I read a lot of my mother’s Agatha Christie novels when I was a teenager. They’re what got me into reading crime fiction. However, my interest in Christie didn’t survive into adulthood and it’s been years since I’ve picked up a Hercule Poirot or a Miss Marple novel.
This particular work, the December 2012 read for the English Mysteries Club group, was probably not the best novel for me to choose as a way of going back to Agatha Christie. She must have written much, much better books. I don’t remember Christie being big on character development, but surely all of her characters can’t be as cardboard cut-out as the ones in this novel. And is her exposition-through-dialogue generally as lame and heavy-handed as it is here?
That said, the novel is not completely devoid of charm. It’s an old-fashioned locked room murder mystery, with an unpleasant victim, lots of suspects, a shoal of red herrings, a culprit that I didn’t pick (although I did idly wonder at some point whether that particular person might be the one), gigantic holes in the plot and an explanation of the murder and its aftermath unlikely to be guessed by the average reader. Poirot, not being the average reader, manages to solve the mystery within nano-seconds and then reveals all in the traditional manner, when the suspects are gathered in the drawing room.
As much as I’m a fan of golden age murder mysteries, this is not a shining example of the genre. While I don’t think [a:Georgette Heyer|18067|Georgette Heyer|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1336748892p2/18067.jpg] ‘s strength as a writer lay in her mysteries, this particular novel made me long for her witty, snarky dialogue. It also made me want to get back to reading [a:Dorothy L. Sayers|8734|Dorothy L. Sayers|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1206564934p2/8734.jpg]’ and [a:Josephine Tey|44023|Josephine Tey|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1193918690p2/44023.jpg]’s intelligent plotting and elegant prose. I may well return to Christie at some point, but I’ll have to be very choosy about which of her novels I decide to read next.
It was good to have my friend Jemidar to read this with and to complain to about it. I’m not sorry I read the book, but I can’t give it more than 2 stars.