Category Archives: Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

Hallowe’en Party begins with the party given by Mrs Drake for teenagers. One of the guests, Joyce Reynolds, a boastful thirteen-year old, who likes to draw attention to herself, announces that once she’d witnessed a murder. It seems nobody believed her and yet later on she is found dead, drowned in the tub used for the bobbing for apples game – someone had believed her and had killed her. Mrs Ariadne Oliver was at the party and she asks Poirot to help in finding the murderer.

This is one of Agatha Christie’s later books, first published in 1969, when she was approaching 80, and although I did like it for the most part, it is certainly not one of her best. It’s not terribly coherent and it lacks focus in parts as several characters, not sharply defined, are introduced along with a lot of detail and repetition. The plot, as usual in Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries is convoluted with lots of red herrings and loose ends. I thought the revelation of one of the character’s parenthood at the end was just too contrived to be believable. There are meandering and critical conversations about the ‘young people today’ and the state of the mental health service, with overcrowded mental homes, which so many of the characters thought must be the cause of the murder.

… so doctors say “Let him of her lead a normal life. Go back and live with his relatives, etc. And then the nasty bit of goods, or the poor afflicted fellow, whichever way you like to look at it, gets the urge again and another young woman goes out walking and is found in a gravel pit, or is silly enough to take lifts in a car. (page 37)

So it is down to Poirot to discover the real motive, but not before there is another murder. He investigates the possibility that Joyce was telling the truth and asks retired Superintendent Spence, living in the area with his sister, for details of any local deaths and disappearances over the past few years.

Even though I found this book less satisfying than many of Christie’s other books there are things in it that I liked. The relationship between Ariadne Oliver and Poirot for one – Poirot has to have a sip of brandy to fortify himself for the ‘ordeal’ of talking to her:

‘It’s a pity,’ he murmured to himself, ‘that she is so scatty. And yet she has originality of mind. It could be that I am going to enjoy what she is coming to tell me. It could be -‘ he reflected a minute ‘- that it may take a great deal of the evening and that it will all be excessively foolish. Eh bien, one must take one’s risks in life.’ (page 20)

And for another there is the description of a beautiful garden in a sunken quarry,  a well designed garden with the appearance of being perfectly natural. There are several pages lyrically describing this garden, which seemed to me to reflect Agatha Christie’s own interest in gardens, particularly the gardens at her house in Devon, Greenway. Seeing this garden sends Poirot into an almost mystical state of mind as he absorbed the atmosphere:

It had qualities  of magic, of enchantment, certainly of beauty, bashful beauty, yet wild. Here, if you were staging a scene in the theatre, you would have your nymphs, your fauns, you would have Greek beauty, you would have fear too. Yes, he thought, in this sunk garden there is fear. (page 93)

Overall, there are some vivid descriptions in this book – the Hallowe’en party and some of the descriptions of the teenagers ’60s style clothing for example as well as the beauty of the sunken garden, which for me compensated for its flaws. But if you haven’t read any of Agatha Christie’s books I wouldn’t recommend that you start with this one.

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

The Sittaford Mystery is one of the earlier of Agatha Christie’s books, first published in the UK in 1931 and in the US as Murder at Hazelmoor. It’s not one of her Poirot or Miss Marple mysteries, but features Inspector Narracott, ably assisted, if not lead, by Emily Trefusis, a remarkably resourceful and determined young woman. I really liked Emily.

The Sittaford Mystery begins with a seance, or rather a table-turning session at Sittaford House in a tiny moorland village near Dartmoor, not very far from the prison at Princetown. Snow has been falling for four days and now Sittaford is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. At the seance are the tenants of Sittaford House, Mrs Willett and her daughter Violet, and their neighbours. When the message of Captain Trevelyan’s death is tapped out, followed by the word M-U-R-D-E-R, his friend Major Burnaby immediately decides to see if Trevelyan has indeed been murdered, walking in the snow walking six miles to Exhampton. Of course, when he gets there, he does indeed discover that his friend is dead, probably killed at the precise time that the message was received in the seance.

Inspector Narracott is called in and a young man, James Pearson, Trevelyan’s nephew is arrested for the murder. Emily, his fiancée, is convinced of his innocence. She enlists the help of the journalist, Charles Enderby and together they set out to discover the real culprit. Inspector Narracott is a quiet man, a thoughtful and efficient police officer, with a logical mind and attention to detail but Emily is determined and courageous in her search for the truth.

