REVIEW: Murder Yet to Come

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Murder Yet to Come

Isabel Briggs-Myers

Center for Applications of Psychological Type (republished)

For those not in the know, the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) is a way to classify personalities. According to Myers-Briggs, there are 16 types of personalities, each made up of four different traits: whether we are introverts or extroverts, whether we sense or intuit, think or feel, judge or percieve*. Its critics are vocal; its popularity is legendary; its accuracy is frightening.

And Isabel Briggs-Myers, the co-creater of the test, once wrote murder mysteries.

IBM

It’s easy to get a little too excited before picking up Murder Yet To Come. Myers-Briggs theorises that humanity only comes in 16 different flavours, but is fundamentally the same: Marple uses the same idea to great effect. The idea of a murder mystery written according to Myers-Briggs types is thrilling.

And this is what we are promised on the cover of the recently-republished copy, thanks to the “Centre for Applications of Psychological Type”.

What we get when we actually read the book, is a classic Golden Age romp that takes in locked rooms, hypnotism, the Wrath of Kali, a stolen cursed jewel and, disappointingly, Yellow Peril. Both the victim and the murderer are captial E-Evil. The victim is an eccentric millionaire who lives in an isolated castle and revels in the name of “Malachi Trent”.

diamond

That’s not to say that the book is bad. It isn’t, and was popular in its day. It’s just slightly odd that the murder mystery written by one of the most promient figures of popular psychology relies so heavily on locked rooms and an assortment of some of the worst traits of the Golden Age. The mysterious evil Oriental butler is a particular low point.

“Your feeling judgement is correct this time”

But, for the MBTI enthusiast, there is still a lot here. The above quote gives a misleading picture of the book as a whole, but is interesting in context. Unlike the normal set-up of detective along / detective plus Watson, Briggs-Myers opts for *three* protagonists: brilliant playwright Peter Jermingham, his trusty sidekick Mac, stolid policeman Nielsson. It’s in these characters that Briggs-Myers really shines, and here that Murder Yet To Come stands out from the crowd.

Jermingham is a genius led by intuition, following hunches that he can’t explain. He is wrong a good bit of the time, but then brilliantly, sparklingly right. Nielsson faithfully collects clues, finds evidence. Mac is content to follow Jermingham around like a loyal puppy.

The cast of victim and suspects are all dully two-dimensional. Yet the detectives themselves are prounced versions of MBTI types: INT, IST, ISF**. You get the sense that Briggs-Myers isn’t really interested in the mystery, but *is* interested in how her characters relate to each other and interpret information. All three characters are given their ‘moment’; all three compliment each other; all three *need* each other to solve the case. It’s an interesting study of personality, and refreshing compared to the omnipotence we see from characters like Poirot or even Wimsey.

As a murder mystery it’s sub-par. As an exploration of character it disappoints. As a look at how people work together and an understanding of gifts differing? Go for it.
*The theory behind Myers-Briggs is long and complicated and would be out-of-place explained here. Go here or here to find out more.

**There is an interesting lack of extroverted characters in the novel.

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2 comments on “REVIEW: Murder Yet to Come

  1. marymtf says:

    Isabelle Briggs-Myers’ story may have been popular in its day, but Agatha Christie’s books are still selling well. One of the reasons may be because she wouldn’t cheat the reader with locked room mysteries or untraceable poisons unless she was making fun of her colleagues. And she didn’t expect the reader to wait until the very end for the denouement. There were clues if you looked for them.
    Every writer of crime fiction today may scoff, but I enjoy Agatha Christie stories. I know in advance that there will be closure and I find it satisfying. I know that I won’t be forced to understand the motives of the murderer or empathise with him or her. Taking life is evil with a capital E. Nothing at all like real life, I understand that but I read mysteries to escape real life. So do millions of others. Real life is grim. That’s why Christie’s books are still being published, and why there have been countless movies made to cash in on Christie’s popularity and why three different actresses have most recently played Miss Marple on the small screen (although David Suchet is the definitive if omnipotent Poirot). I’ve even heard that someone has written a Poirot story which is sad. Christie anticipated it, so killed him off in Curtain. I guess that she hadn’t anticipated the greedy future Christies.

  2. Agree wholeheartedly re greedy future Christies 😦 Queen of Crime!

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