Six Damn Fine Degrees #71: Agatha Christie and the desert

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

While Agatha Christie is possibly most famous for her many fictional English villages or mansions or lodges or what have you, my imagination was always drawn to the books she set in the desert. Preferably, though not necessarily, on archaeological digs. Because, although she herself keeps insisting she will not describe any scenery in her books, she has a knack of picking out details which bring these fantastic places to life. The sound of the waterwheel, the flowers, the sparsely furnished accommodations. In Murder in Mesopotamia, a group of archaeologists are working at a dig, very near the fictional town of Hassanieh. And although the plot is one of her weaker ones, the characterizations of the people and the description of their routines seems to evoke a world that just seems more real to me than St Mary Mead or Chipping Cleghorn. The reason for this, as I found out much later, is that they are, in a sense, more real – or rather, they represent Christie’s later years, ones imbued with more affection and gratitude, her second lease on life.

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