Notes On The Mysterious Mr. Quin

Rating: four out of five

Year of Publication: 1930

Motive for Murder: Jealousy and Wealth

Plot: Harley Quin is a catalyst of truth concerning a crime. From a man who shot himself ten years ago to a Russian woman mysteriously drowned in a pond, his presence reveals various facts hidden in people’s gestures and remembrances.

Mr. Satterthewaite, the patron of Art, understands him. As a matter of fact, his meeting the other on an unusual occasion is perceived as a sign of help for lovers  and the dead. As he deals with each case, every time a facet of Mr. Quin emerges. Beyond his appearance and his coming and going mysteriously, Mr. Quin’s love for his ‘Columbine’ is the most important thing learnt.

The moment he appears, life’s dull moment to Mr. Satterthwaite vanishes.

 

Highlights:

In the book, Mr. Quin is invisible to everyone but Mr. Satterthwaite; he knows when Mr. Quin is around – or will be. This is not to say that Mr. Quin is an imaginary friend; in most cases people are bewildered that he appears as if it is a result of a magic trick.

Figurines from Harlequinade

Christie’s foreword about the tale of Harlequinade explains readers about her creating a Mr. Quin character. On the one hand, it is her fascination to the myth as a girl; Mr. Quin,the zanni in commedia dell’arte that stands in the mantelpiece of Clarissa Miller’s along with the others (see the illustration on the right). I wonder why Harlequin among the figures; was being the invisible considered attractive to Christie?   

Twelve short stories based on Harlequinade with varied crimes as the main course is a depart from the previous books published. At that time the authoress has moved on from writing ghost stories to crime. Yet, it does not mean those two genres are independent from one another as seen in some of the stories with a brush of superstition and an air of mystery in them, ie. The Shadow On The Glass, The Voice In The Dark and The Sign In The Sky. Moreover, she splashes romance into the mixture to toe the line with Harlequin by highlighting the relationship problems.

In terms of the setting, Christie’s fondness of travelling, theatre/play and mingling with people brings Mr. Satterthwaite to meet Mr. Quin in different countries in which Mr. Satterthwaite’s shrewd observation and quiet wits are the main factors in solving a case.

What would become Harley Quin in the end? Would he find the answer he had been looking for?

I have found it is most interesting how Christie shapes Mr. Quin’s identity in the plot. He helps lovers in trouble but he is also the advocate of the dead. These contradicting traits in a major character are common in Christie’s work; yet personally they are confusing. Particularly with the final story Harlequin’s Lane, in which Anna Kharsanova’s death is a bewildering: did she drown herself or somebody pushed her head in the water?  Most importantly, did Mr. Quin do it?

Commedia dell’Arte characters

The most mysterious story to the best of my knowledge is The Man From The Sea. Here is Mr. Quin admits the loss of love as a result of pomposity and too proud to oneself. As far as I am concerned, from what he tells Mr. Satterthwaite, he is dead to the woman he used to love. Having understood that another man has replaced him, Mr. Quin decides to prevent the other man to take his own life –out of desperation, for he thought the woman had died. Perhaps an act of repentance on the part of Mr. Quin after many years. Or did he just know about the other man?

There is more than meets the eye in the book. Each story is equally intriguing and personal. It seems to me Christie has given herself away a lot, revealing a little from the depth of her mind her remembrances about hurtful events in her life. Perhaps it is her desire to move on and a favourite tale of hers has become a medium to send the message to the world.

Concerning love she discusses in the stories the lurking danger of being infatuated and blinded by ‘a cast spelt over one’ and jealousy. Also, she draws a line between wealth and love and vice versa. If anything, Anna Kharsanova’s words lingers in my head. ‘For ten years I have lived with the man I love. Now I am going to the man who for ten years have loved me.’

Mr. Quin’s presence does not necessarily mean a murder happened. In The Face Of Helen, he gives hints to Mr. Satterthwaite in preventing a killing. It is my most favourite story; not because Christie’s criticism about the sheer beauty of a woman’s that ruins another but the almost perfect plot of the  murderer using precise timing and gas. Clever.

To conclude, I highly recommend the book for life in retrospect. For writers, the stories are the unpolished germs, which provide possibilities to be a respective novel in its own right. Learn from a woman who pulls it off very well.

