After reading many new authors (to me), picking up an Agatha Christie is like returning to familiar territory and this doesn’t disappoint. When I lived in France I read a few Agatha Christie books in French translation, despairing of finding French authors who could write a decent plot (lots of atmosphere or psychological flights of fantasy but no great plots). Reading Agatha Christie brings on waves of nostalgia, my parents loved watching detective dramas on TV, my mother also had several Dorothy L Sayers novels. Here we have a classic Agatha Christie “cosy crime” scenario. A wealthy elderly woman dies apparently of natural causes in a country manor, a few days after an “accident ” she had on the stairs, and Hercule Poirot receiving a letter from the woman decides to investigate, what he believes to be a murder, though his companion Hastings is not convinced.
“Are you sure? Are you sure you are not being carried away by your professional zeal. You want it to be a murder. and so you think it must be a murder.“
The suspects are limited to seven or eight, four family members, the elderly lady’s female companion and the servants (no butler this time). Like Hastings, I suspect each suspect in turn. Agatha’s plot is too clever for me, neither of my two chief suspects killed the old lady.
The book amusingly mentions another famous sleuthing pair:
“Poirot, I – the humble Watson – am going to hazard a deduction.”
“Enchanted, my friend. What is it?”
I struck an attitude and said pompously:
“You have received this morning one letter of particular interest!”
“You are indeed the Sherlock Holmes! Yes, you are perfectly right.” I laughed.
“You see, I know your methods, Poirot.”
The mystery starts with the letter sent by Emily Arundell to Poirot after her fall. Mysteriously, the letter arrives two months after it was written by which time the sender is dead.
Poirot interviews each suspect and other interested parties in turn accompanied by Hastings, who is not always happy with Poirot’s deceptive methods (posing as a biographer writing a biography about Emily Arundell’s father or a potential buyer for the house). The mystery ends like so often with Poirot assembling the suspects together and casting the light of suspicion on each in turn until he reveals the true murderer.
Familiar elements in the mystery include poison, red herrings, faithful servants, a will changed shortly before the victim’s untimely demise, a large inheritance , a doctor or two and Hercule Poirot’s famous moustache and grey cells.
My rating 5 out of 5, (half way through my reading was interrupted by having to attend a meal with my wife’s work colleagues, throughout the meal I was wishing I could be back with this book….a sign of a good book to me.)
* I wonder if this is where Mark Haddon found the title for his wonderful book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
Then there is the “incident of the dog in the night-time,” * (the book is dedicated to Peter “a dog in a thousand“) , the fall was blamed on Bob, the mistress’s dog leaving his ball at the top of the stairs. Bob has a small role in the book and greets Hastings and Poirot, when they first visit Littlegreen House. Hastings is more a dog person than Poirot and ends up adopting Bob.