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.