Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Published on November 03, 2021
Reviewed by Stephen Baccetta
First published in November 1937 as Agatha Christie’s 25th novel, Death on the Nile continues to be one of the author’s most familiar and revered tales. The intricate plot involves a celebrity heiress, a jilted lover, a river cruise, and a cold-blooded murder, with the famous detective Hercule Poirot attempting to piece it all together.
Linnet Doyle is recently married and embarking on a honeymoon tour down the Nile with her new husband, Simon, aboard the Karnak. The steamer seems unusually abound with people who know Linnet in one way or another; the cousin of one of her friends, her American trustee, her English lawyer, and even her ex-best friend who happens to be Simon’s ex-fiancé. Other tourists on the Karnak include a kooky novelist traveling with her brooding daughter, a wealthy spinster accompanied by her nurse and her passive cousin, a doctor, an archaeologist, a communist, and others. With so many potential motives surrounding the murder, it’s up to Poirot to deduce which of these passengers is a killer before more blood is shed.
A classic whodunit, Christie skips the frills and fuss in Death on the Nile, opting instead to focus on action. The author wastes no time introducing the characters, quickly describing their relationships to each other, and outlining the background her readers will need to know before setting the rest of the story in Egypt. Dialogue is key to this fast-paced novel, as thoughts, feelings, and past experiences are exclusively conveyed via the conversions the travelers share while on their trip. Those who enjoy a long, drawn-out thriller where they can get inside the head of a calculating detective may want to skip this title. But, don’t confuse a rapid tempo with one that’s rushed or under-developed; Christie has masterfully planned and executed her creation, penning a piece of detective fiction that can still be appreciated nearly 85 years later.
While this is the 18th appearance of Poirot in Christie’s writing, don’t feel as if you need to read the series in order. Death on the Nile works extremely well as a standalone novel (though those familiar with the Belgian sleuth may appreciate some references Christie makes to his past cases). It’s easy to see why Agatha Christie is considered a master of her craft; her ability to take an already world-famous detective of literature and place him in the middle of yet another new, exciting, and believable murder mystery is to be admired.
Booklovers may wish to read this one soon, as Kenneth Branagh has turned the novel into the second installment of his Poirot film series following 2017’s hit adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Look for Death on the Nile in theaters February 2022!
Colonel Race: “It often seems to me that’s all detective work is, wiping out your false starts and beginning again.”
Hercule Poirot: “Yes, it is very true, that. And it is just what some people will not do. They conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit in that are significant.”