Read the book or watch the film?

Photograph of the Nile from 1920s

It is ‘murder’ of a book by watching its film adaptation first?

As an Agatha Christie fan, I’m a sucker for any new adaptations of her books. So when I heard the much delayed (by Covid) film release of ‘Death on the Nile’ was due out I was very excited. But, before heading to the cinema or some streaming device, I first had to read it again.

I say ‘again’ because I presume I have read it sometime in the past. But I didn’t have a copy of it. This could be because in the past, I used to borrow her books from the library so I might never have owned this one. I certainly can’t remember who did the murder, even though I’m sure I’ve probably watched an old version of the film. Awful! But I find good mysteries are like that, especially Christie’s. There will be a lot of potential culprits and often the thing that sticks in your memory is the setting of the crime, ‘The Orient Express is an example of that.

I am also aware that I have lots of books and as such am always nervous about adding to my TBR (To Be Read) pile. However, in this case, I thought it was worth it as I like reading mysteries and these are also the sort of stories I like to write. Therefore, I think of it as my ongoing homework from one of the masters of the genre!

I am aware you could be thinking, “Won’t reading the book ruin the film?’ I don’t think it will in this case because Christie’s work is so wonderful to adapt, with the locations, the vehicles of the time and clothing (in this case they would be from the late 1930s) watching a film of her books don’t ruin it for me. Instead, if it’s done well, it merely adds to what I’d imagined reading it. And knowing the ending in advance is quite useful. I can, again, track how Christie set up ‘pointers’ to who did the crime and why.

Death on the Nile poster for 20 Century Studios film

That final point is very important. Christie never has murders without a clear reason. Although she knew some deaths do occur without real thought, planning or even malice because the perpetrator had a mental illness or made a foolish mistake. She didn’t like those in her mysteries. She wanted the murders in her books to be done with focussed reasoning and ruthlessness.

As the brilliant Sophie Hannah, who has continued writing Poirot mysteries with the Agatha Christie estate’s blessing, says:

“The real mysterious hook in crime fiction is not so much whodunnit, but ‘how on earth can the apparently inexplicable be explained?’”

Sophie Hannah 2015 Irish Times

I believe this is why people still love the work of Agatha Christie. She continues to pull us in because she was the mistress of great plotting and able to create wonderful intriguing, surprising and devious characters to populate her stories!


Published by Yasmin Keyani


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