Agatha Christie is well known for her “locked door” mysteries. Death In the Air is a version of the locked door. Passengers are in the air flying from France to England. During that flight a woman is murdered and everyone on the plane is a suspect, includine Hercule Poirot.
The victim, Madame Giselle, was poisoned with venom from a South American snake. The poison was at the end of an Indian thorn supposedly sent via an Indian blowpipe. The how-did-it-happen was, for me, a bigger mystery than the who-dun-it.
In the first few chapters the reader knows the archeologists have pipes, the doctor has a flute, plus there are two long cigarette holders. I couldn’t see how any one of those objects could have been used to send a poisoned dart through the air. Also, wouldn’t someone have seen an object flying through the air in a small airplane? A diagram was provided showing the arrangements of the chairs and the passengers. I studied and studied that diagram trying to figure it out.
I’m not the only one stumped by this puzzle. Readers in the past, many of them experts on the subject, pointed out that this type of poisoned dart requires a very long blowpipe. No way could that be easily hidden in the airplane. Agatha Christie actually acknowledged this blooper. She supposedly makes fun of herself in a future story. For some reason I feel better knowing that the great Agatha was human after all.
There were lots of clues and evidence to be pondered in this book. Death In the Air was a good mystery for the arm chair sleuth. By the time I got to the end, figuring out who the killer was was anti-climactic. Death In the Air is one of the books I read back in my teens when I was really obsessed with all the Agatha books. (Reading all of them again is just a mild obsession.) I remember this book, probably because of Christie’s mistake, but I didn’t remember the ending. As I said before, it was more about how did the killer do it.
I’d recommend Death In the Air to anyone who is interested in a classic, vintage mystery.
Many of you know I’m attempting to read all of Agatha Christie’s books in publication order. I am now 22 for 87. I’ve noticed a difference in Ms. Christie’s last four or five books. They seem to be a bit more clever, more sophisticated. My opinion is that Agatha was happier and much more confident. By this time she was divorced from Archie Christie and happily married to the archeologist Max Mallowan. Her books were doing well and I guess you could say, she was in her prime. These are certainly the best ones I’ve read so far.
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