Today, September 15, is Agatha Christie's birthday. I won't give her age as it wouldn't be polite, but let's just say she would be pretty old if still alive.
I have written before about my longtime enjoyment of Dame Agatha's fascinating mysteries starring Hercule Poirot (my favorite) and Miss Jane Marple (her favorite). I also wrote about researching her passion for archaeological splendors for a paper I presented to a group four years ago (here and here).
I recently read Crooked House for the first time and was struck anew by how pleasant it is to be in her world of stately homes, family secrets, afternoon teas, formal gardens, nannies, and tutors.
I came to Crooked House through a column in The Guardian called Novel Recipes. It takes a look at certain foods mentioned in various works — say, the macaroons in The Enchanted April, or potted beef from The Wind in the Willows — and creates the recipes. For Crooked House, it was the ice cream sodas mentioned near the end of the book.
This tale doesn't feature either of her famous detectives. Instead we have Charles and his fiancée Sophia trying to solve the murder of Sophia's grandfather Aristide Leonides. Sophia has put the marriage on hold until the murderer is unmasked.
There are plenty of suspects. All of Aristide's family rub up against each other in the large house — two sons, two daughters-in-law, Sophia and two other grandchildren, a former mother-in-law, a nanny, a tutor, and the young new widow.
Fortunately, Charles's father is assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard so he is privy to the goings on both in the house and in the investigation. Ms. Christie writes in the prologue that Crooked House is one of her favorites. I can see why: the denouément is quite surprising and dark.
But back to the ice cream sodas — one of my favorite childhood treats. When I would spend the night with my grandparents, I would beg for one as an after-dinner indulgence. My grandmother kept those little glass bottles of Coca-Cola chilled in the refrigerator which combined with vanilla ice cream made for a cold, fizzy, foamy delight.
So, in honor of Dame Agatha's birthday, I treated myself to an ice cream soda today. A very simple one from McDonald's — I ordered a vanilla ice cream and a small Coke. Combine, et voilà.
I think she would approve. Happy Birthday!