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Literature / Endless Night

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Endless Night is a 1967 novel by Agatha Christie.

It is one of her one-off stories that features neither Hercule Poirot nor Miss Marple. In this one the story is narrated by one Michael Rogers, a footloose young man temporarily working as a chauffeur. He stops in a rural village and admires a property called "Gipsy's Acre" (throughout the story the word "gipsy", now considered a slur, is used to describe the Romani). He is confronted by a spooky Romani woman, Mrs. Lee, who tells him that the land is cursed, and "There's no luck for them as meddles with Gipsy's Acre."

Yet Michael can't forget Gipsy's Acre, which he thought was the perfect place to buy a house. On his return to the village he meets Ellie Gutman, a sheltered young heiress. A whirlwind romance ensues, Michael and Ellie get married, and the extremely rich Ellie buys Gipsy's Acre. They build a house and settle down to a life of wedded bliss, but there are a couple of flies in the ointment. Michael is irritated by the continuing presence of Ellie's companion/governess Greta, who exerts an undue influence on the life of meek, submissive Ellie. Another problem is the continuing presence of spooky Mrs. Lee, who gives Ellie a palm reading and sees death...

The title is only metaphorical (more precisely, a Shout-Out to Auguries of Innocence by William Blake); this book does not feature the trope The Night That Never Ends.


  • Accidental Murder: Claudia took some of Ellie's allergy medication, which was laced with cyanide, causing Claudia to die as well.
  • Asshole Victim: After The Reveal it's hard not to gloat at least a little at Greta's demise.
  • Becoming the Mask: It's implied that on some level Mike DID come to love Ellie, but because he's a sociopath he didn't realize it until after he killed her.
  • Bitter Almonds: How the good guys figured out what happened: Claudia died from using some of Ellie's poisoned allergy medicine, and unlike Ellie, Claudia was found almost immediately, so they smelled the Bitter Almonds on her.
  • Book Ends: Appropriately enough the first and last paragraphs of the novel have Michael quoting T. S. Eliot by saying "In my end is my beginning." In the first paragraph he's wondering how to start his story, and at the end he still is.
  • The Cassandra: On a Meta level, some characters (especially Mike's mother and Rudolf Santonix) often hint that something is wrong about Greta and Michael himself.
  • Conversational Troping:
    • Ellie says "There's a saying by some great writer or other that no man is a hero to his valet." (It was Hegel.) The context is Michael saying of his mother that "She knows the worst of me," which turns out to be Foreshadowing.
    • Michael, who is sensitive about the class distinction between him and Ellie, says "I come from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, don't I?"
  • Danger — Thin Ice: Major Phillpot's offhand comment about how his brother once fell through an icy lake and was rescued, causes Michael to remember a similar incident from his childhood in which one of his friends fell through the ice in a lake and was drowned. During The Reveal the reader learns that after Michael's friend fell through the ice, Michael stole his friend's fancy watch and then held his head underwater until he drowned.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: You might indeed want to reread the whole book after The Reveal.
  • Fortune Teller: Mrs. Lee reads the palms of both Michael and Ellie. She tells Michael to leave Gipsy's Acre and never come back, but when she reads Ellie's palm, she says she sees death, and is so horrified that she refuses payment.
  • Gypsy Curse: So claims Mrs. Lee, who tells Michael that Gipsy's Acre is Romani land and there's a curse on it that will bring tragedy to anyone who lives there.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: When Greta makes her first appearance, Michael observes how "men's heads turned to look at her" as she walked over to Michael and Ellie's table. He then talks about her lustrous blonde hair and calls her a "Valkyrie".
  • Inheritance Murder: The Reveal is that the whole story was a plot by Michael and Greta to get Michael married to Ellie, so they could kill her and gain her fortune.
  • The Killer in Me: "Secretive Killer" variant. Michael, the first-person narrator, relates how he fell in love with Ellie, a sweet young woman, and they got married. Soon after their marriage she's killed in a riding accident. Then at the end of the novel Michael reveals that he and Ellie's governess/companion, Greta, conspired to kill her and take possession of her enormous fortune. Michael doesn't lie, he just leaves a lot of stuff out.
  • Land Poor: Michael observes that while their neighbor Major Phillpot owns a lot of land in the area he actually doesn't have a lot of money, and describes him as "a poor man though a large landowner."
  • Laughing Mad: Michael does this near the end, as, having gone completely insane, he explains to Dr. Shaw how they killed Ellie.
    And I laughed. It was an odd sort of laugh. I heard it myself. It was more like a queer little giggle.
  • Magical Romani: Mrs. Lee, the creepy Romani woman who makes psychic predictions of death and despair if Michael and Ellie remain at Gipsy's Acre. Partially subverted with The Reveal that Michael was paying her to scare Ellie, but her initial prediction that Michael would be wise to leave the area forever was correct.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Michael and Greta put poison in Ellie's allergy medicine, which she takes before going on a horseback ride. When the pill's time-release releases the cyanide, she dies out on the moor and everyone thinks she was killed from falling from a horse.
  • Never One Murder: After getting nearly three-quarters of the way throughout the book without a murder, they come in a bunch at the end. Michael kills Mrs. Lee to keep her from revealing what she knows about Ellie's death, Claudia gets accidentally murdered when she takes some of Ellie's poisoned medicine, and Michael strangles Greta to death as he goes insane.
  • Psychological Thriller: This book is something of an oddball in the Christie canon in that there is no detective and there's barely a murder mystery at all—there is a murder, but it doesn't happen until the book is nearly 3/4 finished. In fact, it's a psychological thriller, in which both Mrs. Lee's predictions of doom and Michael's allusions to some sort of looming disaster contribute to a slowly building sense of dread, which doesn't let up until The Reveal.
  • The Remake: This novel is an expansion of a 1942 Miss Marple short story called "The Case of the Caretaker".
  • Separated by a Common Language: Michael's British and Ellie is American. He wonders about the American saying "wrong side of the tracks", and she later wonders about the British expression "sow your wild oats."
  • Start to Corpse: Christie often had lengthy Start to Corpse counts, and this was one of the most extreme examples, as the book is almost 3/4 done when the murder happens. This is a result of the book not really being a murder mystery.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Michael comes back home, his murder plot seeming to have worked perfectly, when he hallucinates Ellie outside the front gate of Gipsy's Acre. The last couple chapters grow increasingly incoherent as he has a complete mental breakdown.
  • Title Drop: Ellie plays guitar and sings lyrics by William Blake: "Some are born to sweet delight/Some are born to endless night."
  • Tomato Surprise: Not only did Michael and Greta team up to murder Ellie, they were in cahoots the whole time. Michael met Greta before he met Ellie, and the two of them conspired for Michael to meet Ellie and marry her, so that Michael could kill her and the two of them, Michael and Greta, would get their hands on Ellie's vast fortune.
  • Uptown Girl: Michael is sensitive about how he comes from a rather low economic status (his father was a drunk) while Ellie is absurdly rich. Michael implies that his mother's disapproval of the marriage is based on the class difference, but the ending reveals that there are much bigger problems.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Michael talks about meeting the love of his life, a rich heiress, marrying her, fighting with her best friend, building their dream house, only for her to die mysteriously...and then you find out that all of that was a lie, because he's the murderer and his true love is the best friend, who he's known since before the story.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Santonix, Michael's architect buddy, is dying of a blood disease that's implied to be leukemia. He constructs Michael's dream house as his last project.