Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Triangle at Rhodes

During my recent holiday in the Med, one port of call that was just possibly my favourite was the island of Rhodes. I'd never been there before, and knew little about it other than that the long vanished Colossus had been a wonder of the ancient world. What I found was a place that combined beauty with history and character in abundance.

The trip also reminded me of an Agatha Christie story, 'Triangle at Rhodes', which appears in Murder in the Mews, and which bears a strong resemblance to the plots of two of her later novels. It's a very good story, but on re-reading it, I was a little surprised that Christie said so little about the island on which she set it.

I suppose this is one of the characteristics of her work - its universality means that there isn't much scope for specific detail. I first read the story when I was about 9 or 10, and had never travelled to London, let alone overseas. It wasn't until much later that I became interested in seeing the world. So the absence of background colour didn't bother me. But now it seems a bit like a missed opportunity.

The short story I plan to write set on Santorini won't be a travelogue, but I will hope to include some feel for the place that inspired me to write it. And who knows, one of these days I might write something set on Rhodes too. I've certainly made some notes as well as taking loads of photos, of which these are just a few!


Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - What absolutely lovely 'photos! As soon as I saw them, I thought about that Agatha Christie short story, too. And come to think of it you're right; she doesn't say a lot about the setting in that story. Interesting... I'm very much looking forward to your own story.

Deb said...

I think one of the reasons there is so little local color in Christie's foreign-locale work is because she was usually writing about British citizens (Poirot excepted, of course) abroad and her focus was on them. It's interesting how you can read anything from MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS to MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA and still feel that you've read a nice "cozy" set in a London suburb.

vegetableduck said...

Christie's a poor descriptive writer. We can call that "universality" or poor writing, as we choose. Christie's books are mostly dialogue, which is something she is good at writing (well, not for servants and lower class characters, where she can be pretty dreadful). She knew her strengths and her weaknesses. She once said she would love to be able to write like Margery Allingham, but she knew she couldn't. And she was right. But she wrote some brilliant books, like And Then There Were None, which were like nothing Allingham ever wrote.

Christie's poor descriptive writing is why she gets routinely dismissed as a bad writer in general by most newspaper critics and such people as P. D. James. But they're too grudging of her legitimate writing skills.

And then there are the puzzles, of course!

Richmonde said...

" can read anything from MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS to MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA and still feel that you've read a nice "cozy" set in a London suburb." What??? Murder in Mesopotamia is PACKED with local colour! I suggest you read it again. Christie didn't waste time on being literary. As Nancy Banks Smith once said, "you never see her writing". I did a breakdown of where her books are set:

Richmonde said...

Oh, and Triangle at Rhodes is brilliant - much better than Evil under the Sun.

Richmonde said...

Just checked my list of Christie settings - not a single London suburb.

Deb said...

I stand corrected!

However, I will reiterate my original contention (however poorly expressed) that Christie's primary focus was the interaction between people, generally British subjects, thus the setting--regardless of where--is of less importance than the mystery and how it is resolved.

Martin Edwards said...

Very interesting - thanks, everyone1
Richmonde, I found your blog analysis of her settings very instructive.
Deb and Curt, I'd certainly agree, the settings matter less than the mysteries. Most of her characters were British, of course, but perhaps she wrote more about foreigners than most of her Golden Age peers.