"A real Agatha Christie thriller....A swift course in unflagging suspense that leads to a complete surprise." (New York Times)
"This is major Christie." (New York Herald Tribune)
loved it great storyline
Poirot has the world on his shoulders he's got to go to the dentist.
once out he's relieved till 3 hours later when he's told his dentist is dead.
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Typical Agatha Christie, very well performed and read, good listen, not overly long, not disappointed and would recommend if you like her work.
The story is as usual ingenious but improbable, the characters fairly stereotypical (fat chance of identifying with any of Christie’s creations, since even mon ami Hastings (absent in this novel) lacks the modest charm and intellect of Watson.)
Christie is the exponent par excellence of ignoring the elephant in the room- as Basil Fawlty later said in a saying which entered UK English “Don’t mention the war!”
This book was published in November 1940, fourteen months into WWII, by which time France had fallen, Dunkirk had been evacuated as well as possible, and even if Christie didn’t care too much about Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, she can hardly have failed to have noticed that “this country is at war with Germany”!
The best detective in the world has not twigged that his country has been occupied- again- though he arrived in the UK as a refugee in the earlier 1914-18 war. Not so astute our Hercule!
I imagine that Christie was concerned about maintaining US sales, and, more honourably, avoiding undermining morale at a time when the UK alone stood against the Nazi bulldozer.
I don’t want to get too carried away with my opinions of the Christie Weltanschauung.
Will Poirot do the right thing?
Not her best but a very enjoyable listen. Frazer narrates beautifully, sounds like the characters should.
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The thing is – if Hercule Poirot ever threatens to visit you, make an excuse and then flee to the other side of the world because no one is safe around that man! In this book he visits his dentist, Mr Morley, for a routine check-up. By the end of the morning, Mr Morley is dead. Later, one of his patients is found dead and another has gone missing. Let's hope Poirot didn't have a doctor's appointment that afternoon!
At first, Inspector Japp thinks Mr Morley, who was found shot dead with a gun beside him, has been murdered, but when one of his patients dies later that day of an overdose of the Procaine used to numb his mouth, it's assumed Mr Morley made a mistake and then in a fit of remorse killed himself. So the police investigation stops, but Poirot isn't convinced and continues with his own investigation.
There had been quite a collection of notable patients at Mr Morley's surgery that day. Mr Amberiotis is a Greek gentleman with a dubious reputation. Mr Barnes is retired from the Secret Services. Miss Sainsbury Seale has a chequered past, having been an actress in her youth and then having shockingly married a Hindu in India (well, it was shocking in 1940 when the book was written), before deserting him and returning home to England. Mr Blunt is a banker and pillar of the Establishment – the kind of man who is seen as giving stability to the country at a time when other European countries are falling into the hands of various flavours of dictatorships. There are also a couple of young men there – one the boyfriend of Mr Morley's secretary, and the other the would-be boyfriend of Mr Blunt's niece. Poirot begins by talking to each of these people about what they remember of that morning.
This one has a nicely convoluted plot which touches on some of the anxieties of a country facing war. Christie never gets overly political but she often works current concerns into her stories and it gives an interesting insight into the time of writing. Here, there's a clear divide between the deep conservatism of the old guard in Britain, fighting to keep the old systems of politics and finance in place, and the younger people, some of whom have been affected by the socialist and revolutionary fervour churning through large parts of the world. While Christie appears to be firmly on the side of the old guard, she intriguingly recognises through her characters that this may be age related and that things may change whatever the Establishment does. She also neatly addresses the question of how far ethics may be bent in pursuance of a noble aim.
But of course that's all just a side dish – the main course is a beautifully plotted murder mystery in which all the clues are given to make it possible to solve, if only the reader's little grey cells operated as efficiently as Poirot's. This reader's didn't. It was so long ago since I last read this one I couldn't remember the solution, and found I was baffled all over again. Not only are the clues sprinkled throughout, but towards the end Poirot lists all the important ones in his thoughts – and yet still I couldn't work it out. But when Poirot explains it all in one of his typical denouements, it all fits together perfectly and undoubtedly falls into the fair play category.
It's a very thoughtful denouement, this one, where Poirot considers the future and finds it worrying – I suspect it would have resonated strongly with the concerns of the readers of the time. And frankly, given the current political situation around the world, it resonates just as strongly again now. As always, I get annoyed at how dismissive people sometimes are about the Golden Age writers in general and Christie in particular – they knew how to entertain but the best of them also reflected their society back to itself, just as the best crime writers continue to do today.
I listened to the Audible audiobook read by Hugh Fraser, who gives another excellent narration. I've mentioned in the past how good he is at bringing out the humour in some of Christie's books. In this one, he does just as good a job of bringing out the slightly darker, more pensive tone of certain parts of the book. These audiobooks are a great way to freshen the books up for old fans – I'm thoroughly enjoying listening to them and look forward to revisiting the Christie/Fraser partnership again soon. 4½ stars for me, so rounded up.
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