June's Book of the Month: After the Funeral

TuppenceTuppence City of London, United Kingdom admin
This month we are reading After the Funeral. Often described as typical Christie territory, After the Funeral focuses on a wealthy, yet complicated, family who are attending a relatives funeral and waiting for the reading of the will. How would you describe After the Funeral?
Leave your thoughts, theories, questions and queries about the story below.
Any questions? Please email generalenquiries@agathachristie.com
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Comments

  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States mod
    I like the subtlety of one clue that tripped up the killer, and you can see bits of clues and tropes from previous stories incorporated into this narrative.
  • Madame_DoyleMadame_Doyle USA ✭✭✭
    GKCfan said:
    I like the subtlety of one clue that tripped up the killer, and you can see bits of clues and tropes from previous stories incorporated into this narrative.
    What are some examples of tropes from previous stories?  The poisoned cake is the most obvious, but what else?
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ✭✭✭✭
    Yeah, @Tuppence , After the Funeral is A.C's territory. We can read all the things that is typical on her books. Money, big family and all of them are suspects of a crime, mansion. I think it's a great book, although I was a bit disappointed with the ending.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom ✭✭✭✭

    I was wondering what Tropes meant In this context, I do like After The Funeral, It is very good and in my Top 10 of Poirot Novels, I also liked The Subtlety of the Clue that gave the Murderer away.


  • Madame_DoyleMadame_Doyle USA ✭✭✭
    @GKCfan  We are all still waiting for your reply about trope examples from previous works.  Some of us know what those terms mean and would like specifics about what you meant by your post.  I have already given the example of the poisoned cake device.
  • One of the things I remember most about "After The Funeral" is the poison cake device that you guys mentioned. I remember reading not too long ago that Agatha Christie wanted to write a story in which someone would be poisoned by thalidomide in a birthday cake ......not in the cake BUT the icing. Very clever. Well, in 1967 she wrote to a specialist asking about the impact of thalidomide in birthday cake icing, inquiring how long would it take for the poison to make an impact, how many grains would be needed, etc. Unfortunately this idea was never used in her story but it definitely would have been interesting to see what Agatha Christie would have made of it.


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States mod
    Here are some of the tropes I was referring to earlier (Spoilers ahead!)

    •Taking poison or staging an attack on oneself to deflect suspicion (Death Comes as the End, Crooked House)

    •A character in disguise at part of the crime ("Marsdon Manor," Evil Under the Sun)

    •An entire family under suspicion (Crooked House, Appointment With Death, Mysterious Affair at Styles, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, A Pocket Full of Rye)

    •A clue from artwork (Five Little Pigs, Mirror Crack'd, Hercule Poirot's Christmas)

    •A phone call where one speaker presumably knows something, but is interrupted by an attack (Lord Edgware Dies, Hickory Dickory Dock, The Clocks)

    •A deception made possible by not seeing someone in a long time (A Murder is Announced, Murder in Mesopotamia)

    Poirot takes on a false name and/or background (Third Girl, "Third Floor Flat")

    A reversed mirror creates a clue ("In a Glass Darkly,"  Dumb Witness)

    A clue from a smell that shouldn't be there (Death on the Nile, Five Little Pigs, inverted in "Murder in the Mews")

    •The problems of Post-WWII society (A Murder is Announced, Taken at the Flood)


  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Apart from  the devices the writer uses to enable the mystery to unfold, I sense a writer's focus on a favourite theme, namely,  the middle class family whose members would like to benefit from the inheritance of a largish sum of money. The 1953 work opens with a reference to the family, and the great forebear, Cornelius Abernethie, who had built the large Victorian monstrosity of a gothic house, in which the curtains are fading (reference the post- world war II problems with changing society which GCKFan refers to). The novel in which this particular theme is most explicitly alluded to, is, I think,  Taken at the Flood. In this novel, we meet different characters, each with a pet project or reason for needing money in their lives. In that Christie novel the point is explicitly emphasized that  they had all been conditioned for years to expect to be looked after by their wealthy relative Gordon Cloade. In A Pocket Full of Rye, this theme is less show-cased in its purest form, but none-the-less, there is the sense of the different reasons for needing money: to marry and escape debts; to start a radical school to fulfil idealistic fiance; to save the family business.The theme is somewhat diluted because of all the other issues going on in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but even so, the topic is there, and we are shown that money is an ever-present worry and menace in the lives of the twentieth century middle-class.

