Endless Night (Agatha Christie)

  • First published: UK: Collins, October 1967; US: Dodd Mead, 1968

One of Christie’s darkest and most disturbing novels. Gothic romance meets suspense novel.  Young newly-weds buy a house on haunted and cursed land, and it all ends in tragedy.  The story is particularly compelling, and the characterisation, particularly of the amiable working-class narrator, superb. The dénouement, in which all one’s expectations are subverted, and SPOILER the likeable narrator is revealed to be an amoral psychopath (an effective re-use of the Roger Ackroyd gambit), is deeply shocking. The bleak ending recalls Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman

Note similarities to two of her classics.

Blurb (UK)

Christie - Endless Night.jpg

The site of the house called The Towers had once been known as Gipsy’s Acre.  When it was sold Michael Rogers went to the auction, though he hadn’t any money.  His dream was of a new house on the old site, to be built by his brilliant young architect friend.

It was at Gipsy’s Acre that Michael first saw the girl he was to marry; the account of Michael’s courting of Ellie, their growing attraction for each other, is the starting point of the drama that begins and ends at Gipsy’s Acre.

The story ends in the revelation of a monstrous crime, complete with all the paraphernalia that had been required to effect it.

A new novel by Agatha Christie is always a momentous event in the calendar of crime novel publishing.  In this doom-laden story, different in kind from the experiences of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, all the author’s great gifts of subtlety and interpretation are on full display.  Here, from the master of crime story-telling, is something new and different—something extraordinarily exciting.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (16th November 1967): It really is bold of Agatha Christie to write in the persona of a working-class boy who marries a poor little rich girl, but in a pleasantly gothickal story of gypsy warnings she brings it all off, together with a nicely melodramatic final twist.

NY Times Bk R (P.G. Neimark, 17th March 1968, 750w): [Mrs. Christie has] produced a surpassing mystery that is almost as fine a novel…  The ingenious plot manages to avoid death itself for no less than the first three-quarters of the book.  Only near the dénouement does Endless Night become a detective story…  Not that the familiar Christie touches are lacking…  Use of the two-way clue is dazzling.  And, more than ever, the rigorous Christie epistemology–psychology invades every page of the book; her characters are normal people whose own free will essentially decides their courses.

Christian Science Monitor (P.M. Daltry, 20th March 1968, 130w): When Mrs. Christie writes psychological-romantic novels as Mary Westmacott, the pickings are slim indeed.  [This book] is Christie writing as Christie—only it should have been Westmacott.  It’s Christie gone gothic; part-mystery, part-suspense with gypsies’ warnings and other pseudo-sinister overtones.  Even the mystery lacks the usual Christie flair.  Instead of being neatly hidden, the clues stand out against the general melodrama, and the solution becomes not a question of how but of when?

Sunday Times (Edmund Crispin): Endless Night remains one of the best things Mrs. Christie has ever done.

Evening Standard: This is Christie at toppest peak.

Guardian (Francis Iles): The crashing, not to say horrific surprise at the end is perhaps the most devastating that this surpriseful author has ever brought off.

The Scotsman: Wickedly ingenious murder mystery that remains impenetrable until the shock revelation.

Liverpool Daily Press: Thrillingly and artistically perfect.