There are two mysteries in this book, who killed Trevelyan and why have the Willetts rented the house from him for the winter? I found it all very interesting, with plenty of clues, red herrings and suspects. Added to that is the escaped prisoner on Dartmoor, reminding me a bit of Dickens’ novel, Great Expectations, and of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, emphasised Charles Enderby’s reference to the seance as a ‘queer’ business, and thinking of getting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s opinion on the matter.

The setting and the characterisation are good. But although the plotting is good for most of the book, I felt the ending and the motive for the murder are rather inadequate, not least because I don’t think you could actually deduce who the murderer is – I guessed, but it was only a guess – not all of the facts are revealed until the denouement. For this reason I can’t rank The Sittaford Mystery with Agatha Christie’s best mysteries, but it is still a good read.

Note: the TV version in the Agatha Christie Marple series not only changes the identity of the killer but also inserts Miss Marple into the story!

Catching Up

Half of September has gone! I’ve read 5 books and haven’t written about any of them (except for one and that’s for the Shiny New Books blog – more about that book later). The other four books are:

  1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (on Kindle)
  2. Wycliffe and the House of Fear by W J Burley
  3. Testament of a Witch by Douglas Watt (on Kindle)
  4. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

It’s much easier to write about a book straight after I’ve read it, so today’s post is about the last book I’ve finished, which is The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie. I’ll try to nudge my brain into writing about the other books as soon as I can.

The Moving Finger is a book I’ve had for a few years now, so it’s one off my to-be-read shelves. It is described as a Miss Marple mystery, but as she doesn’t appear in the book until three-quarters of the way through and after there have been two deaths, she doesn’t have a big part, although she is instrumental in unveiling the murderer.

The story is narrated by Jerry Burton, who has recently moved into the market town of Lymstock with his sister, Joanna. His doctor had instructed him to move to the country where he can take things slowly and easily whilst he recovers from a flying accident. Lymstock seems to be a ‘peaceful backwater where nothing happens‘, but soon after the Burtons have moved in Joanna receives a very nasty anonymous poison-pen letter. They discover that other people have also received them, and soon afterwards Mrs Symmington apparently commits suicide followed by the death of her maid, Agnes, which is without doubt murder.

I liked The Moving Finger. As usual with Agatha Christie’s novels there are plenty of suspects, including Mrs Cleat, well-known as the ‘local witch’, and there are plenty of clues, with a good deal of misdirection throwing me into confusion about who could possibly be the culprit. She captures the nastiness of the anonymous letters well with their accusations of illicit sexual activities. I always think Agatha Christie excels with her dialogue. It’s all so natural and I have no difficulty following who is speaking. I was also convinced about the characters, especially Megan Hunter, Mrs Symmington’s twenty-year old daughter and her relationship with her step-father. Lymstock, itself is a place about fifty years behind the times, but by no means the ‘peaceful backwater where nothing happens‘ that Jerry Burton was seeking.

The police are eventually called in, in the person of Superintendent Nash who then requests help from an expert from London on anonymous letters – Inspector Graves. But the vicar’s wife, Mrs Dane Calthrop isn’t satisfied and brings in an expert of her own, an expert who ‘knows people‘, ‘someone who knows a great deal about wickedness‘ and that person is of course, Miss Marple.

The Moving Finger was first published in 1942 in New York and then in the United Kingdom in the spring of 1943. Along with the puzzle, Agatha Christie, speaking through her characters. makes several comments that interested me – on work/idleness for example. The local doctor’s sister, Miss Griffith, who is a Girl Guide leader, states that idleness is an unforgivable sin, and in response Jerry Burton says:

Sir Edward Grey … afterwards our foreign minister was sent down from Oxford for incorrigible idleness. The Duke of Wellington, I’ve heard, was both dull and inattentive to his books. And has it ever occurred to you, Miss Griffith, that you would probably not be able to take a good express train to London if little Georgie Stephenson had been out with his youth movement instead of lolling about, bored, in his mother’s kitchen until the curious behaviour of the kettle lid attracted the attention of his idle mind?

