Beware the curse…

“In the end is my beginning … That’s a quotation I’ve often heard people say. It sounds all right – but what does it really mean?”

Although Christie is long associated with the twenties and thirties, the jazz age and that twee mid-war period, there’s actually fifty-six years between her first and last book. During this time, the world faced many changes and so many attitudes shifted. This one, Endless Night, is one of her last and takes place in the late sixties, a time when the young were far more open about their sexuality and women were more on a par with men.

As such, it is curious to read the quaint Christie and see characters talking about sex and referring to others as sexy. She did not approve of the changing attitudes. But that is merely an aside, it is nothing to do with the content of the novel, particularly. So, let’s get a synopsis down.

Michael Rogers is the narrator here, and the novel doesn’t include any of the usual figures from Christie’s back catalogue. Michael is a penniless waster, horrified by the idea of hard work and skipping from job to job, constantly bored and on the move. While in the small English village of Kingston Bishop one day, he discovers a house at Gypsy’s Acre, an area he falls in love with. He encounters the locals who warn him off the house, including an old gypsy woman who tells him that the land and the house is cursed and he must leave immediately.

He considers it, certainly, but then meets Ellie, a small, cute woman with hair the colour of autumn leaves and he falls in love right away. She feels the same way and when it turns out that once she reaches twenty-one, she will become one of America’s richest women, they marry, buy the plot of land at Gypsy’s Acre and hire Michael’s friend, the internationally famous architect Rudolph Santonix, to build them the perfect house and move in.

But Ellie remains worried about the curse and when some of the neighbours seem keen to remove them from the location, the curse appears to go from a fiction to a reality.

No Christie novel is complete without at least one death (in this one, we get four, although one is definitely natural causes), but they are a long time coming. In fact, you’re two thirds of the way through before the first body drops, but because of Christie’s reputation, you hang on, relishing the apprehension. Once the first body is found, the rest pile up quickly and the novel rushes to an astounding conclusion that makes the previous two-thirds of the novel completely worth it. It has one of the most incredible twists in any of her work, proving that even in her final years – she was 76 when she published this one – she still had the talents that had elevated her to her position and, if anything, they were better than ever. This is one of Christie’s personal favourites, and I can see why.

Most of the novel is more of a love story, but the clues are dropped throughout and it’s rife with red herrings. When there’s a lot of money at stake, as there is here, and a lot of dodgy family members that might not really be who they say they are, you find that you cannot trust anyone. Michael has to contend with various step-relatives, the gypsy curse and his own mother before the climax, building up a complex tapestry of lies and deceit.