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Book Review: Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie


Drew Payne

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At the height of the Second World War, millionaire Gordon Cloade marries the beautiful young widow Rosaleen Underhay. Two days after they arrive in London, Gordon Cloade’s home is bombed, killing all the inhabitants except for Rosaleen Cloade and her brother David.

In 1946, Rosaleen Cloade has settled in the village of Warmsley Vale, where her late husband’s home is and she is surrounded by his relatives who all lost out on their inheritances when Gordon married her. Then a man turns up in the village who may or may not be Rosaleen Cloade’s first husband, who was supposed to have died. This reminds Hercule Poirot of a story he heard, in his club at the height of the Blitz, told by an old soldier.

This Christie novel is set very firmly during the Second World War and in the immediate post-war Britain, and she uses those very changing times to the advantage of her story. The nightmare of the Blitz kills all the members of one household, in one night, save for two people. But it is post-war Britain, were most of this novel is set, which is a very different and changing world, and Christie captures that world, were so much of the old order has been swept away. All of the characters have been affected and changed by the war, whether they fought in it or not. There are people here who have lost all their money in the war, but being upper-class, they cannot manage poverty. A couple whose son died in the war. A woman who married her husband to protect her father, and now her husband isn’t the man he was. And the young lovers changed by the war. He stayed at home, tended his farm and stayed the same. She went to war, serving in the WRENs, saw the world and has returned to a little village that is too small for her now.

Amongst these characters, Christie weaves one of her twisting plots, this giving a handful of surprises, and even the murders are not what they appear to be. She especially takes advantage of her setting, a world turned upside-down, were even a small English village is full of new people, people who have to be taken at face value.

Christie takes her time with this plot, taking her time to introduce and set up her characters before her plot rolls into action, and this is all for the better. She takes her time setting up her characters and their situation, so when the plot starts the reader is involved with these people, but these aren’t the most likeable of people, these are people pathetic in their situations.

The plot is classic Christie, there’s more than a few surprises here for Poirot to uncover, with a rather messy ending. Unfortunately, this novel does creek with some attitudes of its day. The worse is when a woman only realises a man truly loves her when he loses his temper and tries to kill her. For her usual understanding of people, this felt very uncomfortable.

That said, this is a classic and engaging Christie novel, and one with a title as engaging as the book.

 

Find it here on Amazon

Edited by Drew Payne

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