Book Review – At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie

books, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I always used to think that I preferred Miss Marple stories but I think this is because of the adaptations. Or, at least, the women who have played her. There have been plenty of great portrayals of the character that made her seem much so wonderful. Going back to some of the stories that I haven’t read in a while, I’m starting to realise just how much help the adaptations have had.

I think Miss Marple stories tend to be a bit slower and the plot sort of ambles along to its conclusion. Of course, that’s not to say that Poirot books are full of action and excitement. It’s just that the stories starring the septuagenarian tend to be a bit more sedate. At Bertram’s Hotel is one of those books that just take a long time to do very little. It’s not that it isn’t fun to be there but I can’t help but think it should have been a shorter story.

I do think that Christie really captures the setting of this story. The way that Bertram’s Hotel is described is brilliant and she really sets the scene. That old hotel that is trying to cling to the old ways after so many places had been rebuilt because of the war. It really captures a specific time and place. Of course, behind the decadent facade, something is lurking. Something that Jane picks up on pretty quickly because of course she does.

The problem is, the big stuff doesn’t happen until just before the end. There is a lot of build-up to the mysteries. I’d also say that there are just too many things going on at once. There’s a missing priest, a train robbery and then a murder that just feels as though it’s been stuck on last-minute. It’s all a bit messy and the ending doesn’t really bring it to a very satisfactory conclusion. It’s all a bit too farfetched and silly. It doesn’t come together in the way that Chrisite novels normally do.

It’s not something that I’d normally say but I think this book would have been improved with more Miss Marple. She is pushed into the background and we are introduced to several other guests of the hotel. None of them stand out and it feels as though they lack that Christie spark that we’re used to. The supporting cast feels a little like caricatures or stereotypes. Considering the writer is usually so strong with her characters, it feels disappointing.

There is something quite delicious about the setup of this book. I love that idea of something that looks so flawless and perfect being tainted underneath. It’s something she’s used before so effectively so it should have worked here. The problem is the way the rest is handled. It’s trying to do so much when it should have been simpler. There were too many perspectives and the narrative flitted around too much. It just isn’t up to her usual standard.

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