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Agatha Christie - They Came To Baghdad Paperback – 1982
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Christie spent some time in the Middle East with her archeologist husband and mined the setting for several earlier books, mostly featuring Hercule Poirot. This book is unusual both in not featuring one of her series detectives and in being a spy thriller rather than a murder mystery. It takes the form of a "North by Northwest" style thriller with an innocent person being swept up in a tale of international intrigue. The setting of Iraq must have seemed exotic and unfamiliar to readers in the U.S. and U.K. in 1951. Unfortunately, events of the last decade have made Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and some of the other cities mentioned all too familiar. It's rather ironic to have the Iraq of those days described as well-policed and perfectly safe for a young Englishwoman to travel through alone.
Although I very much enjoyed the book, it has a few weaknesses. Both the British intelligence service and its opponents seem fantastically well-organized and effective. Much more so than any real world spy service -- although this is a failing the book shares with most spy thrillers. in addition, key plot developments are telegraphed in a way that even I was able to pick up and I tend to be pretty weak in solving mysteries.
In summary, while this book is far from the typical Christie, I think most of her fans, as well as fans of period spy thrillers, will find it very entertaining.
One last point: I like these new Harper reprints. Although paperbacks, they can be read easily without breaking the binding and they should hold up to rereading. A word of warning, though, the blurb on the back cover gives away a plot point that doesn't occur until more than half way through the book!
book but we have been saturated with so many Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries, again on PBS, that I wanted to read something different and for that I picked the right novel. Besides, it was fun to read her descriptions of Baghdad and environs. It was well written which would encourage me to read another of her books. The plot, however, seemed
a bit difficult to follow and I thought that it was difficult to follow from one chapter to another. it was better if I stopped mid-chapter because I could pick it up easier if I had put it down for awhile. The continuity did not seem smooth but you were left guessing who the actual "villain" might be or what in the world was going on.
I really cannot fault this too much as a mystery but felt it was almost a short story. I debated between 3 and 4 stars but gave this the benefit of the doubt because I do believe if I try to read another of her books, I will get more satisfaction out of it. I shouldn't criticize too much….it did take me back to Baghdad.