We live in an era in which it seems every horror is caught on video tape. Presumably that renders those horrors clear and unambiguous. Pictures don’t lie, right? Except it seems that every picture, every scene of footage that makes its way onto a news broadcast or social media, has a thousand interpretations. On the night of July 7, when five police officers were fatally shot in Dallas during a night of peaceful protest, Fox News was showing live feed of the demonstrations and happened to catch bodies clad in uniform lying on the ground, before anyone knew what was going on. The anchor, Megyn Kelly, clearly not sure what to make of the footage, said uncertainly, “We don’t know what we’re seeing here.” And, in truth, it seems we never know what we’re seeing when some newly videotaped horror makes it into the public domain. Or, we do (think we) know what we’re seeing but our neighbor sees something entirely different. The hope of transparency, of the unmediated “real” –especially the truth of a sin or a crime—always eludes us. In fact, now everything is caught on tape, it seems especially to elude us.
And that’s where Agatha Christie comes in. In every detective novel she ever wrote, all of which begin with a crime (usually murder), Christie offers us “the truth.” We know exactly what happened, we know how, and we know why—usually laid out for us by the incomparable Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. Read more