While the Light Lasts, by Agatha Christie

I spotted this gem amidst the rustic bookshelves of Sister Srey café, a charming little nook along the riverside of Siem Reap’s bustling Old Market area serving good ol’ Aussie nosh tosh. The amazing food aside, this petite café had a charming shelf-load of books on its second floor free for anyone to take. Having hardly gotten through ten pages before fully devouring my meal (and already altogether hooked on Agatha Christie’s compelling stories), I asked if I could buy the book off them and was met with an enthusiastic grin – ‘no, no it’s alright! Just take it with you! Books are meant to be shared.’

What lovely, lovely people. I dropped them a modest donation in return.

A brilliant book with priceless sentimental value. Upon flipping through it, I found little pieces of ‘world map’ stickers tucked between the pages and couldn’t help but wonder who the person who left the book there was. An university student, perhaps, traveling all the way from the US or UK for a volunteer/ experience program in Siem Reap? Or perhaps a backpacker, hoping to relieve some of his/her load and eager to leave their mark, make a difference.

Whoever it was, I owe them one.

Time and time again, I would hear praises of Agatha Christie’s works and make a mental note of reading her work, but somehow I never quite got around to it.

I had recently watched The Mousetrap (a wildly engaging play that keeps you on your toes), written by none other than Agatha Christie, so upon finding it in the bookshop I had no choice but to pick it up.

And what a thrilling read.

It occupied me the entire flight from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, and from Phnom Penh back to Singapore. I sat with my legs curled up onto the seat, chuckling quite unabashedly to myself at the ingenious plot twists and skillfully manipulated plot devices.

Agatha Christie has the gift of being able to anticipate the readers’ (and the audience’s, in the case of the Mousetrap) responses to what we read/see, and then manipulate what we understand to be happening. When the truth is finally revealed, we burst out with tickled marvel and amusement, or otherwise shocked amazement – but without a doubt leaving us with an insatiable desire for more.

When the Light Lasts is a compilation of some of Christie’s early short stories; perhaps the craving for more can be attribute to the brief tasters that short stories invariably are.

And so I want more.

Perhaps one of her novels next?

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