Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Stars: 3 / 5
After the success of the novelization of Agatha Christie's first plays Black Coffee (My review of that book is here) and Unexpected Guest (My review of that book here), Charles Osborne made a third play of her into a novel.
The play Spider's Web was originally written in 1954 by Agatha Christie at the request of Margaret Lockwood who was a star in the play as well. Charles Osbourne novelized it some 46 years later in 2000. This is another of the straight forward transfer from the stage script into a book by the author.
The play opens with Mrs. Clarissa Hailsham-Brown having her unharmed fun at the expense of Sir Rowland Delahaye and Hugo Birch while fooling them into tasting three wines blind-folded and identify them although they all are same as identified by Jeremy Warrender. Jeremy loves Clarissa and he makes no effort to hide it. But, what is Jeremy trying to search in the desk? And what did Clarissa mean when she said suppose if she murdered someone will Jeremy help? Then Pippa shows him a priest's hole in the room - a secret hidden door and a recess behind it. But she then muses that it is a nice place to hide a dead body. Why would Pippa need to hide a dead body?
The Oliver Costello - husband of Henry's ex-wife Miranda - is threatening to take Pippa with them. Clarissa is determined to not let that happen. In the meanwhile Henry Hailsham-Brown is hosting his home to Soviet Premier, Kalendorff and Sir John, Prime Minister of England for a few hours before he heads back to London. Then a few hours later Clarissa finds a very dead Oliver Costello in the very room where he had earlier threatened to take Pippa. Who killed Oliver Costello? Clarissa takes help of Sir Rowland, Hugo and Jeremy to get the body disposed off so there would be no trouble for Henry when his important meeting was to happen. But before they get to dispose it off, the police arrive at the scene and they hurriedly hide the body in the secret recess. Someone had called them telling a murder was committed in this house.
Who had called the police? What is it that Oliver Costello was looking for in the house again? Was it something same that Jeremy had looked for? The previous owner of the house - Mr. Sellon, had passed away but his death was considered suspicious. Is that in some way connected to the murder of Oliver Costello? The other actors in the play are - Pippa (Henry Hailsham-Brown's daughter with his first wife), Miss Mildred Peak (Hailsham-Browns' gardener), Elgin (the butler), Inspector Lord and Constable Jones.
Mary Higgins Clark's attempt to make a comedy-murder mystery is at best feeble. It does have a murder and it does have comedy, but both elements seem to be traveling along in parallel like a railway track - neither elements melding or crossing nor overpowering. And added to that so much confusion created by Clarissa's constant lying and ability to spin tales as fast as a spider spins her web that almost bordered on driving us crazy. Yet it was an enjoyable read that I finished rather quickly.
1) Pippa plays a game Demon Patience and it made me wonder what it was. On googling it I found that it is a card game also called as Demon Solitaire. Interesting. She also talks about another game called Beggar-My-Neighbour which is again a card game.
2) I did not understand what the Christie meant when she wrote that Mr. Hailsham-Brown allowed his first wife to divorce him. Was it a state back then that there was no mutual divorce? Hmm