Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie.
When I picked up this book, I thought it would be easy reading. It was tiny, only 201 pages. Just enough to count for this challenge.
In reality, it was the hardest read I've encountered since trying to figure out Econometrics in grad school. And worse than that- it sucked!
The book starts off with a protagonist, Sir Stafford Nye, trying to catch a flight to London from Frankfurt in 1970. A mysterious woman who happens to have a strong resemblance to him, approaches him with a favor to ask. More like a dare when you consider she wants to drug his drink so he passes out, "steal" his passport and cloak (who wears a cloak, really?) , cut her hair, and pass into London pretending to be him. (WFT?) She claims if he doesn't help her, she'll be killed. So he agrees (?).
When he finally gets to London, he is quickly admonished by his government superiors and asked about the strange woman, who he insists he doesn't know.
The first half of the book has Stafford visiting his aunt Mildred in the countryside and then trying to contact the mysterious woman through a personal ad. Who reads personal ads? Well, apparently mysterious passport stealing women do. She meets him at an Wagner opera about "The Young Siegfried." They don't speak except for her to say, "Ah, the young Siegfried," before disappearing into the crowd. While walking home, Stafford is almost run down by a passing car. This happens again later in the book and Stafford assumes someone is trying to kill him. However, this is the last we hear about anyone trying to kill him (and the book is halfway over.)
Stafford accepts an invitation to a trip from the mysterious woman, who we find out is either named MaryAnn or Countess Renata Zeblonsky. She takes him to a castle where they meet a grotesquely fat woman and a young, impossibly handsome man intent on taking over the world in a neo-nazi plot. Stafford and MaryAnn travel around the world to hear "The Young Siegfried" speak. We don't follow them around the world. Christie literally says, "They travelled around the world" but doesn't take us with them or explain why they went or what they did with whatever knowledge they gained.
Next, we go to what seems like a gazillion bureaucratic meetings, where government employees too boring to remember have the same conversation over and over about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket and should they consider using nuclear force on the students who are rioting and demonstrating in every country?
Aunt Mildred takes a trip to visit "Big Charlotte," the woman behind the plot, whom she knows from her school days. This trip is never mentioned again. (?)
More bureaucratic meetings... mostly the same dialogue. (Christie did capture the monotony and repetition of government meetings, but she really didn't need to go there.) Seriously, there are about 15 pages of book left AND NOTHING HAS HAPPENED!
Then, very quickly crammed into the last few pages, one of the bureaucrats visits Aunt Mildred about a scientist she used to know and a mysterious "Project B" that would be delivered in a gas form, like tear gas, but would permenently change those exposed into benevolent people, incapable of violence.
Now, we're down to about 5 pages.
The gov't bureaucrats visit the scientist who claims to have destroyed his notes. However, if one of the bureaucrats will ask nicely, (seriously!) he will tell them where the notes are hidden. All of a sudden the bureaucrat's assistant and the scientist's nurse jump up an simultaneoulsy try to poison and shoot the bureaucrat (not the scientist?!?!?). They succeed in shooting the bureaucrat and he dies. They are apprehended.
Epilogue: for some reason, the nonsensical fiasco in the last seen brings an end to the worldwide uprising (Even though big Charlotte and the Young Siegfried who are behind the whole thing are never mentioned again.) And Stafford Nye (the protagonist who was/or wasn't the target of a hit? and who was not mentioned in the last half of the book) sends a telegram to MaryAnn proposing marriage and she accepts.
Here are the questions I'm left with:
1. WTF, seriously?
2. Why did Mildred visit Big Charlotte?
3. How did a assassination of a mid-level bureaucrat end the plot of world domination?
4. Why wouldn't they try to kill the scientist who could make the benevolence gas? Seriously, the assassin was his NUSRE! He was in a weelchair! It wouldn't have been that hard.
5. Why did Christie abandon her protagonist halfway through the book?
6. Why didn't Christie take us to any of the uprisings or riots? I never felt like there was any danger because I only had access to bureaucrats who talked about there maybe being something bad going on.
If any of you have read this book, please drop a comment. I really want to hear what others have thought about it.
Posted by ShannonAnn at 10:29 AM