One day I will run out of Poirot novels to review but today is not that day! Because I’ve reviewed a thousand of them at this point, I will make this quick and sharp.
It’s a psychological drama and a behavioural study in people, rather than an evidence-based story. Poirot is asked by Carla to investigate her mother’s murder trial sixteen years ago to determine who was truly responsible for her father’s murder. But because it was sixteen years ago, Poirot can’t possibly rely on uncovering physical evidence himself so he interviews all the suspects to determine who was the real culprit.
Only Christie can write like this, only Christie can make ten recounts of the same murder sound exciting and fresh each time. Poirot basically tracks down each suspect and makes them recount their experience to him and to write it down in a letter. Yet upon each review of the same scenario, Christie is able to produce new evidence from a new angle. And we have Poirot, who is at the top of his game. The full force of his intellect is on show and as is his uncanny ability to draw out information from even the most unwilling suspects.
It’s still typical Christie. The crime is contained to a few possible suspects who all have a plausible motive and the criminal is someone who, once banished, will restore order to the situation. It is set in a secluded English countryside and at no point does Christie try to pretend to us that the Butler did it.
And I still love it when the fourth wall is being leant on, I’m such a sucker for those kinds of tropes. I did internally giggle when Carla voices her opinions on who she thinks the killer could be, based on clichéd crime fiction stereotypes so we know that A) Christie is self-aware of the expectations, and B) we know that something totally different is coming.
One of my favourite things about reading books from a different era is realizing that no matter how things change, they will always stay the same. It just reassures me that no matter how people feel that society is changing and how morals are going down the drain (a common complaint from older generations), humans remain the same. To hear people lament the decline of marriage values and how everyone seems to have such an easy access to divorce gives me déjà vu.
And I’ve said this time and time again, but Christie must really enjoy people watching. Her pin-point accurate descriptions of people must mean she regularly examines the heart and souls of people surrounding her. She captures the features that make people interesting and expresses them candidly in her characters.
I read this years ago when I was in high school, back when I was still borrowing books from libraries but I occasionally think about this story from time to time so I’m glad to have come across this in a second hand sale. Of all the Poirot novels I have read so far, this is my favourite and it should have the same reputation as ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’.