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Towards Zero Paperback – Print, February 1, 2011
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“Agatha Christie has surpassed herself.” (New York Times)
“Masterly storytelling.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))
“Agatha Christie set the bar.” (Katherine Hall Page, Agatha award-winning author of the Faith Fairchild Mysteries)
From the Back Cover
What is the connection among a failed suicide attempt, a wrongful accusation of theft against a schoolgirl, and the romantic life of a famous tennis player?
To the casual observer, apparently nothing. But when a house party gathers at Gull’s Point, the seaside home of an elderly widow, earlier events come to a dramatic head. As Superintendent Battle discovers, it is all part of a carefully laid plan—for murder.
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I was happy to see him mention Hercule Poirot as he tried to remember what it was that he had missed when investigating the house of the murder. He has much respect for the Belgium Detective.
I did figure out the murderer. However, I didn't piece together the entire story, so it was still a surprise at the end.
Christie's power in Towards Zero is her ability to create a sinister air which permeates this novel written at the height of her career. While the absence of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot may disappoint Christie fans, Superintendent Battle, whose role remains relatively marginal for much of the action of the novel, is the primary detective in the story. Like many of Christie's novels, Towards Zero is an English countryhouse murder mystery in which a limited number of suspects all congregate in one particular location.
Lady Tressilian's home, Gull's Point, overlooks a river which empties into Easterhead Bay. There, Lady Tressilian lives in relative peace with her companion, Mary Aldin, a sheepish young woman who acts as a secretary to Lady Tressilian. As the late summer approaches, Lady Tressilian finds herself hosting a series of guests, particularly her late husband's ward, Nevile Strange, accompanied by his new wife, Kay. Unfortunately, Nevile's first wife, Audrey, has also been invited. Christie, hardly prone to comedy comparable to a Noel Coward play, allows us to see the competing affections between these three characters. Why did Nevile leave his first wife whom everyone loved? Why does Kay find Audrey frightening? And why, after being rejected, does Audrey agree to come and visit Gull's Point at the latter end of the summer?
Eventually, we meet Mr. Treves, a kindly, well-meaning solicitor, whose considerable past experience allows him to speak with some authority on murderers and their victims. Unfortunately, after recounting an incident in which two children playing eventually lead to a fatality, an audience member finds Mr. Treves knowledge far too significant to ignore. Who among the guests at Gull's Point might be responsible for placing an "out of order" sign on an elevator so that an aging Mr. Treves would have to climb, much to his peril, flights of stairs? Christie's novel of suspense allows us briefly into the mind of the killer and while she never reveals anything that might give the end away, she manages to keep readers guessing until the last minute.
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