The Twists: (one for each case in the order of appearance)

  1. Derek Capel sees a constable from the window of his room and believes that he has come to take him as the main suspect in the Appleton case
  2. Richard Scott is still in love with Iris Saverton
  3. The art objects at Ashley Grange are stolen from France
  4. Sir George Barnaby winds up the clocks in his house every Friday
  5. M. Pierre Vaucher is Countess Czarnoza’s ex-husband
  6. Anthony Cosden thought the English woman as Spaniard
  7. Beatrice Barron is not dead when the shipliner “Uralia” sank off the coast of New Zealand forty years ago
  8. Philip Eastney sends a four-falve wireless set as a wedding present for Gillian West and Charles Burns
  9. Alix Charnley thought that her late husband was having an affair with a maid before shooting himself
  10.  Roger Graham is about to break up her affair with Mabelle Annesley on the night she dies
  11. Naomi Smith is Alec Gerard’s fiancée, of whom Rosina Nunn has accused of having stolen her opal
  12.  Anna Derman is thought dead in Bolshevik Revolution by Sergius Ivanovitch

 

Cast of Characters: (featuring Mr. Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite)

  1. The Coming of Mr. Quin:

    Columbine and Harlequin dance in the last story of the book – Harlequin’s Lane. Anna Derman (nee Kharsanova) as Columbine and Mr. Quin as Harlequin.

The New Year Party guests at Royston:

-Lady Laura Keene

-the Portals (Alex Portal and his Australian wife, Eleanor)

-Sir Richard Conway

-Tom Evesham (Derek Capel’s old friend, who was in the house when Capel committed suicide)

 

2. The Shadow On The Glass:

The guests at the Unkertons’ party:

–         Lady Cynthia Drage

–         Mrs. Iris Staverton

–         Captain Jimmy Allenson (Moira’s lover)

–         Major John Porter

–         Moira Scott (Richard’s young wife, whom he met in Egypt)

–         Richard Scott (Iris’s ex-lover)

–         Mr. And Mrs. Unkerton (the party host)

–         Inspector Winkfield

 

3.At The ‘Bells and Motley’:

–         The garage man (to whom Masters brought in the car with a flat tyre)

–         Mary Jones (William’s daughter)

–         Masters (Mr. Satterthwaite’s driver)

–         William Jones (Mary’s father, the proprietor of ‘Bells and Motley’ Inn)

 

4. The Sign In The Sky

-Mr. Denman

– Louisa Bullard ( a maid at the Barnabys)

– Sylvia Dale (the defendant’s girlfriend)

 

5. The Soul of The Cropier

–   Countess Czarnova (from the pearl of Bosnia, unknown origin)

–   Elizabeth Martin (American, Franklin’s friend)

–   Franklin Rudge (American, Elizabeth’s friend)

–   M. Pierre Vaucher (a croupier at a Monte Carlo casino)

 

6. The Man From The Sea

-Anthony Cosden (of whom Mr. Satterthwaite meets in the garden of La Paz)

-The English woman

 

7. The Voice In The Dark

-Alice Clayton (a long-standing maid in the family)

-Lady Barbara Stranleigh (nee Barron, the younger sister of Beatrice)

-Margery Gale (Lady Barbara’s daughter)

-Marcia Keane (the Lady maid)

-Roley Vavasour (Margery’s cousin)

 

8. The Face of Helen

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) – English dramatist, poet and translator in the Elizabethan era. ‘The Face of Helen’: Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships, And burnt the topless towers of Ilium? Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies! Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again. Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips, And all is dross that is not Helena. I will be Paris, and for love of thee, Instead of Troy, shall Wittenberg be sack’d; And I will combat with weak Menelaus, And wear thy colours on my plumed crest; Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel, And then return to Helen for a kiss. O, thou art fairer than the evening air Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars; Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter When he appear’d to hapless Semele; More lovely than the monarch of the sky In wanton Arethusa’s azur’d arms; And none but thou shalt be my paramour!