Another example – considering whether Providence/the Almighty/God would permit dreadful things to happen ‘to awaken us to a sense of our own shortcomings‘, Jerry Burton responds:

There’s too much tendency to attribute to God the evils that man does of his own free will. I might concede you the Devil. God doesn’t really need to punish us, Miss Barton. We’re so very busy punishing ourselves.

Re-reading at her detective novels, Agatha Christie wrote in her Autobiography:

I find that one I am really pleased with is The Moving Finger. It is a great test to re-read what one has written some seventeen or eighteen years later. One’s views change. Some do not stand the test of time, others do.

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge – Update

In September 2008 Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise launched the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge to read her way through Agatha Christie’s novels, in the order in which they were written.  I joined in but decided to read the books as I come across them rather than in order of publication. There are 66 mystery and detective novels and numerous collections of short stories.

Up to now I’ve read 54 books and 4 short story collections. The list of the books I’ve read is on my Agatha Christie Reading Challenge page. Just 11 or 12 books left for me to read (plus the short stories!):

  1. 1925 – The Secret of Chimneys – I think I’ve read this one! But I can’t find a record of it or the book, so maybe I haven’t!
  2. 1930 – The Murder at the Vicarage
  3. 1931 – The Sittaford Mystery
  4. 1935 – Three Act Tragedy*
  5. 1938 – Appointment with Death
  6. 1940 – Sad Cypress
  7. 1942 – The Moving Finger*
  8. 1944 – Towards Zero*
  9. 1944 – Death Comes as an End
  10. 1945 – Sparkling Cyanide
  11. 1945 – Destination Unknown
  12. 1969 – Hallowe’en Party*

* books I own

I also have The Mouse Trap to read and some of the short story collections  – Wikipedia lists these and there are a lot! Then there are the books Agatha Christie wrote under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott. I’ve read her Autobiography, but there is also an earlier book, Come, Tell Me How You Live under the name of Agatha Christie Mallowan.

Nemesis by Agatha Christie

Nemesis first published in 1971, is one of Agatha Christie’s later books written in her eighties. It is the last book she wrote about Miss Marple. There are two more books that were published later, but those were written earlier. It’s not among the best of her books, it’s slow moving, lots of dialogue, lots of recapping of events and clues, lots of moralising and social commentary. It follows on, although it is not a sequel to, A Caribbean Mystery in which Miss Marple met Mr Rafiel.

It’s slow moving because for quite a while Miss Marple doesn’t know what the crime is that she has been asked to investigate. Mr Rafiel, who she met in the West Indies, has left her £20,000 in his will on condition she investigates a certain crime, but doesn’t give her any details. He wrote that she had a natural flair for justice leading to a natural flair for crime and reminded her that the code word is Nemesis. Then she is invited to join a tour of Famous Houses and Gardens of Great Britain at Mr Rafiel’s expense. And off she goes.

As Miss Marple remarks:

Murders as reported in the press have never claimed my attention. I have never read books on criminology as a subject or really been interested in such a thing. No, it has just happened that I have found myself in the vicinity of murder rather more often than would seem normal. (page 90)

What an understatement!

Miss Marple has to first of all work out who she can trust.Very gradually through meeting people and talking to them in her usual rather scatty old-lady manner Miss Marple begins to uncover a crime committed years earlier, working largely on intuition. During this process Miss Marple ponders on a number of subjects from wondering how the three witches in Macbeth should be portrayed, during the visit Mr Rafiel had arranged for her with the three sisters at the Old Manor House, to her disapproval of the clothes young women wore. I suspect this was Agatha Christie using Miss Marple as a mouthpiece for her own views – just as this view of rape expressed by  another character, Professor Wanstead, a friend of Mr Rafiel may be her own thoughts too:

Girls you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be. Their mothers insist, very often, that they should call it rape. (page 182)

But I wondered about the whole premise of the book – would someone really ask a person to investigate a crime and not give them any details?  It seems highly improbable to me even if Mr Rafiel had wanted Miss Marple to approach the crime with an open mind. And surely if Mr Rafiel really wanted to discover the true facts about the crime he could easily have done so before he died.

