Sometimes I wonder if Carlton and Damon really have hidden meanings when they put books in Lost. Most books seem to match the situation, but maybe they don’t mean anything at all and it is us that read things into the show, not them.
Then I see books like Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun and my faith is restored. They went to the trouble of having Sawyer read a book that works as an inside joke for the roughly .5% of the viewing audience that actually gets it. And that is pure brilliance.
Evil Under the Sun appears in the season three episode Exposé. Sawyer is reading the book when Nikki asks him a question. The book is about a murder of a young actress, so it foreshadows Nikki’s death later that episode.
This was my first chance to read one of Christie’s books. Although the detective work seems relatively pedestrian by today’s standards, it was interesting to think about from the point of view of someone who basically invented the modern mystery genre. Of course with that said, it was refreshing to read an actual detective story, rather that the fast-paced drivel of many of today’s bestsellers, in which a call to the magical computer whiz back at the police station solves three-quarters of all problems.
The book is a fast-paced, fairly whimsical read. That sort of fits in with the actual reference in Lost, which is more of a cute inside joke than something that we need to thoroughly break down to understand the secrets of the show.
Evil Under the Sun takes place at a secluded vacation island – a now-familiar plot device for mysteries that serves to gather all potential suspects in one location. The famous detective Hercule Poirot happens to be vacationing there.
Of course a peaceful vacation is not to be for Poirot. Shortly after he arrives, two vacationers named Patrick Redfern and Emily find a young actress named Arlena murdered on a cove near the resort. The resort is inaccessible to the outside world aside from one road that no one came in on, so we know one of the vacationers is responsible.
The suspects all seem to have a plausible motive. Arlena spent most of her time flirting with Patrick, a honeymooner at the resort with his wife Christine. Maybe Christine was jealous. For that matter, maybe Arlena’s rich and much older husband Kenneth was jealous.
Kenneth’s daughter is there and she hates her stepmother. Drugs are found near Arlena, so maybe the enigmatic Horace Blatt killed her, since they all suspect he is in to the scene. Or maybe it was the reverend that, despite being a man of God, seems fairly crazy when he calls Arlena the evilest kind of evil in the land.
Eventually Poirot figures it out. Arlena wasn’t actually dead when Patrick and Emily found her. It was Christine posing as Arlena. The real Arlena was in a cave on the cove and when Emily left, Patrick killed her. Poirot finds out that Christine and Patrick have murdered before in various schemes to swindle money. Poirot gets the two charged with murder and the resort is peaceful again.
The great thing about this book is that I don’t even have to work to draw the connections between it and Lost.
In the book, Arlena is a young actress who married a much older man (probably for money) and ended up murdered on a secluded island. In Lost, Nikki is a young actress who married a much older man (probably for money) and ended up murdered on a secluded island.
Nikki and Paulo’s backstory also matches Christine and Patrick’s backstory. Christine and Patrick pretended to be strangers to murder their first victim that Poirot later found out about. Nikki and Paulo hid their love affair and poisoned Nikki’s husband director Zuckerman so they could steal his diamonds.
Sorta makes you wonder if one of the Lost writers actually was familiar with the book off-hand, or if they needed to Google the plot.
Either way, it was a good catch and a light-hearted wink and nod to Nikki’s eventual fate and one of the many reasons why delving deep into Lost can be so rewarding.
For more of my book reviews, return to the Literature of Lost series.