Published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1944
(Original dust jacket, thanks to Wikipedia)
Towards Zero is one of the lesser known novels among Agatha Christie’s enormous repertoire. It’s also one I’ve never read before. You won’t find one of Ms. Christie’s well-known detectives such as Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple in here. Superintendent Battle (from Scotland Yard) and his nephew is all that is needed. [An adaptation for TV found Miss Marple substituted for Superintendent Battle. Miss Marple was played by Geraldine McEwan.]
What is special about Towards Zero is the premise with which the author began the novel. Ms. Christie’s premise is that the actual murder itself is the zero-point. Everything else — the people, places, weapons, motives, and so forth — is what makes up the murder. So, the beginning of a murder could be years before with perhaps the first angry moment or that first desire to gain someone’s money. As a result of her premise, the author was very detailed in the telling of this story.
Towards Zero is classic Agatha Christie. Numerous characters who could each be considered a suspect, are gathered together at a country house for a couple of weeks. In this book an elderly woman, Lady Tresillian, invited various relatives and a few others to her home. Unfortunately, its Lady Tresillian who comes up murdered. Now its time to gather all the details that came before the zero hour and start analyzing them.
As usual, I enjoyed this Agatha Christie novel. Towards Zero was both a fast read and an interesting read. I have one small criticism. It came at the end. There was suddenly some extra details from a minor character that were suddenly dropped in at the end. It didin’t fit the rest of the story. It was just too convenient.
What did Agatha Christie think?
When asked in 1972 which of her books were her personal favorites, Ms. Christie named Towards Zero as one of her ten favorites. She said, “I found it interesting to work on the idea of people from different places coming towards a murder, instead of starting with the murder and working from that.” [The full list of Ms. Christie’s favorite books can be found here: AgathaChristie.com I recommend you try Towards Zero. Read it and see why it was one of Agatha’s favorite books.
I’m still participating in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. Towards Zero is book #35 for me. 31 to go.