I think Nemesis lacks tension and suspense. The characters are rather hard to differentiate, mainly because there are too many, and too many who have no part in the mystery. There are few red herrings to deflect the reader, just unexplained facts that Miss Marple clears up in the last chapters. But I think it is an unusual book and I quite enjoyed it.

The Big Four by Agatha Christie

I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie’s books, most of which I’ve really enjoyed, but I’m not too keen on her books that involve spies and gangs of international criminals who are seeking world domination. And The Big Four, first published in 1927, is one of those books.

Basically it’s a collection of short stories (derived from a series of stories that first appeared in The Sketch, a weekly magazine) in which Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings lock forces with a vast organisation of crime led by four individuals, in the course of which they uncover the identity of the ‘Big Four’. The aim of the Four is ‘to destroy the existing social order, and to replace it with an anarchy in which they would reign as dictators.’  They are a Chinese man, Li Chang Yen, an American multi-millionaire, a French woman and ‘the Destroyer’, an Englishman. Poirot is convinced that they are behind everything:

The world-wide unrest, the labour troubles that beset every nation, and the revolutions that break out in some. There are people, not scaremongers, who know what they are talking about, and they say that there is a force behind the scenes which aims at nothing less than the destruction of civilisation. (page 25)

In the course of their investigations Poirot and Hastings find themselves in many dangerous  situations, all melodramatic and a little far-fetched, from which they miraculously escape certain death. The Big Four is action packed, with Poirot uncharacteristically chasing off after the criminals, still using his ‘little grey cells’ of course, whilst Hastings is knocked out and kidnapped, and Li Chang Yen threatens to abduct and torture Hasting’s wife, whom he had left behind in their ranch in the Argentine.

This is not one of my favourite Agatha Christie books. But perhaps it is not so surprising that The Big Four is far from her best. It was in  December 1926 that Agatha Christie disappeared after her husband, Archie Christie had told her he wanted a divorce and in 1927 she was still recovering from this. It was her brother-in-law’s suggestion that the last Poirot short stories she had published could be re-written to ‘have the appearance of a book‘ as a ‘stop-gap‘ – and the result was The Big Four, which, I think, suffers from being a loosely connected collection of episodes. Agatha explained in her Autobiography that Campbell Christie had helped her with linking the short stories as she was ‘unable to tackle anything of the kind.‘ (Autobiography page 365)

They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie

I’m slowly reading my way through Agatha Christie’s books, not in chronological order, but just as I come across them and this month I’ve read They Do It With Mirrors which was first published in 1952.

I don’t think it’s one of her best, but I did like it. It begins with Miss Marple reminiscing with an old friend, Mrs Ruth Van Rydock, an American. Miss Marple has known her and her sister, Carrie Louise since they had been together at a pensionnat in Florence. Ruth is worried about Carrie Louise, who is now living in a country house in the south of England with her husband, Lewis Serrocold, which he has turned into a home for delinquent boys. She can’t put her finger on what is wrong, she just felt the atmosphere wasn’t right, whether it was the boys’ home – ‘those dreadful young delinquents‘ or something else and she asks Miss Marple to visit Carrie Louise to see if her fears are justified.

Miss Marple finds an unhappy household, including Mildred, Carrie Louise’s widowed daughter, Stephen and Alex, her stepsons, and Gina, her adopted daughter’s daughter, married to an American, Wally Hudd. Lewis Serrocold is Carrie’s third husband, described by Ruth as a

‘crank’, a ‘man with ideals’, ‘bitten by the bug of wanting to improve everybody’s lives for them. And, really you know, nobody can do that but yourself.’

All is not well with the boys either – one of them, Edgar Lawson is suffering from delusions, saying his father is Churchill and then that he is Montgomery. He loses control and Lewis takes him into his office, but their raised voices are heard by the others, culminating in the sound of gunshots. But it is not Lewis or Edgar who is killed, but one of the trustees of the home, Christian Gulbrandsen, the brother of Carrie Louise’s first husband who was alone in his study. So Ruth’s fears materialise when Christian is found shot dead and it seems that someone is trying to poison Carrie Louise.

As I expected from the title not everything is as it appears.  The layout of the house is of importance and there is a plan showing how the rooms are connected, but even so I was still in the dark. I hadn’t worked out who the murderer is and had even ruled out the person in question quite early on in the book. Miss Marple, however, was not deceived and had sorted out the reality from the illusion and seen through the misdirection.

