The Agatha Christie Challenge: Book Number 6.

The Secret of Chimneys (1925) is an entertaining book that requires a healthy suspension of disbelief. There’s royal intrigue, blackmail, romance, dizzying plot twists, and a far fetched story line. It’s a witty exercise in puzzle solving that’s full of clever dialogue and red herrings. I enjoyed it immensely. 

However, the book has its faults. Christie’s use of stereotypes and ethnic slurs, suggests that she shared many of the prejudices of her time, including a skepticism of democracy. This was the 1920s. Mussolini governed in Italy, National Socialism was on the assent in Germany, and political unrest in Spain would eventually lead to civil war. Anthony Cade, the book’s central character, puts it simply:

You won’t turn people into angels by appealing to their better natures just yet awhile–but by judicious force you can coerce them into behaving more or less decently to one another to go on with. 

For some people of Christie’s time, the idea of a strong and authoritarian leader seemed like a logical alternative to the problems and uncertainties associated with democracy. For example, in Escape From Freedom (1941), Erich Fromm explored the psychological conditions that facilitated a retreat from democracy and a shift toward fascism in the 1920s and 30s. In The Secret of Chimneys, Christie reflects that shift with her implied endorsement of monarchical rule.

Rating: A-