– Charles Burns (Gillian’s fiancé)

-Gillian West (an amateur singer)

-Philip Eastney (Gillian’s old friend, who helps her in her singing career)

 

9. The Dead Harlequin:

– Alix Charnley (the wife of the late Lord Charnley)

– Apasia Glen (an actress, an ex-maid of the Charnleys; alias Monica Ford)

–         Mr. Cobb (a dignitary at a gallery where Mr Satterthwaite buys a picture of “The Dead Harlequin”)

–         Frank Bristow (the artist, of whom he made the picture at the Terrace Room in the Charnleys’ residence)

–         Colonel Monkton (Mr. Satterthwaite and Lord Charnley’s friend, who was at the house when the other shot himself)

 

10. The Bird With The Broken Wing

The party at Laidell:

–         David Keeley(the host, Madge’s father, a brilliant mathematician)

–         Gerald Annesley (Mabelle’s husband)

–         Mabelle Annesley (Gerald’s wife, of whom Madge’s man falls in love with)

–         Madge Keeley (David’s daughter, who invites Mr. Satterthwaite to Laidell)

–         Mrs. Graham (Madge’s fiance’s mother)

–         Roger Graham (Madge’s Mr. Right)

 

11. The World’s End:

– The Duchess (Mr. Satterthwaite’s travel companion to Corsica)

-Helen Judd (Rosina’s husband)

-Naomi Carlton Smith (an artist, the Duchess’s relative)

-Rosina Nunn (an actress)

-Mr. Tomlinson

-Mr. Vyse (a producer)

 

12.Harlequin’s Lane:

-Anna Denman (a.k.a Anna Kharsanova, Russian, a legend ballerina)

-Claude Wickam (a music composer)

– John Denman (the host)

– Molly Stanwell (John’s lover)

-Sergius Ivanovitch (Kharsanova’s ex-lover)

 

The Most Fascinating Character: Mr. Quin

Readers, I suppose it is obvious from the title.

 

Clues:

  1. The Coming of Mr. Quin: Sir Richard Conway to Mr. Quin, Evesham, Mr. Satterthwaite and Alex Portal:

 

‘Astounding – that’s what it was (the death of Derek Capel). Here’s a man in the prime of life, gay, light-hearted, without a care in the world. Five or six old pals staying with him. Top of his spirits at dinner, full of plans for the future. And from the dinner table he goes straight upstairs to his room, takes a revolver from a drawer and shoots himself. Why?  A Nobody ever knew. Nobody ever will know.’

 

2. The Shadow On The Glass: Mr. Satterthwaite to everyone attending the party:

 

‘I believe the original story centres around a Cavalier ancestor of the Elliott family. His wife had a Roundhead lover. The husband was killed by the lover in an upstairs room, and the guilty pair fled. But as they fled, they looked back at the house and saw the face of the dead husband at the window, watching them. That is the legend, but the ghost story is only concerned with a pane of glass in the window of that particular room on which is an irregular stain, almost imperceptible from near at hand, but which from far away certainly gives the effect of a man’s face looking out.’

 

3. At The ‘Bells and Motley’ : Mr. Satterthwaite to Mr. Quin:

 

‘It was just over a year ago that Ashley Grange passed into the possession of Miss Eleanor De Grange. It is a beautiful old house, but it had been neglected and allowed to remain empty over the years. It could not have found a better chatelaine. Miss Le Coteau was a French Canadian, her forebears were émigrés from the French Revolution, and had handed down to her a collection of almost priceless French relics and antiques. She was a buyer and a collector also, with avery fine and discriminating taste. So much so, that when she decided to sell Ashley Grange and everything it contained after the tragedy, Mr. Cyrus G. Bradburn, the American millionaire, made no bones about paying the fancy price of sixty thousand pounds for the Grange as it stood.’

 

4. The Sign In The Sky: Louisa Bullard to Mr. Satterthwaite:

‘I was in my room, sir, changing my dress, and I happened to glance out of the window. There was a train going along, and the white smoke of it rose up in the air, and if you’ll believe me it formed itself into the sign of a gigantic hand……”That’s a sign of something coming” – and sure enough at that very minute I heard the shot….’

