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Additional info for Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion
If Cust is innocent, we have an image of a man helplessly manipulated by a stronger character. In either case, there is a forceful sense of the fragility of personality, of a person subject to something beyond his rational control and of a text which connives with that subjection. Especially, conception of character is subject to variety and bias and this may affect the whole understanding of a crime. The star actress Arlena Stuart in Evil under the Sun is certainly a woman with lovers: but is she an active seducer or a victim of male domination and exploitation?
The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, in its title as well as in the portrait of the frustrated and selfwilled film star Marina Gregg, implies the terror of a painful mirroring of the self: Marina commits a murder because she is suddenly confronted 40 Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion at a crucial moment with a painting of the Madonna and child; this brings home to her in specially acute form her childlessness, which has been for her a chronic deprivation, thus acting as a sort of negative mirror.
Real crimes may not involve illusion; the perpetrator may be immediately obvious, or there may simply be no immediate information as to who he or she is, requiring the police to search for clues and witnesses to lead them to a yet unknown person. In the detective story, there is plenty of information, but it needs to be interpreted; the detective has to sort out the relevant from the irrelevant and arrange the relevant information into a coherent pattern. Above all, the detective has to distinguish the true information from the false.