Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

March 21, 2010

destination unknown Plot summary (with spoilers): Hilary Craven is at the end of her rope. She has lost her only child, and her husband recently divorced her. Hilary doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she takes a trip to Paris, fully intending to commit suicide once she gets there. The plane she’s traveling on actually crashes, but Hilary miraculously survives with a few others — though of course she wishes she hadn’t. Once in Paris, she plans to go through with the suicide plan, but a stranger knocks on her hotel room door to interrupt her.

The stranger is a Mr. Jessop, who works for British intelligence. He has a proposition for Hilary. Seeing as how she wants to commit suicide anyway, Jessop asks her to serve her country first. There was another woman on the plane that went down, an Olive Betterton. Olive was on her way to meet her husband Thomas Betterton, a scientist who stole state secrets and defected somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. Jessop noticed that Hilary greatly resembles Olive, and wants her to pose as Mrs. Betterton in an effort to lead authorities to the missing husband. It’s a very dangerous mission, to be sure, but since Hilary doesn’t care to live anyway…. Hilary accepts the proposition.

From there, we see Hilary assume Olive’s identity, rendezvous with all the people that Olive was supposed to meet with (the people had never met Olive before; they just had a general physical description, which is why Hilary was able to pull it off), and eventually make it to Thomas Betterton, who, surprisingly enough, goes along with the ploy and recognizes Hilary as his wife.

It turns out that Thomas and Hilary are being held in a massive underground complex designed to be a self-sustaining society where the best and brightest scientists from all over the world could perform their experiments unhindered by government intervention. As they weren’t exactly experimenting with something as harmless as a colon cleanser formula or acne treatments, this secrecy was of the utmost importance. The man behind the complex, a billionaire Greek named Aristides, wants to corner the market on scientists so that he will essentially own all new advances. Everyone in the complex is basically being held as a prisoner, though, so only the most fanatical of the group are happy with the situation.

Fortunately, Jessop had other people watching Hilary, so the authorities are able to descend on the complex and rescue everyone involved.

Liked:

  • I thought the scientific complex was sort of an interesting idea. Maybe that angle should have been explored more rather than having so much of the text focus on Hilary’s journey to the unknown destination.

Disliked:

  • This isn’t Christie’s fault, but I recently read a book with a similar plot of someone assuming someone else’s identity to get to the bottom of a crime, so I wasn’t very impressed by the ruse here.
  • There wasn’t much action in this book, nor was there very much suspense. It was pretty much just a ho-hum story that unfolded at a rather leisurely pace. I never felt that Hilary was truly in danger, so there was no tension along the way and that made the book drag in places.
  • The ending seemed a bit abrupt to me. One minute, everyone’s stuck in the complex with no hope of escape, and the next, a delegation of officials comes for a tour and presto! everyone’s saved.

Rating:
I felt that Destination Unknown was a subpar Christie book. I don’t think that she writes very good thrillers at all, and prefer her straightforward murder mysteries a lot more. I don’t recommend this title at all, and give it just 2 stars out of 5.

One Response to “Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie”

  1. I’d love to you to submit this post to the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival – I’ve linked my name to the Carnival site. Post your submission at http://blogcarnival.com/bc/cprof_6057.html

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