 

5. The Soul of the Cropier: M. Pierre Vaucher to an audience of a supper party:

[telling the story of his life until he decides to become a cropier]

‘…..His lungs had been affected by gas [during the Great War], they said he must find work in the South. Suffice it to say he ended up as a cropier,and there – there in the Casino one evening, he saw her again- the woman who had ruined his life. She did not recognize him but he recognized her. She appeared to be rich and to lack for nothing –but messieurs, the eyes of a cropier are sharp. There came an evening when she placed the last stake in the world on the table. Ask me not how I know- I know- one feels these things…’

 

6. The Man From The Sea: the English woman to Mr. Satterthwaite:

[the first part of the story of her life]

‘If you are here long, somebody will tell you of the English swimmer who was drowned at the foot of this cliff. They will tell you how young ang strong he was, how handsome, and they will tell you that his young wife looked down from the top of the cliff and saw him drowning.’

‘That man was my husband. This was his villa. He brought me out here with him when I was eighteen, and a year later he died – driven by the surf of the black rocks, cut and bruised and mutilated, battered to death.’

 

7. The Voice In The Dark: Clayton to Mr. Satterthwaite:

‘I have never heard anything of the house being haunted. To tell you the truth, Sir, I thought it was all Miss Margery’s imagination until last night. But I actually felt something – brushing by me in the darkness. And I can tell you this, sir, it was not anything human. And then there is that wound in Miss Margery’s neck…’

 

8. The Face of Helen: Gillian West to Mr. Satterthwaite:

‘I dreaded telling Phil about Charles. It was silly of me. I ought to have known Phil better. He was upset, of course, but no one could have been sweeter. Really sweet he was. Look what he sent me this morning – a wedding present. Isn’t it magnificent?’

 

9. The Dead Harlequin: Frank Bristow to Aspasia Glen:

‘…Something about the place – about Charnley, I mean, took hold of my imagination. The big empty room. The terrace outside, the ideas of ghosts and things, I suppose. I have just been hearing the tale of the last Lord Charnley, who shot himself.  Supposing you are dead, and your spirit lives on? It must be odd, you know. You might stand outside on the terrace looking in at the window at your own dead body, and you would see everything.’

 

10. The Bird With The Broken Wing: Roger Graham to Mr. Satterthwaite:

‘…I couldn’t have killed Mabelle. I-I loved her. Or didn’t I? I don’t know. It’s a tangle that I can explain. I’m fond of Madge – I always have been. And she’s such a good sort. We suit each other. But Mabelle was different. It was – I can’t explain it- a sort of enchantment. I was, I think- afraid of her.’

 

11. The World’s End: Rosina Nunn’s to an audience at a camp in The World’s End:

 

‘….The opal had was lying on the dressing-table. He’d been out in Australia and he knew something about opals. He took it over to the light to look at it. I suppose he must have slipped it into his pocket then. I missed it as soon as he’d gone….’

‘They found the empty cases in his rooms. He’d been terribly hard-up, but the very next day he was able to pay large sums into his bank. He pretended to account for it by saying that a friend of his had put some money on a horse for him, but he couldn’t produce the friend. He said he must have put the case in his pocket by mistake….’

 

12. Harlequin’s Lane: Mr. Satterthwaite to Mr. Quin:

[about Anna Derman and Sergius Ivanovitch]

 

‘The same old drama. I am right, am I not? Those two belong together. They are of the same world, think the same thoughts, dream the same dreams…One sees how it has come about. Ten years ago Denman must have been very good-looking, young, dashing, a figure of romance. And he saved her life. All quite natural. But now – what is he, after all? A good fellow- prosperous, successful- but well- mediocre, Good Honest English Stuff, very much like Hepplewhite furniture upstairs. As English – and as ordinary- as that pretty English girl with her fresh untrained voice…’

Notes On After The Funeral

Rating: three out of five

Year of Publication: 1953

Motive for Murder: Wealth

The Guitar Player by Jan Vermeer (c.1632). In the book, Cora Lansquenet finds a Vermeer by chance in a market and has no idea of its value.

Plot: Richard Abernethie’s death benefits members of the family; two live siblings, an ex-sister-in-law, a nephew and two nieces owing to the family’s vast fortune. His death sounds natural until Cora Lansquenet, the youngest sister, says after the funeral, ‘But he was murdered, wasn’t he.’ Nobody takes her words seriously.

The next day Cora is brutally murdered in her cottage. That triggers a wave of shock that makes Mr. Entwhistle, the family lawyer and the deceased’s old friend, reconsiders her remark previously. He then decides to involve Hercule Poirot in the matter.

