by Tracy Kiely
Given this week’s topic, it is fitting that the movie Clue has been playing non-stop this week on cable. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with this classic movie A: Go. Rent. It. Now., and B: See Step A.)
Besides the great cast (Madeline Kahn, Tim Curry, Martin Mull, etc.) some of movie’s lines are the kind you memorize so you can parrot them when you re-watch the movie. A sampling:
Mrs. White: Well, it's a matter of life after death. Now that he's dead, I have a life.
Wadsworth: But, he was your second husband. Your first husband also disappeared.
Mrs. White: But that was his job. He was an illusionist.
Wadsworth: But he never reappeared!
Mrs. White: [admittedly] He wasn't a very good illusionist.
Professor Plum: What are you afraid of, a fate worse than death?
Mrs. Peacock: No, just death, isn't that enough?
Colonel Mustard: How many husbands have you had?
Mrs. White: Mine or other women's?
Colonel Mustard: Yours.
Mrs. White: Five.
Colonel Mustard: Five?
Mrs. White: Yes, just the five. Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong and disposable.
In addition to the lines, there is the brilliant idea to provide three separate endings to the murder mystery.
Which, of course, brings me back to today’s topic: What famous mystery ending would you change?
For me, I am going to tackle Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death. For those of you who haven’t read it – here’s a quick summary ripped from Amazon’s website:
“Hercule Poirot may be on vacation, but a killer isn't. The victim's a hateful tourist despised even by her own children. For the guests at the resort hotel, sympathies are with the murderer, which means a tough job for the Belgian detective.”
The victim in question is the odious Mrs. Boynton. She is a horribly, abusive step-mother to now-grown children who all have valid reasons for wanting the old woman dead. However with her death, the children lives are once again thrown into chaos as they face suspicion for her murder. The book resolves in a way that lets the children go on with now happy lives. It is clever and satisfying. Yet, when I reread it last summer I thought to myself that there was a potentially better ending. Given the vile nature of Mrs. Boynton, would it not make sense for her to kill herself in such a way that would implicate her step-children and therefore further disrupt their lives? Perhaps she knew that she was dying and decided to launch one last attack before she left. I secretly prided myself for the clever twist. I had come up with a Christie-worthy solution! Ha! I was finally getting the hang of this whole mystery-writing thing!
Except that I…umm…wasn’t. It turns out that I must have watched an adaptation of the play Appointment with Death in which the clever solution I “created” was the actual ending. So…not so clever after all.
Or to quote a line from Clue:
Wadsworth: ...and to make a long story short...
All: Too late!
No one can best Christie.