I’m super behind on this one, but I finally got around to reading After the Funeral by Agatha Christie. Yay!
I’ve read a lot of Christie’s novels, but this was a new one for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me want to go out and gobble up all of the Hercule Poirot novels I haven’t read yet, especially The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which is mentioned in Sophie Hannah’s foreword.
1.) From the beginning, there is tension among the surviving Abernethie family. Despite being bound together by name and blood, there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection amongst the different generations. Did you sense a motive for murder or suspect someone in the group early on?
Well, I was reading an Agatha Christie novel. I knew there had to be a murder in there somewhere, right? Richard Abernethie was a wealthy man and personal financial gain is one of the primary motives for murder.
2.) It was noted early on that Helen Abernethie felt something was strange during the will reading. Were you ever able to guess what it was she sensed? Once the murder plot is revealed, it becomes clear that the answer was there from the beginning.
No, I never guessed. I was completely flummoxed by the solution to this particular mystery.
3.) Name some of your favorite red herrings, as there are quite a few. To get you going, I enjoyed the reoccurrence of nuns. I knew they had to have some significance, as nothing can just be a coincidence.
I was fixated on Rosamund as an actress and possible murderess. She seemed rather simple-minded and straightforward in her desires. If she wanted to put on a play, and killing her uncle was one way to guarantee that, she might go through with it. She seemed to value her happiness above all and might think the ends justify the means. As an actress, I thought she might have access to costumes and stage make-up, or at least the ability, to pull off a transformation.
Turns out that I was on the right track with thinking someone was in disguise, but I never guessed who or why.
4.) The will was split fairly across Richard’s relatives and each had their own reason for needing the money. Did you ever once consider Cora’s murder to be separate from Richard’s?
No. I absolutely thought Cora’s murder was due to the outburst at Richard’s funeral.
5.) Some of the family members (by blood or marriage) acted truly deplorably—there was the house-bound Timothy, the beautiful but vapid Rosamund and her cheating husband Michael, and Susan’s husband, Gregory who was outed as a mental patient. I half expected Helen to have her own dirty secret (which really wasn’t all that bad once revealed). Did you consider any of them for the murderer?
I considered all of them viable suspects! I really thought Timothy was nasty and wouldn’t have put it past him to start knocking off the cousins one by one to increase his share of the inheritance (all of which he thought was rightfully his). Later on, I became convinced it was Rosamund due in part to the nun red herring.
6.) In Sophie Hannah’s introduction to After the Funeral, she discusses the Christie-concept of “nontransferable motive,” meaning a motive that no other murderer in any other crime novel has had or will have. Do you think that applies to After the Funeral? What do you make of a “nontransferable motive?” Does this apply to other Christie mysteries?
Hmm… I took Hannah’s statements to mean the motive couldn’t be transferred to any of the other characters in the novel. For instance, if it had been one of the cousins, any of them could have shared the motive of killing Richard for his money and then killing Cora in an attempt to cover-up. But as Richard’s death was in fact not a murder, the only person who stood to gain from Cora’s death was Miss Gilchrist.
7.) This was my first time reading After the Funeral, and I couldn’t help but think this had all the components of a classic Christie mystery. What are some of those elements?
Absolutely agree! A varied cast of vividly drawn characters, lots of red herrings, a host of suspects, along with plenty of secrets and lies – some of which were hidden abroad – and a huge twist at the end that I never saw coming! I found the book just as enjoyable as I did my other Poirot favorite, Murder on the Orient Express.