Taken At The Flood

The last things taken by a flood were the last unicorns.

“In every club there is a club bore.”

The very method with which this book is in my possession is something of a mystery in itself. I don’t own a copy with the cover shown here, mine is the American version which has the alternate title of There is a Tide. It arrived in the post from Washington, America, complete with a letter claiming to be from Horace Wells, Director of Brainwashing and Agent Recruitment for the Temporal Intelligence and Multidimensional Espionage Organisation for Universal Security (TIMOUS).

The letter claimed that I may have certain skills required to secure a position with TIMOUS, an agency “dedicated to the protection of mankind against destabilisation of the space-time continuum”. All I had to do was read the enclosed novel (an amazing looking and smelling copy of There is a Tide from 1949), solve the riddle enclosed and there would be a message for me.

Once I’d solved the puzzle (it involved a Polybius square for any crypto-obsessives reading) I was greeted with a message from an American friend of mine. All very clever and very sweet, if not a little bit galling that I wasn’t really about to be off solving crime in time and space.

As such, I am still here, recording the details of the book for you. And so, let’s get on with it.

Having read so much Christie lately, I should’ve been more in tune to what was going on in this once, but, as usual, I was flummoxed and it all came out of left field when the clues had been there all along. Flood is about the Cloade family, who have been living with help from their generous relative Gordon. He provides them with whatever money they need, but his sudden death causes problems. While the money should have been split up between the remaining family, it transpires that he married two days before he died and his new wife, the young Rosaleen, already at twenty-four the widow of soldier Robert Underhay, has interited the lot. She and her brother David Hunter have moved into Gordon’s old house in the small village of Warmsley Vale, much to the annoyance of the entire Cloade family, all of whom are now having money problems.

And then a stranger comes to town with the suggestion that Rosaleen’s first husband is still alive, and not buried in Africa as everyone presumed. If that’s the case, then Rosaleen is a bigamist and she has no right to the money. All the while this stranger, Enoch Arden, is around, doubt must remain. But then one morning, the man is found dead. The Cloade family needed him alive, which leaves Rosaleen and David as the only viable suspects. In court, Rosaleen sees the body and claims she has never  seen the man before in her life. However, an old army major also views the body and makes a rather startling announcement – that man is none other than Robert Underhay, Rosaleen’s supposedly dead husband!

The conflicting points of view mean that is is almost impossible to know who is telling the truth, so Poirot arrives to see if he can crack the riddle that holds Warmsley Vale ransom.

Quite a clever book, set in the aftermath of the Second World War, when people travelled the globe to settle themselves and papers were easily “lost, “misplaced” or “destroyed in bombings”. While it’s not the most captivating Christie I’ve ever read, it was still an entertaining read, with a twist I didn’t see coming. Red herrings are so abundant here that the novel might’ve been granted status as a reserve for a breeding colony of the crimson fish. If you’re reading Christie’s entire output – as I am – then this is essential, but for a new reader, I wouldn’t begin with this one.