Meanwhile, Cora’s niece, Susan Banks, to whom she has left most of her things, including a number of her paintings, comes to her late aunt’ cottage. There she meets Cora’s companion, Miss Gilchrist.  Also, Mr. Guthrie, an art critic, of whom Cora invited to come over to give his appraisal concerning a coastal painting she had bought a few weeks prior to her death.

Posing as a prospective buyer on behalf of foreign refugees, Poirot sees the family’s home which has been put up for sale. He meets the beneficiaries of Richard’s will and Miss Gilchrist, who has been then employed to help look after Richard’s invalid brother, Timothy.  Yet somebody knows Poirot’s pretext.  ‘Because you’re a detective, aren’t you? That’s why you’re here. NARCO, or whatever you call it, is just nonsense, isn’t it?

When Helen Abernethie, the widow of Richard’s other brother, is found unconscious the day after, it’s time for another family gathering. Only this time, it is to unmask the face of a murderer.

Geraldine James stars as Helen Abernethie and David Suchett as Hercule Poirot in 2006’s adaptation into a television series

Highlights:

Who is Richard Abernethie? The similar question goes to Aristide Leonides (Crooked House, 1949) and Luther Crackenthorpe(4.50 From Paddington, 1957). These three men are already dead in the book; their being mentioned respectively by other characters owing to their magnanimity towards others. More importantly, as the head of the family, recollections emanating from a handful of people who have known the men well are inevitable. Personally, it is most fascinating how these men are similar in many ways; holding the family together in their ‘dictatorial’ attitude. What is more, I wonder as to why Christie’s particular interest in the recurring family theme in her fifties’ books?

As a rule, family’s affairs are complicated; oftentimes it deals with delicate matters and is quite unusual if everybody is happy with a decision. As for Christie’s, there seems to be not much sensation about hers. Her marriage to Max Mallowan was a happy one and at the time of the publication she was a grandmother of a ten-year-old boy. Was she curious about how the others lived?

In the book, fom the first chapter a dash of tensions and old feuds emerge in the Abernethies; a family bound only by blood but hardly interpersonal relations among them. The younger generation do not know the older ones and vice versa. Old Lanscombe, the lifelong butler and Mr. Entwhistle are outsiders who actually know much more. In the case of Cora Lansquenet, her eldest brother did not approve her having married to a French artist, of whom had been perceived unsuitable. As a result, Cora’s relationship with Richard and the rest of the family are severed, for she believed in her family being unfair to her. To her surprise Richard went to see her three weeks prior to his death and they buried the hatchet between them. Unbeknown to her he was dying and subsequently left her an income in his will.

When she dies, it is evident from Richard’s will that her money will automatically be shared by the remaining members of the family; two nieces and their husbands, a bachelor nephew, a brother and two sister-in-laws. Consequently they are all suspects – but what are the motives?

Just little diversion from the discussion. I recall a friend of mine some time ago talking about the surprise caused by a sudden departure of a friend of ours with her only daughter. She had left her husband behind to attend her elderly parents  thousand miles away from England. What was curious was the fact that she did not say goodbye to us but only to a few moments before boarding the aeroplane. Gossips circled and theories arose, not to mention different scenarios as to her ‘motive.’ Nonetheless, my friend said, ’Is it possible that actually nothing happens between them [husband and wife]?’I raised my eyebrows. ‘So you think she just went and thought that it was none of our business?’ ‘Indeed.’

I mention that because the plot seems to follow up Cora’s remark, as the family gather to hear Entwhistle reading the Will. For there are two options: the truth in her words or just the careless saying given to her somewhat childish personae. Then Ernstwhistle involving Poirot while conversations to weigh the options between minor characters appear to lead things to the ‘truth’ spoken as regard to Richard’s death. Was she killed because of her remark? Or something else?

Here readers must choose: to follow the plot or to think otherwise; that Cora is a incorrigible liar. Which one to believe? What is more is the question of what someone wants to believe having considered the turns of the events.

Checking a suspect’s alibi is the next step and I must say Christie does it cleverly. For it is apparent that some tell lies, one tries to cover their track with no avail while the murderer himself –the pronoun is not suggestive- remains in the background. Just as finding the killer of Aristide Leonides, the focus is in the Abernethies themselves (and those who are related by marriage).

