Taken at the Flood
- "There is a Tide" redirects here. "There is a Tide" is also the name of a short story by Larry Niven, set in the Known Space universe.
Dust-jacket illustration of the US (true first) edition with alternative title. See Publication history (below) for the UK first edition jacket image with original title.
|Publisher||Dodd, Mead and Company|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||242 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The Labours of Hercules|
|Followed by||The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories|
Taken at the Flood is a work of detective fiction by British writer Agatha Christie, first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in March 1948 under the title of There is a Tide... and in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in the November of the same year under Christie's original title. The US edition retailed at $2.50 and the UK edition at eight shillings and sixpence (8/6). It features her famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and is set in 1946.
In a flashback from late Spring to early Spring, Lynn Marchmont, newly demobilised from the Women's Royal Naval Service, finds difficulty settling into the village life of Warmsley Vale. She is engaged to Rowley, one of several members of the Cloade family living nearby. Each of them grew dependent on money from Gordon Cloade, a bachelor who was expected to die and leave his fortune to them. But instead he marries an Irishwoman, Rosaleen Turner, invalidating his previous will, before being killed in an explosion at his home, which his new wife survives. As a result, Rosaleen inherits Gordon's fortune and the entire family now faces financial crisis, augmented by the poor state of the economy in the aftermath of World War II. Rosaleen's fortune is zealously guarded by her brother, David Hunter, and although various family members manage to wheedle small sums out of Rosaleen, David refuses to help Frances Cloade, whose husband Jeremy is on the brink of ruin.
A man calling himself Enoch Arden arrives in the village, and attempts to blackmail David by saying he knows how to find Rosaleen's first husband, Robert. Their conversation in Arden's hotel room is overheard by the landlady, who immediately tells Rowley Cloade. Later, Arden's body is discovered in his room with his head smashed in. Rowley Cloade appeals to a detective, Hercule Poirot, to prove the dead man was Robert Underhay, and Poirot produces Major Porter, who knew Underhay in Africa. At the inquest, despite Rosaleen's protests that the dead man was not Robert, Porter confirms that Arden was indeed her first husband. The estate will revert to the Cloades.
Rosaleen has a strong alibi for the time of the murder since she was in the London flat that evening. David has only a weak alibi: down from London for the day, he met Lynn on his dash to catch the last train to London leaving at 9:20 pm, and evidently telephoned her from the London flat shortly after 11 pm. Since the murder is believed to have taken place shortly before 9 pm, he had enough opportunity and motive to be arrested.
David's alibi improves when it is discovered that a heavily made-up woman in an orange headscarf left Arden's room after 10 p.m. The investigation shifts back to the female Cloades, but Poirot discovers that the immediate cause of Arden's death may have been smashing his head against a heavy marble mantelpiece. The appearance of a murder may have been created after some form of accidental death.
Lynn, though engaged to Rowley, seems to love David. Rowley may be attracted to Rosaleen, who seems to be consumed with guilt and fear. Major Porter apparently commits suicide but leaves no note. It comes to light that Arden was actually Charles Trenton, second cousin to Frances Cloade. She came up with the plan to blackmail Rosaleen after hearing Major Porter's anecdote from Jeremy. Although this explains Arden's identity, it does not clarify who killed him or who bribed Porter to falsely identify the corpse.
Rosaleen dies in her sleep from an overdose. Superintendent Spence, the investigating officer, suggests that perhaps she was the murderer; the police have so focused on David's alibi that they subjected hers to little scrutiny.
Lynn tells Rowley that she wishes to marry David Hunter. Rowley is strangling Lynn when Poirot stops him. David arrives and Poirot explains everything. Rowley visited Arden, and seeing the physical resemblance to Frances, reacted angrily to the deception that was being played. Pushed by Rowley, Arden fell against the mantelpiece and died. Rowley saw the opportunity to incriminate David. He smashed in Arden's head with fire tongs and left David's lighter at the scene. It was Rowley who persuaded Porter to give the false identification, carefully employing Poirot, who would be sure to go to Porter on the basis of that first scene at the club, which Rowley also knew of from Jeremy. Porter's guilt got the better of him and he committed suicide, leaving a note that Rowley destroyed.
Discovering Arden's body, David ran for the 9:20 train but missed it; Lynn actually saw the smoke from the departing train on the evening, but he convinced her that it was earlier than it was and that he had time to meet her. He then backtracked to The Stag, disguised himself as a woman, and played out the scene that established the later time of death. Then he returned to the station and called Rosaleen, who placed a call to Lynn that was delivered by the operator but then cut off. Afterward, David spoke to Lynn from the station, giving the impression that a single call from London was interrupted. He returned to London on the milk train the next day.
Of the three deaths, one is accidental, one a genuine suicide. The only true murder was Rosaleen's. David had no apparent motive to kill his own sister, especially when it would mean depriving himself of the Cloade fortune. But the woman posing as Rosaleen was not his sister; his sister was killed during the bombing of Gordon Cloade's estate two years earlier. The woman posing as Rosaleen was one of Gordon's housemaids, who became David's lover and his accomplice in obtaining the Cloade fortune. Now he could kill this accomplice and marry Lynn, whom he really loved and who would gain a portion of the fortune through family connections. In the end, no one is tried other than David. Rowley is implicated in the deaths of Trenton ("Enoch Arden") and Porter, and he is guilty of misleading the police and assaulting Lynn. However, Poirot keeps silence about Rowley's crimes, allowing Rowley to marry Lynn, who has loved him without realising it.
