Poirot: Death in the Clouds (1988)

Intersecting Planes

Agatha Christie was probably our most careful student of the genre. She was all over the map, so to speak, trying all sorts of variations. Her twists on the genre were intended to complement the twists within the story.

The most interesting and adventuresome were the Marple ones. The most technical were the Poirot mysteries. Here, she worked on the parallel realities. Writers of normal stories have the luxury of creating one world. Dame Agatha worked on several that each form their own planes of reality and which intersect on a different type of plane.

There’s the reality of the viewer, which parallels very closely the reality of Poirot. Nothing happens that we do not see together or that we know will be recounted to him presently. There’s the reality of the murderer of course, which is interwoven with a few intersections with Poirot’s. Then we have some several planes of the worlds of the characters, faceted in to obscure.

The book is a marvel in folded narrative, skipping about among these planes, unsettling our perceptions while at the same time supposedly informing our surrogate: Poirot.

Alas, when the BBC got hold of these they turned all those marvellous planes and disconnected physics into characters. Characters were what a lesser writer would leverage, someone like Erle Stanley Gardner, so it is a crying shame that we have a flattened mystery here.

The adapter did a wise thing though, in reshaping it around the character of Jane Grey and getting the rather impressive Sarah Woodward to play her. She’s so much more natural than any of the others, most of whom seem to be striving for an abstract type. You nearly fall in love.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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