‘The Goddess of the Moon’ cried Diana. ‘Oh do let us have a wild orgy tonight. Fancy dress. And we will come out here in the moonlight and celebrate the rites of Astarte’…
Diana Ashley’s suggestion of a fancy-dress party that evening was received with general favour. The usual laughing and whispering and frenzied secret sewing took place, and when we all made our appearance for dinner there were the usual outcries of merriment… Richard Haydon called himself a Phoenician sailor, and his cousin was a brigand chief….
Suddenly we came out into the open clearing in the middle of the grove and stood rooted to the spot in amazement, for there, on the threshold of the Idol House, stood a shimmering figure wrapped tightly round in diaphanous gauze and with two crescent horns rising from the dark masses of her hair.
‘My God!’ said Richard Haydon, and the sweat sprang out on his brow.
But Violet Mannering was sharper.
‘Why it’s Diana’ she exclaimed. ‘What has she done to herself? Oh she looks quite different somehow!’
observations: In an entry earlier this year I explained how I came to see this edition, and why for once the physical book is more important than the words – thank you to The Folio Society, whom I strongly recommend, and who are responsible for the picture.
This is a straightforward Christie short story: the situation in which a young man dies is described to Miss Marple and she solves the crime apparently by magic. But no – beware of magic! Christie does an admirable line in having things both ways: she often uses myths, séances, spiritualism and in this case ancient religions as a way to create a creepy tension, but then the solution will depend on your ignoring all that. As she says: ‘one looks at the facts and disregards all that atmosphere of heathen goddesses which I don’t think is very nice.’ (In fact I think the last 7 words were put in by Christie just because they are funny: Marple isn’t taken in by these things, but she is far from prim and prissy, and is totally unshockable.)
The fancy dress theme is well done, a clue tucked in there along with the vision of the Neolithic hut dwellers ‘explaining the sudden lack of hearth-rugs.’ (So here’s Stig of the Dump one more time to illustrate that one:)
Links on the blog: Agatha Christies all over the place – click on the label below. Fancy dress is another favourite blog theme – try here, here, here and here. Earlier this week, The Goldfinch's Pippa was dressed in diaphonous gauze too.
The first illo is from The Folio Society and used with their kind permission, while the brigand is an Argentine gaucho from Wikimedia Commons as featured in the past in a Charles Darwin entry.