The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

The Seven Dials Mystery

The Seven Dials Mystery: “That amiable youth, Jimmy Thesiger, came racing down the big staircase at Chimneys two steps at a time.”

Detective: Superintendent Battle, Lady Eileen Brent (Bundle)

Published: January 24, 1929 (10th published book)

Length: 282 pages

Setting: Chimneys, London

Chimneys, the estate we became acquainted with in The Secret of Chimneys, is again the scene of mystery and murder.  At the time, Lord Brent and his daughter Lady Eileen “Bundle” Brent had let Chimneys to Sir Oswald Coote and Lady Coote, but when a prank turns to the murder of a young guest, Gerry Wade, the owners return and Bundle is determined to investigate the killer.  Another unexpected murder sends her to seek the assistance of two young men, who were original guests at the house at the time of the initial murder, Bill Eversleigh and Jimmy Thesiger, but who should come on the scene but her old friend Superindendent Battle who was instrumental in solving the first mystery at Chimneys.  A reference to the Seven Dials from the second murdered man in his dying breath leads her to a disreputable club and gambling den in London, where a spy ring appears to be meeting. Our intrepid Bundle hides in a cupboard but of the participants, from number one to seven, Number Seven, who appears to be their leader, is missing.

There is the puzzle of the eight clocks that were set to ring to awake Gerry Wade that fateful night, yet one of them is missing.  Who is the mysterious Number Seven of the gang of spies? And will a German inventor’s invention be stolen before Superintendent Battle can intervene?  From private estates to seedy London gaming clubs the plot unravels until the real brains behind a truly sinister plan can be revealed.

London Visitors

London Visitors (1874) James Tissot
~ source Wikiart

With the publishing of The Seven Dials Mystery, Christie had to withstand some wilting criticism.  Many disliked her departure from a methodical, clue-riddled, deductive mystery to a somewhat frivolous caper that included a mysterious international spy ring and more fantastical conspiracy.  She was rounded condemned for withholding pertinent plot information from the reader, and a revelation surrounding one character was labelled “utterly preposterous”.

Clock

Clock (1914) Marc Chagall
~ source Wikiart

There were parts of this book I loved and parts of it I didn’t.  Firstly, I was so happy to see the return of Bundle from The Secret of Chimneys.  In Chimneys, we get a taste of Bundle’s character, but here her character shone through, her wit, her intelligence, and her pluck and determination in the face of adversity.  While her station made her an unusual sleuth, her personality was perfect for investigating the crime, assisting the police, finding the criminal and bringing him to justice. Now, what I didn’t like ………. good grief, Christie DOES seem to be on a secret society spy tangent.  The story certainly wasn’t a methodical detective story but the over-the-top drama and impossible intrigue detracted from the positive aspects of the novel.  Still, all-in-all, it was a satisfying read.  Now back to our intrepid sleuths, Tommy and Tuppence from The Secret Adversary, in Christie’s next mystery, Partners in Crime.

 

⇐  The Mystery of the Blue Train                                            Partners in Crime ⇒

14 thoughts on “The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

  1. That was how I reacted to her Passenger From Frankfurt where she leaves what she’s really good at and goes into espionage/spy territory. It was still an ok read but had nowhere near the aplomb of her usual writing.

    • Oh no! Not another one! Well, at least it looks like the next ones coming up don’t hold so much improbable drama. But we’ll see … Thanks for the heads up!

  2. It is quite a surprise from Christie, but that’s why I love her. She can write anything, from methodical murder to love story, thriller to secret spy, novel to play, and almost always satisfying. Sometimes it makes you reflective, sometimes it chills you, and if not, it’s fun or hilarious. 🙂

    • Yes, Fanda, I agree, she has a number of tricks up her sleeve. The only one I haven’t enjoyed so far was The Big Four. And Murder on the Links was sort of “meh” but still interesting. I’m looking forward to getting through the next few and then I think it will pick up.

    • Thanks, Cath! I wish I’d hit a Christmas Christie at this time of the year but no such luck. Oh well, they’re fun reads at any time of the year.

    • I usually like them as well but just with some Christie novels they feel awkward and almost rushed. Then the characters don’t develop or stick with you. But only a few so far.

      Ah, Margery Allingham. It’s been ages since I’ve read one of hers. Once I finish Josephine Tey’s novels, perhaps I should add her in.

  3. I don’t like those spies rings too, but I did enjoy Bundle’s character previously and her father made me laugh in The secret of Chimneys. I’m re-reading her novels too, just finished Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and my next is The murder of Roger Ackroyd ^^

    • Yes, wasn’t Bundle’s father funny?! Christie should have brought him into the story more and perhaps he could have bumblingly and unwittingly helped her solve the case. Are you re-reading in published order or just grabbing whatever you feel like reading at the time? The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is excellent. Enjoy!

  4. I have to admit, this one sounds fun! I’m looking forward to it, but still a few books back. Waiting on The Big Four (which as I recall isn’t one of your favorites) from the library, but it’s coming from outside the local system, so could be a couple weeks with the holidays.

    • Oh, you’re catching up to me! I’m on Partners in Crime right now. It’s alright but I’m not far into it.

      I’m looking forward to your thoughts on The Big Four. No, it was certainly NOT my favourite but perhaps you can help me see something positive in it that I missed.

  5. I’m also not a fan of Christie’s espionage novels. Thought I think I read in a biography of her that they were her favorite to write because she found them easy? But generally, I am not a fan of thrillers of any era where the mystery is less solved and more stumbled upon. But I do like her plucky heroines…one of her stock characters but fun, none-the-less.

    • Well, it makes sense that they were easy because they certainly weren’t well constructed. But yes, her plucky heroines are very well done, even if they are plunked in a morass of a bad plot. She does have a way with characters, doesn’t she?

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