- Hercule Poirot, Belgian detective
- Superintendent Spence, investigating officer
- Sergeant Graves, Spence's assistant
- George, Poirot's valet
- Rosaleen Cloade, formerly Mrs. Robert Underhay, a wealthy young widow
- David Hunter, Rosaleen's brother
- Jeremy Cloade, a solicitor
- Frances Cloade, Jeremy's wife
- Lionel Cloade, a doctor
- Katherine Cloade, Lionel's wife
- Rowley Cloade, a farmer
- Lynn Marchmont, a demobbed Wren, fiancée to Rowley
- Adela Marchmont, Lynn's mother
- Beatrice Lippincott, pub landlady of The Stag
- Major Porter, the club bore
- "Enoch Arden", a blackmailer
- Mrs. Leadbetter, a resident of The Stag
Explanation of the novel's title
The title of the book in both the UK and US markets is a line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in a speech by Brutus in Act IV: "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune...". The quotation is given in full as the epigraph to the novel.
Literary significance and reception
No review of this book appeared in the Times Literary Supplement.
For once, Maurice Richardson, in his review of the 21 November 1948 issue of The Observer was slightly unimpressed: "Agatha Christie has, if not a whole day off, at least part of the afternoon. The killing of the blackmailing Enoch Arden, who puts up at the local to harry the already embarrassed Cloade family, the murder that follows, and Poirot's doubly twisted solution are ingenious enough, but the characterisation is a little below par. The quintessential zest, the sense of well-being which goes to make up that Christie feeling, is missing."
An unnamed reviewer in the Toronto Daily Star of 10 April 1948 said, "Hercule Poirot, whose eggshaped cranium is crammed with lively gray cells, proves himself a bit of a mug before he sorts out all the details of [Enoch Arden's] death and other even more baffling mysteries. But he does it with all the acumen that has endeared him to Agatha Christie fans. Fantastic and topping."
Robert Barnard: "Elderly man married to a glamorous nitwit of dubious social background is a common plot-element in Christie. Here she is widowed (in an air-raid – this is one of the few Christies anchored to an actual time), and burdened by financially insatiable relatives, both of blood and in-law. But who exactly is dead, and who isn't? And who is what they seem, and who isn't? Compulsive reworking of Tennysonian and Christiean themes, and pretty high up in the range of classic titles. "
References to other works
The false alibi used by the murderer of a witness sighting the missed train smoke was a partial re-use of a plot device used by Christie in the 1925 short story The Sign in the Sky, later published in the 1930 collection The Mysterious Mr. Quin.
A television film was produced in 2006 with David Suchet as Poirot in the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot. The cast included Elliot Cowan as David Hunter, Celia Imrie as Kathy Cloade, Jenny Agutter as Adela Marchmont and Tim Pigott-Smith as Dr. Lionel Woodward.
The film made several significant changes to the plot:
- Like almost all episodes of the TV series, the film is reset in the late 1930s as opposed to the post-World War II years: as a result of this, the death of Gordon Cloade was caused not by a German air raid, but an apparent gas explosion that Poirot later reveals was a bomb planted by David Hunter.
- Rosaleen was made into a morphine addict.
- Kathy becomes Adela's sister, whereas in the novel, it is Lionel who is a Cloade. The credits mistakenly refer to Lionel as a Cloade – however, his surname is 'Woodward' (as revealed by Kathy when she visits Poirot at the beginning of the adaptation).
- Kathy also repeatedly harasses the false Rosaleen by calling her "whore", "slut", "bitch" and "bigamist" through anonymous phone calls, an event not found in the novel.
- In the film, the false Rosaleen, Eileen Corrigan, is saved in time (thanks to Dr. Woodward's morphine addiction and his theft of some of her morphine), and Poirot proves that David, knowing that she would attempt suicide out of feelings of guilt for her actions, has set it up so that she would use the morphine as a means to try to kill herself.
- In the novel, David had no motive for killing his sister, especially when it would mean depriving himself of the Cloade fortune. In this adaptation, however, he is upgraded to a mass murderer who wanted revenge against his sister for marrying Gordon and excluding her brother as his "first love". David plotted his revenge by raping and impregnating her Irish Catholic housemaid, Elieen Corrigan, and then performing an induced abortion on her, breaking her and forcing her to submit to his will by promising her heaven if she obeyed him, and threatening eternal damnation in "the fires of hell" if she refused. He then took Eileen to a bomb shelter in the basement and forced her to pose as his own sister, whom he then slaughtered along with the entire Cloade estate by a surprise attack of blowing it up with dynamite.
- In the adaptation, after David is denounced as a mass murderer, he "threatens" to blow up the entire Stag Inn as he did with the entire Cloade estate, but he is talked into sparing Poirot's life and the lives of everyone in the inn, after which David confesses that there is no dynamite in the inn, and that the "threat" is nothing more than a cruel joke he has played on everyone. This event is not present in the novel.
- In the end, after David is hanged, Lynn leaves England for Africa because she is still in love with David despite everything. She does not marry Rowley as implied in the novel.
John Moffatt played Poirot in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of the novel.
- 1948, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), March 1948, Hardcover, 242 pp
- 1948, Collins Crime Club (London), November 1948, Hardcover, 192 pp
- 1949, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback
- 1955, Dell Books, Paperback, 224 pp
- 1961, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
- 1965, Pan Books, Paperback, 204 pp
- 1971, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 386 pp ISBN 0-85456-084-X
- American Tribute to Agatha Christie
- Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
- The Observer 21 November 1948 (Page 3)
- Toronto Daily Star 10 April 1948 (Page 27)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (Page 206). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- Taken at the Flood at the official Agatha Christie website
- Taken at the Flood (2006) at the Internet Movie Database