Endless Night is one of Agatha Christie's later works, written in 1967. It is my one lone read for the RIP Challenge that I managed to finish (still working away on Wilkie Collins!). It's not a traditional murder mystery, rather it is one of Christie's few (maybe only?) forays into the gothic genre. Apparently it was one of Christie's personal favorites and it received a warm reception by critics when it was published. A nice gothic romance seemed perfect for the challenge as well as a good read for this time of year. It's a story of psychological suspense filled with elements of the gothic genre but with a more modern twist. The ending is nicely surprising à la classic Agatha Christie.
The story begins when a young working class man sees a sale bill announcing the auction of a piece of property that has an old house called "The Towers" situated on it. The house is well past its prime but the tract of land is spacious with good views. Appealing as it may be it's well outside Michael Rogers' price range. Michael has big dreams but isn't particularly industrious as he tends to move from job to job. He works to get by with no real ambition, but his tastes run to the nicer things in life. Most recently his work has been as a chauffeur, which allows him to travel and meet people who move in more exclusive circles.
It's a chance meeting, however, with an American heiress that's going to change his life and open new doors onto the world he's only dreamed about. Ellie Guteman has just come into her inheritance and is also drawn to Gipsy's Acre, as the tract of land is known. The two meet at the public auction and quickly fall for each other, though each seems to be guarding secrets from the other. For Ellie it's her wealth and for Michael it's his poverty, but the two click and begin a whirlwind romance, which ends in a clandestine marriage and honeymoon in Europe. Despite Ellie's fortune, she's a bit of an orphan. The money comes from her deceased father, but the rest of the family aren't blood relatives, rather they are hangers-on and none will be too pleased with her choice of husband. Michael tends to keep secrets from his mother. She knows his shortcomings, so he doesn't share his news with her until after the fact and won't allow Ellie to meet her.
While Michael can only watch and dream (at least in his bachelor days), Ellie can spend to her heart's content--including Gipsy's Acre, which she buys unbeknownst to him at the auction. Not a bad investment according to her lawyers. The problem with Gipsy's Acre is that it comes with a curse. The land had over time been occupied by traveling gypsies, who still consider it theirs. An elderly gypsy makes her home on the land and tries to warn them off, though her warnings go unheeded. When she reads Ellie's palm she sees only death and tragedy. Still, "The Towers" is pulled down and a modern home is built on the land by a famous architect Michael met during his days as a chauffeur. Santonix is ill, but he agrees to take this one last job, which turns out to be his best work. So Michael ends up with everything he ever wanted--a beautiful wife, a beautiful modern home and enough money to fill it with whatever treasures they wish. Almost immediately, however, things begin to sour. Rocks are hurled through windows and ill fortunes turn true. Instead of happiness, Gipsy's Acre brings only tragedy.
Endless Night is story that moves slowly but builds to a final shocking denouement. To be honest I was sort of expecting it, though had I not, the surprise would have been very satisfying. Still, I enjoyed the story and have read it was made into a film, which I would love to see. I wonder how I missed out on reading Agatha Christie when I was younger, but I am happy to keep exploring her work now. Onwards to the next Miss Marple, I think!