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I completed reading Agatha Christie's 'Death comes as the end' and while going through the wiki page of the novel I read that Author had changed the ending by suggestion of a friend and she later regretted the change, instead preferring the original one.

I tried to find the original ending but was not successful. Does anyone here know what the original ending was or point me where I can find it?

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Have just been reading the autobiography of Agatha Christie's husband, Max Mallowan, in which he mentions this:

[Stephen Glanville] was the only man ever to have persuaded Agatha to alter the end of a book, against—as she maintains—her better judgement. Her own ending would have been more dramatic. It was the one that was concerned with Ancient Egypt, Death Comes as the End.

I would be surprised if she had changed the murderer though as she re-cycles the idea in Sleeping Murder. I think, because of circumstances, this may have actually been written earlier than Death Comes as the End though published later, which would also suggest that it was Christie's own idea. Perhaps it's just the romantic ending that was changed, or possibly, and chillingly, the murderer triumphed? The latter would be in the spirit of darker Christies such as And Then There Were None...

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TL;DR: The alteration was probably which of her suitors Renisenb chose to marry.

What Christie says in her autobiography is that the alteration affected “one point of my denouement” and that she “would like to rewrite the end of it”:

Stephen [Glanville] argued with me a great deal on one point of my denouement, and I am sorry to say that I gave in to him in the end. I was always annoyed with myself for having done so. He had a kind of hypnotic influence about that sort of thing: He was so positive himself that he was right that you couldn't help having doubts yourself. Up to then, on the whole, though I have given in to people on every subject under the sun, I have never given in to anyone over what I write.

If I think I have got a certain thing right in a book—the way it should be—I'm not easily moved from it. In this case, against my better judgment, I did give in. It was a moot point, but I still think now, when I reread the book, that I would like to rewrite the end of it—which shows that you should stick to your guns in the first place, or you will be dissatisfied with yourself. But I was a little hampered by the gratitude I felt to Stephen for all the trouble he had taken, and the fact that it had been his idea to start with.

Agatha Christie (1977). An Autobiography, p. 484. New York: Dodd, Mead.

Based on this, the alteration can’t have been the identity of the murderer. This wouldn’t be described as “one point of the denouement”, it is the major plot point of the novel, and to change the murderer would require more than rewriting “the end of it”—it would require adjustments throughout the book, switching clues, motives, red herrings, and misdirections.

However, in the last chapter of Death Comes as the End, the protagonist Renisenb has to make a choice between two suitors, the “handsome young” scribe Kameni, who came from the north with Nosfret and who wants to take her away with him, and the older Hori, “her father’s man of business and affairs”, whom she has known from her childhood:

Hori smiled at her.

“Yes, sometimes. Kameni and I, Renisenb. Both of us, I think, are as you believe we are. Kameni and I...”

He said the last words with significance, and suddenly Renisenb realized that she stood at a moment of choice in her life.

Hori went on:

“We both love you, Renisenb. You must know that.”

[…] And the choice suddenly presented itself to her in the simplest terms—the easy life or the difficult one. She was strongly tempted then to turn and go down the winding path, down to the normal, happy life she already knew—that she had experienced before with Khay. There was safety there—the sharing of daily pleasures and griefs, with nothing to fear but old age and death…

Agatha Christie (1944). Death Comes as the End, chapter 23. New York: Dodd, Mead.

This choice, of which suitor to marry, is compatible with the description “one point of the denouement”, and for Renisenb to take the other choice would only require rewriting the ending of the book.

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I think it’s quite possible that the story, as presented, is close to what Christie intended. However, she may have been influenced into omitting an epilogue that unmasked the actual killer. Let’s suppose that hundreds of years have passed and a present day expedition unearths a written confession in which the real killer explains what really happened. Logically, the only written confession could come from Hori, the scribe.

Being ambitious, clever and more resourceful than any of Imhotep’s family, Hori could have manipulated the weak Yahmose into committing the murders for him. Hori killed Yahmose in order to cover his own tracks and to save the unsuspecting Renisenb. What better a way to influence the now broken Imhotep than by marrying his only surviving daughter and inheriting the holdings of the Ka priest. They all probably did live happily ever after!

Of course, this is pure conjecture, but it would be in keeping with other Christie “surprise endings”: for example, the confessions at the end of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None. Again, can’t prove it, but it would seem to be in Christie’s style to employ a similar ending...

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  • @GarethRees I haven't read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, so I'm hoping it's not too spoilery to mention that there is a confession at the end specifically? It seems relevant to say that much at least, if possible without identifying the character.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 22 '19 at 16:19
  • @GarethRees I already skimmed the summary on Wikipedia; the only reason I mentioned not having read the book was to make clear that I'm not well equipped to know what's spoilery or not, not to avoid spoilers myself. Feel free to roll back my edit, of course.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 22 '19 at 17:21

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