Wednesday, February 09, 2011

At Bertram's Hotel

At Bertram's Hotel. Agatha Christie. 1965/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.

In the heart of the West End, there are many quiet pockets, unknown to almost all but taxi drivers who traverse them with expert knowledge, and arrive triumphantly thereby at Park Lane, Berkeley Square, or South Audley Street.

Is Bertram's Hotel too good to be true? Miss Marple senses something is not as it should be. She senses that there is something unreal about this place. It's in the little things, really, and it's hard to put into words almost. But the hotel seems more like an act, a show, a theatrical production, than a proper hotel. Miss Marple is on vacation in London. And she's as observant as ever--which proves useful as a mystery begins to unfold concerning the hotel and its guests. (One guest ends up missing! One clerk ends up dead!) The novel focuses on a broken relationship between mother and daughter and the race car driver that may just come between them in the end.

Though it stars Miss Marple--a character I've come to love and adore--I did not love and adore At Bertram's Hotel. I found it confusing. The shifts in narration. The introduction of new characters, new stories, new mysteries. It felt so chaotic, so unconnected. I knew if I kept reading, it would make sense in the end. I knew that all these elements would come together nicely. That Miss Marple would be Miss Marple and all would be right with the world. And I was right. I did find it compelling by the end. Still. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't love through and through.

Miss Marple seldom gave anyone the benefit of the doubt; she invariably thought the worst, and nine times out of ten, so she insisted, she was right in so doing. (119)

"I learned (what I suppose I really knew already) that one can never go back, that one should not ever try to go back--that the essence of life is going forward. Life is really a one way street, isn't it?" (194)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just read AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL. IMHO, not as confusing as you make it out to be. Rather, it's lack was the absence of Miss Marble on so many pages. Others, esp. Chief Davy, did most of the crime-solving. Almost as if the author were writing for eventual screen adaptation with an older actor. Thanks for your review. Nice to see someone still cares for the underlying text, not just the TV versions.