It pains me to admit this, but I was a-l-m-o-s-t a bit bored by this 1937 whodunnit, the first time I’ve felt remotely like that during my ongoing quest to read all of Ms Christie’s books.

There seemed to be a lack of energy, and the usual crisp creative handling of the storyline was missing. Narrated by the faithful Captain Hastings, the book features Hercule Poirot who receives a letter asking for his help – a standard plot device – but when he turns up to meet his “client” he discovers she has died. Unwilling to accept that Miss Arundell died a natural death, as her doctor insists, M. Poirot starts investigating.

So far, so good.

Standard Agatha Christie stuff, though the early death of the protagonist is a new feature.

But somehow, for me, the plot just doesn’t crackle or sparkle, as in other Ms Christie’s books and the family members who Poirot investigates are none of them attractive or interesting enough to win our support. I have mentioned before that I like the way Agatha Christie usually has a gutsy, often outspoken young woman amongst her cast of characters – Theresa Arundell does not make the cut, I’m sorry to say.

Who does make the cut, however, is a new and different kind of starring character – Bob the dog, whose habit of leaving his favourite ball in risky places is a major part of the plot.

Ms Christie actually dedicates this book to a dog she clearly loves:

”To dear Peter, most faithful of friends and dearest of companions, a dog in a thousand”

I found the normally stiff and formal Captain Hastings making almost baby-talk to Bob a bit odd, but otherwise Bob is a solid character.

The original reviews were mixed, so I feel I’m in good company 🙂

According to Wikipedia – In the New York Times, this novel was not considered “Mrs Christie’s best, but she has produced a much-better-than-average thriller nevertheless”, which is a view shared by “Torquemada” (Edward Powys Mathers), who called this “the least of all the Poirot books” and then concluded “Still, better a bad Christie than a good average”.

Quite. Better a bad Christie than a good average any day.

One comment

  1. You’ve read the books, now see where they were written. Greenway near Dartmouth was her home for many years and beautifully shows her life and work, as well as that of her archaeologist husband. Time for a UK visit!

    Liz JS

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