At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie

June 17, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): An old-fashioned London hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out to be.…

When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service, and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer. Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day.…

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on until all was revealed at the end. Some of Christie’s clues allowed me to form a few half-correct conjectures, and I knew the race car would prove to be pivotal (though all I kept thinking was that if the cops had gps technology back then the case would have been solved in a heartbeat). Overall, though, I had to keep turning the pages to find the answers.
  • I enjoyed the setting in this book. Most of the time, Christie’s mysteries take place in an old country house or some such thing, but the hotel was a nice change of pace. Plus, the descriptions Christie put forth were so vivid that I could clearly picture the lobby and all the old folks as I was reading. Christie has never been known for her descriptions, so that was certainly a surprise.
  • I appreciate the fact that Christie is highly aware of Miss Marple’s age, and therefore has the old woman doing things she reasonably could be expected to do. Miss Marple wasn’t running all over the place tracking down clues and interviewing witnesses. Instead, she was just shuffling through stores and cafes, sitting in lounge chairs, etc. Some mystery writers don’t seem to want their characters to age at all, and therefore have them doing the exact same things at 50 that thy were doing at 30. Christie’s treatment of Miss Marple is much more realistic.

Disliked:

  • I didn’t believe for one second that Bess would confess to the crime and end up killing herself to save Elvira. Yes, Elvira was her daughter, and mothers might be expected to do extraordinary things for their children. But all previous mentions of Bess and Elvira were about how Bess didn’t want anything to do with the girl. That’s why she was a completely hands-off mother who passed Bess to various boarding schools and guardians instead of raising the girl herself. Why the sudden change of heart? That needed to be explained more thoroughly.
  • Why was the Chief Inspector referred to as “Father”? For some reason, I found that incredibly grating and annoying. I could understand if it was a nickname that other characters gave him and that other characters used while speaking about the man. But Christie used it in her voice as narrator, which was too much.
  • I kind of found it hard to swallow that the hotel was being used as a front for an organized crime syndicate. I guess it’s clever in some respects that they’d smuggle goods in and out of England in “tourists'” bags, but how much merchandise could they really move that way? It seemed that for a crime ring of that nature, they’d need quite a lot of people in on the secret, and all for a rather small payoff.

Rating:
As I near the end of my quest to read all of Agatha Christie’s novels in chronological order, I’m becoming more aware of how … average most of her stories are. To be sure, there are several gems in her bibliography, but the majority are just serviceable books that will be forgotten by the reader in a few weeks. That’s what At Bertram’s Hotel is. It’s entertaining enough in its own right, I suppose, but only merits 3 stars out of 5.

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