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It’s All About the Motive

I’ve been on an Agatha Christie binge between books and BBC drama. The mysteries are skyways welcoming intervals between literary door-stoppers. I reread Peril at End House all in one sitting. It’s a fun romp not only in its twists and turns but also the plotter has Hercule Poirot fooled.

The mystery is one of Christie’s cleverest although it doesn’t achieve the cult status like Murder on the Orient Express does. But it is a classic study of what defines the mystery genre—motives. At the heart of all mysteries is one crucial question: what drives a human being to take the life of another human being? Poirot neatly breaks it all down and expounds.

Ruling out spur-of-the-moment perpetration and clinical madness, the motives that actuate a murder:
1. Gain: financial gain, inheritance; an instinct very deeply implanted in some human beings
2. Hate: or love that had turned to hate. Melodramtic but also very truly human
3. Jealousy: different from love/hate because it’s not always a sexual emotion. There’s envy—envy of possession, envy of supremacy
4. Fear: victim might hold somebody’s secret in his/her power. Knowledge that might ruin another life.

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