t figure out where Walmart keeps their dramamine, for Christ’s sake) but this was a real head-scratcher

Standout achievements: In The Clocks, Agatha Christie seamlessly weaves together two unlikely plots: the murder of Mr. Deadbody, of course, and a spy passing information to the enemy during the Cold War. She juggles both perfectly, tying them neatly together, and thus proving, once again, who the master is (hint: It’s Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie is the master)

Fun Facts: The Clocks is the second Agatha Christie book I read that featured Hercule Poirot. The first (because I just can’t read series books right, no matter how hard I try) was Curtain, which is the book that (spoiler alert) Hercule Poirot dies in. After finishing Curtain, I was like, ‘Well, that was a drag …’ and then I discovered The Clocks and it was like someone had resurrected Hercule Poirot just as sure as they did Jesus. I was stoked. For Poirot, not Jesus. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jesus, but I don’t really know Him. But I’m sure He’s a great guy  

Other media: I started trying to find out how many radio, television, and film adaptations have been made of The Clocks, and was so overwhelmed by the endless stream of Agatha Christie adaptations that I got all sweaty and nervous and had to take a Xanax — and now I can barely even keep up with my full-time job of petting my cat. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot. And not just of The Clocks but of all Agatha Christie books. Seriously. Look it up. But don’t be eyeballing my Xanax. Get your own

Additional thoughts: I read somewhere that Agatha Christie eventually grew tired of her detective, Hercule Poirot, and in fact, tried killing him early, but the powers that be wouldn’t let her do it. Whether that’s true or not, it definitely seems like Poirot was an afterthought in some of her later books — including The Clocks. You kind of get the feeling she just stuffed him in there to shut her publisher up (I think we all know how that goes, right?) Anyway, Hercule Poirot just kind of whooshes in at the end of The Clocks, figures things out, and goes on his merry, mustachioed way, making his entire Presence in The Clocks feel a little forced. Now … I know a lot of folks begrudge Agatha Christie her eventual disinterest in Hercule Poirot, but seriously, think about it: he was in 33 novels, two plays, and more than 50 short stories from 1920 to 1975. That’s 55 years. FIFTY-FIVE YEARS! To be honest, I’d be pretty sick of him, too. On the bright side, Hercule Poirot was the only fictional character to receive a front-page obituary in the New York Times when Agatha Christie finally did kill his sorry ass  

Hit or Miss: Hit 

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Clocks

Look at all the Agatha Christie adaptations (have your Xanax handy):

Published by Alistair Cross

Alistair Cross grew up on horror novels and scary movies, and by the age of eight, began writing his own stories. First published in 2012, he has since co-authored The Cliffhouse Haunting and Mother with Tamara Thorne and is working on several other projects. His debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, was an Amazon bestseller. The Black Wasp, book 3 in The Vampires of Crimson Cove series is on its way. Find out more about him at: http://alistaircross.com ********************************************************************************************* In collaboration, Thorne and Cross are currently writing several novels, including the next volume in the continuing gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their first novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting, was an immediate bestseller. Together, they hosted the horror-themed radio show Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! which featured such guests as Anne Rice of The Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of Hellraiser 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, Kim Harrison of the Hollows series, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore. ********************************************************************************************** Currently, Thorne & Cross are hosts of Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, where listeners can discover all manner of demented delights, unearth terrifying treasures, and explore the dark side of the arts.

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