Tuesday with Thalia: Best Villain

There’s no way around it. This is going to be one great big spoiler. So here’s the deal. I’ll unveil the title of the book with my choice of best villain, give you a nice big picture of something pretty, and then all you purists can go off. If you don’t mind, by all means, continue reading! If you hate spoilers both the people who perpetrate them and the “ruined” stories, go read the book and come back for my reasoning.

My pick for wretched villainy belongs to Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit.

There’s such a sweet story associated with the book for me. Melpomene came down to visit me a few winters ago while I was in graduate school. I planned the food, but I didn’t plan any activities, so we wandered about the town. We found a bookstore and both purchased a nice little murder mystery. Then we dashed through the rain to a wonderful coffee shop where we sat and had a competition. We had a speed reading competition! We just sat there and drank coffee and read like maniacs without speaking for 3 hours. Melpomene won by 3 pages and 7 minutes. It is a wonderful memory.

Now. Stop yer reading, me scurvy, picky, spoiler hating mateys.


Now isn’t that lovely? Apparently that’s a Wisteria tunnel. Purloined shamelessly from Google images.

In The Man in the Brown Suit , as with many of Agatha Christie’s villians, Sir Eustace Pedlar is the least sinister and quite frankly rather loveable. In fact, he is one of the narrators of the story. Through his diary, you see the story from his point of view. And from his perspective, he is not evil. He is a loveable, wealthy, clever business man. And that is what you see through the leading lady’s eyes as well. His secretary, now that man is creepy. He has a solemn face, “like that of a Quincecento poisoner.” Oh, and the man of many disguises, who captures Our Heroine and tries to kill her (at least twice). They are to be suspected!

But in the end, after a wonderful denouement, you discover that all along the mysterious evil presence is Sir Eustace himself. He portrays himself as charming and believes himself to be so but he is directly responsible for the  murder of 3 people, the attempt to kill the woman he “loves”, the theft of  diamonds, and the spark of fire that begins a gory revolution in Africa.

So this is my idea of villainy. It is so deeply treacherous that the villain himself does not think he is evil. He is so far gone, he has no guilt. No longer is this villain human, for he has forfeited the best part of his soul.

There are a lot of other traitorous smiling villains that I considered. For pure evil, though, I have to suggest you look to the eponymous character of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. That villain manages to destroy lives from beyond the grave. Talented!

10 thoughts on “Tuesday with Thalia: Best Villain

  1. Oo… I’ve not read this Christie, but now I want to. Such a villain as you describe is brilliantly terrifying, and Christie is one of the few writers capable of pulling of this kind of complexity!

  2. Good memories!

    That one I have not read yet, but it does sound awfully close to the Platonic Form of Villainy.

    Also, it was the housekeeper in Rebecca that scared the daylight out of me . . . but I only ever watched the movies. I was too nervous to read the book. Is it different?

    • I’ve not seen the movie. But the book is beautiful, terrifying, and sad. Also, has one of the best first lines ever. “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

  3. Strange, I recall that book for having one of the most ridiculous passages in all literature.

    “He was detestable–rude and ungrateful–but that I think I understand. It’s like a dog that’s been chained up–or badly treated–it’ll bite anybody. That’s what he was like–bitter and snarling. I don’t know why I care–but I do. I care horribly. Just seeing him turned my whole life upside-down. I love him. I want him. I’ll walk all over Africa barefoot till I find him, and I’ll make him care for me. I’d die for him. I’d work for him, slave for him, steal for him, even beg or borrow for him! There–now you know!”

    I don’t know if you saw my reply over on my blog, Thalia, but you are quite welcome to link to any of it that you wish. Though, having seen the quality of the material here, I don’t know why you’d find that necessary.

  4. K, I actually appreciate this ridiculous passage. It sums up the wierd allure of bad men to young girls, who if their mothers had any sense, would be forewarned and dissuaded from their unconsidered romantic sensibilities.
    Well, considering the trouble and misery this heroine got into, I hope many readers were so warned even if their mothers were absent.

    • I haven’t read it in a while, but I’m pretty sure she was talking about the good guy. If I recall correctly, the novel subverts what you would expect, the seeming bad guy (that mom doesn’t like) turns out to be the hero, and the guy who seems upright and respectable turns out to be the worst sort of villain. I’ll go check… Yep. I was recalling it correctly.

      • He’s the male protagonist, but I don’t think that makes him a “good” guy, which is, I think, the point Debbie was trying to make.
        I have to agree with Debbie, that that passage is an honest portrayal of a common female reaction to damaged men. It isn’t a good reaction, but it is a common reaction, if that makes sense.
        Whether the author intended to justify the female protagonist’s reaction is another question altogether. 😉

  5. Pingback: Book Meme 2012 Week 3: Magnificent Villainy « The Warden's Walk

  6. Pingback: Conclusion « Egotist's Club

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