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Agatha Christie as a Travel Companion

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Agatha Christie was a prolific author and has become one of the world’s most popular, her brand of gentle humour, twisting plots and guessing games enthralling people from a very wide range of literary traditions. An often overlooked aspect of her books is how international they are, her common locations of the English countryside are peppered with additions such as Istanbul, Egypt and the Middle East. As such her books can also make great travel companions and here are some suggestions.

Death in the Clouds might not be the obvious title to choose to read on a long-haul flight, but its evocative portrayal of the glory days of air travel can make a very welcome change from the rigours of economy class. The story itself is classic Christie with myriad intricate sub-plots woven together to make a fine mess for Poirot’s ‘little grey cells’ to unravel, which of course he does in his own inimitable style.

Agatha Christie spent a great deal of time in the Middle East and especially in what is today Iraq. Death in Mesopotamia combines her usual who-dunnit plot with a backdrop of exotic scenery and an archaeology lesson. Few travellers will get to see much of the areas she describes in the book as they are unsafe now, but her descriptions of the landscapes and cultures her characters move through are very atmospheric, allowing for the English prism through which she saw them.

Death on the Nile is perhaps one of Christie’s most famous works and it has been made into several different films and television versions. This means that many people are familiar with the plot, and the all important ending, before they turn over the first page of the book. The Egypt of the book had changed little in the intervening decades and many of the Nile cruises operate in almost exactly the same way.

Murder on the Orient Express is the other of the two most famous of Christie’s works and contains the most well-known (and slightly preposterous) solution of the all the mystery books. However, this does not stop the book being a fantastic page turner and a wonderful evocation of train travel in that glamorous by-gone era. This can make enthralling reading on a long train journey when the plot can unfold gently as the miles pass by outside the window.

They Came to Baghdad is the first book on this list which is not a straight forward murder mystery but is instead a fun espionage tale of skulduggery in the Middle East. This sits easily in the airport thriller genre of literature and as such it compares well with most of the substandard fare on offer today. Don’t expect art, but a fun plot with good characterisation and an exotic backdrop makes for an enjoyable read.

Hotels in Egypt

Hotel African House
Average Price: €14
Average Rating: 8.5

Isis Hotel - Cairo roomIsis Hotel
Average Price: €23
Average Rating: 8.7

Concorde Hotel Dokki - Giza, Cairo roomConcorde Hotel Dokki
Average Price: €28
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