    This theme got me thinking about Agatha Christie.Would she have been a member of one of those sorts of families - before writing success dragged her upwards and away into a new stratosphere of fame and wealth? Did her fame actually distance her psychologically from that context, and the life she would have had without that talent,  and did it give her the ability to survey those she left behind with a more keenly critical eye - which we, the readers so admire? She would have seen her old life with a changed perspective, but never-the-less a deep, first-hand awareness of the  feelings which go with the territory, and an authentic ear for the euphemisms  used to talk about the delicate subject of money with relatives. We know, that for that class, and generation, it was frowned upon to boast about, or to discuss filthy lucre - especially when you were trying to distance yourself from your manufacturing ancestry.

    For me, the theme at the heart of After the Funeral, for me, is the delicate subject of middle-class want, and a clever and subtle investigation by Christie of the sense of misplaced entitlement among members of this social group: they almost feel their needs and wants are justified, legitimate, and certainly worthy. In the case of the SPOILER, murderer, they feel that their wishes are modest and justifed because they are modest.....in short, that they almost deserve to have the money, and the person who ought to have got it, legally-speaking does not. (The silly Cora Lansquenet, who doesn't know a Rembrandt when she sees one! )We can see that the life of a gentile lady's companion was a bitter one! I'll never forget the impact of reading ( and, to be fair, seeing in David Suchet's dramatisation) the moment when Susan says: 'You killed her - in that brutal way for  five thousand pounds?' 

    'Five thousand pounds,' said Poirot, 'would have rented and equipped a tea-shop...'

    It was that moment that I, as a reader, so enjoyed and admired Christie's exposure of  the human soul,  and the way that  feelings affect our decisions. I felt, here is a writer who thoroughly understands humanity. At this moment, the themes of the novels - Lanscombe's regret at leaving the big house,  even, - all came together to form a logical conclusion, as it were. Christie is telling us that money, and the lack of it, shapes our feelings as much as the bigger issues in life, such as ambition, passion, ego, even madness. In many ways, for me,Christie is the biographer of the Mundane Murderer. 

     I'd actually like a writer to investigate Christie's life, and to find out when she started to get very rich and successful as a result of her writing, and how this development - gradually - impacted upon her writer's perspective. Is it why she is able to be so analytical about human life - because she started to be removed from the ordinary issues of human experience - in a financial sense?  I was even thinking about successful men and women of that arts in our day and age, and how their money affects them. Some rich musicians turn politician, and start to lecture the rest of us in the class we used to belong to on what we should do with our money, vis-a-vis the rest of the world's population.  Some of the recently rich of the world  buy a football club, you could say, in order to  experience vicariously the  ordinary down- to- earth thrills they can never quite appreciate again, having been lifted away from such a life as a result of their new-found wealth. One thing is for sure, I think that Agatha Christie understood this sort of social group better than she did the aristocracy, who, when she writes about them, don't come across as quite real - well in my opinion. I found the Angatells in The Hollow to be a little like characatures  of themselves. 
  • Griselda said:
    In the case of the SPOILER, murderer, they feel that their wishes are modest and justified because they are modest.....in short, that they almost deserve to have the money, and the person who ought to have got it, legally-speaking does not. (The silly Cora Lansquenet, who doesn't know a Rembrandt when she sees one! )We can see that the life of a gentile lady's companion was a bitter one! I'll never forget the impact of reading ( and, to be fair, seeing in David Suchet's dramatisation) the moment when Susan says: 'You killed her - in that brutal way for  five thousand pounds?' 

    'Five thousand pounds,' said Poirot, 'would have rented and equipped a tea-shop...'

    It was that moment that I, as a reader, so enjoyed and admired Christie's exposure of  the human soul,  and the way that  feelings affect our decisions. I felt, here is a writer who thoroughly understands humanity. At this moment, the themes of the novels - Lanscombe's regret at leaving the big house,  even, - all came together to form a logical conclusion, as it were. Christie is telling us that money, and the lack of it, shapes our feelings as much as the bigger issues in life, such as ambition, passion, ego, even madness. In many ways, for me,Christie is the biographer of the Mundane Murderer. 
    I remember when I first read (I think I read the book before watching the David Suchet film version of it) and when I saw the ending, I was thinking to myself, "All this over a tea-shop?!?!?!" Though this may "sound" unrealistic, it is VERY real because there are cases of people who kill for less than even over a tea-shop! There are some who kill just for the fun of it--for example Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb (If you don't know who they are look them up). So to murder someone in order to have the money to own a tea-shop isn't that far-fetched. But again human nature plays a role behind the murder.....Cora's lady companion, Miss Gilchrist, had ambition and passion to get her own tea-shop and was willing to do anything to get it. She had ego, thinking she could get away with it. And even some madness as you said Griselda, because in the end, whatever is behind the murder, whatever gain the murderer thinks he/she will get, there is madness for murder is madness. 


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom ✭✭✭✭
    Thankyou GKCfan, so Tropes in this context are devices appear in other books.
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