… all the things that seemed to be true were only illusions. Illusions created for a definite purpose – in the same way that conjurers create illusions to deceive an audience.

There are a number of points that struck me as interesting as I read the book, not essential to the plot, but maybe revealing Agatha Christie’s opinions and her views of post-war society. There is the subject of self-help and the issue of expecting things to be granted as a right, focussing on providing education for the juvenile delinquents by men crazy with enthusiasm like Lewis Serrocold:

One of those men of enormous will power who like living on a banana and a piece of toast and put all their energies into a Cause.


She makes the point that just because a person comes from a deprived background doesn’t mean they’re going to turn into criminals and it is the honest ones who could do with a start in life – ‘But there, honesty has to be its own reward – millionaires don’t leave trust funds to help the worthwhile.’

There are comments on the oddness of the English, being prouder of defeats and retreats than of their victories, using Dunkirk as an example and the Charge of the Light Brigade. At the same time as I was reading this I was also reading Jeremy Paxman’s The English: a Portrait of a People, in which he also comments on this trait – turning the consequence of catastrophe into a ‘victorious retreat’.

On a more personal level there are her views on the vulnerability of women:

Women have a much worse time of it in the world than men do. They’re more vulnerable. They have children and they mind – terribly – about their children. As soon as they lose their looks, the men they love don’t love them any more. They’re betrayed and deserted and pushed aside.


I can’t help thinking that really was Agatha Christie speaking from experience.

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

There are many things I like about Five Little Pigs, a Poirot mystery first published in 1943. I like the plot and the way it’s structured, the characterisation, the dialogue, and Agatha Christie’s fluent style of writing. In addition the solution is convincing and satisfying.

Caroline Crale was convicted of the murder of her husband, Amyas and died in prison. Sixteen years later, her daughter, a child of five at the time of the murder, asks Poirot to clear her mother’s name, convinced that she was innocent.

Poirot checks the police records, talks to the lawyers who conducted the trial and to the five eyewitnesses, persuading them to write down their versions of events. He finds that she had ample motive for the crime, at no time had she protested her innocence, although she contended that he had committed suicide, and all the eyewitnesses thought she was guilty.

Inevitably there are different versions of the events and conflicting views of Caroline’s character, all very clearly set out. So what did actually happen? Was Caroline innocent or guilty?

Poirot, in his usual methodical manner, goes through the sequence of events, and having gathered together all the people involved, using logic and psychology to detect the incongruous he makes his dénouement.

The description of Amyas Crale’s house, Alderbury appears to have been modelled on Agatha Christie’s own house, Greenway, complete with a Battery overlooking the river, just as at Greenway. The book was written in 1943, making it 16 years after 1926, the year of her disappearance before her divorce from her first husband, Archie Christie, so I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that Amyas Crale, a womaniser who was proposing to leave his wife for another woman has the same initials as Archie Christie!

I think the nursery rhyme theme of the title and the chapter headings is rather forced, as it doesn’t really throw any light on the mystery. It seems that Agatha Christie was a bit carried away with her ‘crimes of rhymes’, just as Poirot was obsessed with the jingle:

‘A jingle ran through Poirot’s head. He repressed it. He must not always be thinking of nursery rhymes. It seemed an obsession with him lately. And yet the jingle persisted.

This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home…’ (page 33)

This is the first Agatha Christie book I’ve read this year and I’m pleased it was such a good one!

Five Little Pigs is my 8th TBR book I’ve read this year in the Mount TBR Challenge, and the TBR Triple Dog Dare, the 2nd for the My Kind of Mystery Challenge and the 2nd for the What’s in a Name 7 Challenge (in the category, a book with a number written in letters in the title). And last, but by no means least, it’s the 56th Agatha Christie book I’ve read in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

A Year of Reading Agatha Christie: 2013

Agatha ChristieThe Agatha Christie Reading Challenge is run by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. I don’t think of it as a Challenge – it’s really a reading project, as it is quite simply to read Agatha Christie’s books. I’m not reading them in order of publication but as I come across them.

As I wrote in a guest post on Alyce’s blog for her series of Best and Worst earlier this year, Agatha Christie has long been one of my favourite writers. I first read some of her books as a teenager, but over the last four years or so I’ve been reading as many of her books that I can find.

