Ever read about a cold blooded murder? What if someone planned a murder a year ahead of the day of the murder? That is the case in the ‘Towards Zero’ novel by Agatha Christie.
Towards Zero, the title implies how various circumstances and various situations lead people to one single point, the murder, the beginning! (apparently murder is not the end!)
The book starts innocently and proceeds to show the murderer planning the murder, as the end of the novel approaches, the chilling details come into picture. The murderer is as unhinged as it can get! (I had a chilly feeling after reading the book and I was dumb founded and disturbed by the end of it)
As we proceed to read the book, from time to time, we are reminded that the murderer is not right in the head!
Two other books that have disturbed me as much, were ‘Elephants Can Remember’ and ‘Endless Night’ both by Agatha Christie. I wonder how Christie came up with such characters. May be her vast experience with different kinds of people at different places, during her travels might have helped her.(She used to accompany her Archeologist husband, during his quests.)
Coming back to the novel, the story is set in a seaside bungalow, where the murder takes place. The murderer is ruthless, cunning and dangerous. (As all the amateur mystery readers will know, a cold blooded murder makes the murderer a dangerous villain, because it is pre-medicated.)
The book is full of red herrings and one keeps wondering who the un-hinged murderer is! As the story progresses, we begin to form an image of the murderer and try to fit almost all the characters into the mould. Its like a perfect guessing game.
The array of characters include Lady Tressilian, whose bungalow is the meeting place for all the characters and finally the place of murder. The very clever 30 year old Mary Aldin, companion cum care giver to Lady Tressilian. Neville Strange, the famous tennis star, heir to Lady Tressilian, Kay Strange , his 10 year younger second wife, who knows how to get what she wants. Audrey Strange, ex-wife of Neville. Ted Latimer, a very close friend of Kay Strange. Thomas Royde, Audrey’s cousin, a man of few words but very perceptive. Mr.Treves, 80 year old solicitor, friend of Lady Tressilian, who makes a careless remark about how he remembers most of the criminals he ever met! Angus MacWhirter, who attempts suicide near the seaside bungalow but is saved. (In a way, Christie tells us that suicide is useless and there is always something worth living for,as it is shown in the end through Angus. And everything happens for a reason!)
Only Neville and his first wife Audrey are the only ones who could gain something from the murder of Lady Tressilian, but is that all? Why is she murdered? How is it done? Is everything as it seems to be?
How did Mr.Treves die? Is it a natural death?
Is the death of Adrian Royde (brother of Thomas Royde) related to all the deaths or was it really a motor accident?
Although there are many people living in the bungalow, almost all feel that something is up. I wonder if and when there is an unhinged person in our midst, ones antenna begins to work and warn us against them! (Like yes, there is an atmosphere of a would-be murder…does that even happen? Maybe it does!)
Once every detail begins to unravel, we begin to see how clever the murderer is.
Christie ties up the various story threads together, which makes sense in the end.
The only thing I didn’t like is the rushed up love story!
1. A very good read, although not very popular as her other works.
2. I tried guessing the murderer but it was difficult because, when the murderer is a wacko, there can be no real reason for the murder!
3. One other book which affected me was ‘Mithunam’ a short story in Telugu by Sri Ramana.(It is not a murder mystery but a simple story about an old couple. There is also a Telugu movie based on this short story,with the same name, but I prefer the book any-day.)