Sunday, August 7, 2011

Agatha Christie Graphic Novels: Ordeal by Innocence (graphic-novelised by Chandre)

     My acquaintance with graphic novels has so far been limited to V for Vendetta, which I liked well enough but not so much as to make me explore this genre further. Until three days ago when I saw a stack of Agatha Christie graphic novels at my regular bookstore. I picked up Ordeal by Innocence even though I had read it in its original form because I was sceptical about how this would play out and didn’t want to ruin an unread Christie experience, if you know what I mean.

Jacko Argyle, the black sheep of the Argyle family has died in prison where he was serving a sentence for murdering his mother. Despite his protestations of innocence, the police considered this an open and shut case, especially since the alibi Jacko claimed to have, failed to show up.  The family has made its peace with Jacko’s guilt and his death until one day, two years later, Jacko alibi turns up on their doorstep. Arthur Calgary claims that Jacko couldn’t have committed the crime and so it follows that the real murderer is still within the family, undetected. The Argyle’s are shattered, each of them viewing the others with distrust. Calgary must now put the pieces of this puzzle together and find the murderer.

 Ordeal by innocence does not feature any of Christie’s famous detective’s.  The focus here is not so much on detection as it is on the psychology of the innocent and the guilty. This is one of Christie’s darker novels.

I must admit, it took awhile before I was comfortable with the pace and format of the graphic version.  The characters were introduced in a bit of a rush and for a few pages I was struggling to keep pace with it all. I also felt that the emotional connect Christie always manages to create between the reader and her characters was missing here. I didn’t really care very much about any of these people.

Having said all of that, there is a lot to like in this graphic novel. For one, it stays true to the Christie technique of presenting all the facts of the case to the reader. The illustrations are well done and heighten the sombre mood of this story. Especially the final chapters are very nicely executed so as to preserve the mystery while presenting the events as they happen. Ordeal by innocence is not an action heavy book. There is a lot of talking and reminiscing and analysing which can be condensed without compromising on the plot. This is what the graphic novel does and I think the story benefits from the faster pace.

To me, this graphic retelling of a familiar story was a fun ride.  I would definitely recommend it to Christie fans. However, it’s back to the original format for me.  There’s nothing like an Agatha Christie novel in her own words.


  1. I am starting to look at graphic novels, and I will definitely have to look for these. They sound like lots of fun.

    I am currently reading the graphic novel of Ted Dekker's Circle Trilogy and I like it. I read the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Yang. It was really awesome!!


  2. I'm just beginning to look at graphic novels myself. I would love to read American Born Chinese in graphic form.

  3. I completely forgot about these. I remember them when I worked in a book shop. Sadly they didn't sell well.

    I am not hugely into graphic novels either. I have tried and found one or two that I liked but much prefer the normal book format. If you like V for Vendetta you might like Watchmen. Same author but a more detailed story.

  4. I've only read one graphic novel (back in 2008)-- Kin by Holly Black. I had my doubts but ended up loving it-- the whole experience reminded me of how much I enjoyed comic books as a kid.

    I intended to read more graphic novels -- but I have yet to do so. A bloggy friend recently mentioned graphic novels of children's classics-- I'd like to see what they are like and maybe read one to my little boy.

  5. Karen I'm surprised these aren't more popular. I thought there were many graphic novel fans out there. My husband was just telling me about Watchmen the other day. I guess I must look it up.

    Lesa I've heard of the works of Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde as graphic novels and also some Greek classics. I'll probably do a graphic novel roundup once I've explored some more.

  6. I think there are more graphic novel fans out there but maybe the Christie and graphic novel fans don't mix as much. I am sure there have been other literary books that have been translated into graphic novel form. I know a few Shakespeare plays were. I think that was to encourage kids to get into Shakespeare so not sure how good they were. Pride and Prejudice was also produced in that format. I am sure there are lots more titles (One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest but I could have imagined that).

  7. I have the Shakespeare comics but they're quite mediocre. At least the version I have.One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest sounds interesting.
    I see your point about Christie and graphic novel fans :)

  8. So, are you saying that the graphic novel isn't Agatha's words? I thought it was an illustrated version of her exact work. Not so?? If not, then why publish it, I wonder.

  9. Nan I suppose its a highly edited version of her work. The structure and flow of a graphic novel would entail some rejigging of the lines and the chapter format. I think they have managed to do so without compromising on the essence of the story. Kind of like a movie adaptation, only a different medium.

  10. I've read quite a few graphic novels over the last two years but I have taken the leap into reading my beloved Agatha Christie in graphic form. However, now that I've read of your experience, I think I'll give it a try. I like the way you tried the graphic in a book you've already read. I think I'll do that too.

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