She wrote over 100 novels, short story collections and plays and she is one of the best-selling (if not the best-selling) novelists of all time, well known for her crime fiction featuring Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and other detectives, both amateur and police.

I like many things about her writing. Her style is light, humorous at times, but her writing can be dark creating a tense and menacing atmosphere. Her plots are often ingenious, intricate, complicated puzzles, with the clues scattered throughout the texts. Some of her characters are clearly defined and fully rounded, some are lightly sketched, and others are comic characters, caricatures presented satirically or even farcically. Her settings are often country houses in idyllic English villages, but also in exotic locations in the Middle East as in her archaeological mysteries.

The full list of the 55 novels and short stories that I’ve read is on my Agatha Christie Reading Challenge page. This year I’ve read 9 of her books:

My favourite this year is Cards on the Table, but they all make fascinating reading.

Cards on the Table

  1. Cat Among the Pigeons  (Poirot)
  2. Mrs McGinty’s Dead (Poirot and Ariadne Oliver)
  3. Murder in the Mews (Poirot 4 short stories)
  4. Cards on the Table (Poirot)
  5. Third Girl (Poirot)
  6. Ten Little Niggers aka And Then There Were None
  7. A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple)
  8. N or M? (Tommy and Tuppence)
  9. Ordeal by Innocence

I’ve also read two biographies:

  1. Agatha Christie: an English Mystery by Laura Thompson
  2. Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill

There are still plenty of Agatha Christie’s books for me to read. The following books are the ones I own and will be reading next year (not necessarily in this order):

  • They Do It With Mirrors (Miss Marple)
  • The Moving Finger (Miss Marple)
  • Miss Marple and Mystery: Complete Short Stories
  • Poirot Investigates (short stories)
  • The Golden Ball (short stories)
  • Complete Parker Pyne (short stories)
  • The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (short stories)

Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie wrote in An Autobiography that Ordeal by Innocence and Crooked House were the two books she’d written that satisfied her the best. Neither book features Poirot or Miss Marple, so maybe she had become rather tired of them and had enjoyed introducing completely new characters.

Ordeal by Innocence (The Christie…Summary from the back cover of my copy:

According to the courts, Jacko Argyle bludgeoned his mother to death with a poker. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he died behind bars following a bout of pneumonia. Tragically, it was not until two years later that Dr Arthur Calgary came forward with the testimony that could have acquitted Jacko. Worse the doctor’s revelations were about to re-open old wounds in the family, increasing the likelihood that the real murderer would strike again.

My view:

Ordeal by Innocence is thus a stand-alone novel, first published in 1958, unlike the TV adaptation that had Miss Marple (in the form of Geraldine McEwan), solving the mystery.

Dr Calgary was surprised by the reception he received from the family when he visited them to tell them that Jacko was innocent and why he hadn’t come forward at the time to confirm his alibi. Instead of relief he was met with wariness and suspicion as the family members realised that one of them could be the murderer. This is a cold case that they wish had never been re-opened; they had been happy to accept that Jacko, a thoroughly nasty character, was guilty. Only Philip the eldest daughter’s wheelchair-bound husband is keen to discover the murderer’s identity. So, it is up to him, Doctor Calgary, helped by the family solicitor and Superintendent Huish to carry out fresh investigations.

What I liked about Ordeal by Innocence was the way Agatha Christie delved into the family relationships and their characters. Mrs Argyle was one of those mothers who was always right and thought she knew best and at times all her children had rebelled or wanted to rebel against her authority, so all were suspects, along with her long-suffering husband, who since her death was planning to marry his secretary.

The novel is as much about protecting the innocent as punishing the guilty, and the fact that stating your innocence is not proof of it. Calgary has to find the murderer so that the innocent will not suffer from the taint of guilt. Without knowing who was guilty they would have all come under suspicion, destroying their love and trust.

I swung from believing first one, then another character, was the guilty person and was quite taken in by all the red herrings Agatha Christie threw into the book. All is made clear in the last chapter when Dr Calgary presents his findings and reveals the killer. Although I don’t think it is one of Agatha Christie’s best books, I still enjoyed its complexity and admired her skill in plotting this novel.