Meanwhile, Entwhistle’s and old Lanscombe’s reminiscenses provide a lot of important clues that can be easily dismissed as red herrings. To my mind the lawyer is the equivalent of Captain Hastings in later days to Poirot and Mr. Sattherthwaite (appears in The Mysterious Mr. Quin and Three-Act Tragedy) to Harley Quin.

Richard’s death has become personal to Entwhistle and his concern to the possibility of a foul play is genuine. His weakness might be his absolute trust to  police’s judgement. Like Hastings, the seventy-two-year-old lawyer seems to speak out loud ‘something obvious’ that he wouldn’t realise it himself. As for his state of mind, there seems to be some hesitation in him about his viewpoint as an elderly man.Was he right to question Richard’s doctor’s judgment, Dr. Larraby, about the cause of death of his old friend?

In the end, it is Susan Banks’s remark about Poirot’s identity that sets the wheel in motion.  Unbeknown to her, her words triggers the next action of the murderer in the same way as Cora’s . An attempt to take the life of Helen Abernethie’s is unsuccessful. Yet, Poirot’s capturing the murderer depends on a piece of evidence that has to be found by Entwhistle without further ado. In this regard the sleuth plays his ‘cat and mouse’ game (which recurs in The Under Dog story in The Adventure of The Christmas Pudding, 1960) as he needs to buy time. The delaying technique  is then deployed; he invites the suspects to come forward, either with a confession or information.

Finally, as I finished the book, it left me with a lingering feeling on Christie’s quest about the nature of a family. The Abernethies are unique, just as the Leonides’ and the Crackenthorpes’. Perhaps it is not so much about them as such, but the dynamics and the distinctive personalities that exist. Perhaps it is not about people with the same surnames or related by marriage, but also the outsiders whose lives are entwined with a family. Perhaps – to ponder over the murderer’s point of views?

The Twists:

-Helen Abernethie feels a strange thing concerning the atmosphere on the day of the funeral, when the family gather in the library to hear about the Will. Later, only when she sees her reflection in the mirror does she remember something: Cora’s bird-like tilting of the head saying, ‘ But, he was murdered, wasn’t he?’ in the library.

-Mr Entwhistle and old Lanscombe cannot recall Cora Lansquenet’s appearance when they meet her again over twenty years later at the funeral.

-Mr. Entwhistle smells paint when visiting Cora’s cottage after her murder

-Helen is coshed in the head while telephoning Mr. Entwhistle to tell him what she ‘saw’ in the mirror

-Hercule Poirot asks Mr. Entwhistle to get an item from Timothy Abernethie’s home

-Poirot receives a confirmation from Mr. Guthrie in a telegraph about a painting the detective has asked to be examined

 

Cast of Characters:

The Abernethies: (alive)

Cora Lansquenet– the youngest sister of Richard

George Crossfield – Richard’s nephew, a bachelor

Gregory Banks – Susan’s husband, a pharmacist

Helen – Richard’s late brother’s Leo’s wife

Maude – Timothy’s wife

Michael  – Rosamund’s husband, an actor

Rosamund       -Richard’s niece

Susan Banks – Richard’s niece

Timothy – Richard’s only surviving brother

Others:

Mr. Entwhistle – Richard’s lawyer

Miss Gilchrist – Cora’s companion

Mr. Guthrie – an art critic, Cora’s late husband’s acquaintance

Hercule Poirot

Lanscombe – the lifelong butler

Dr. Larraby – Richard Abernethie’s doctor

Inspector Morton (of Lychett St. Mary police)

The Most Fascinating Character: George Crossfield

The only nephew of Richard Abernethie’s, Crossfield’s mother, Laura, has died a long time ago. Her marriage to a stock brocker was not a joyful cause for her eldest brother and she distanced herself from him as a result.

Six months before Richard died he invited Crossfield to stay at Enderby Hall in order to get to know him better as a possible heir, given that his own son Mortimer died from infantile paralysis and his younger brother Timothy was a hypochondriac about his health. Unfortunately, Crossfield’s personality did not satisfy his sick uncle and therefore there was no heir appointed in the end.

What seems to be a great concern to Richard is Crossfield’s unfortunate knack of investing money in the wrong place. He admits it to his cousins and how the inheritance money relieves him from the debt he could not have possibly repaid. Furthermore, there is a hint of Crossfield’s choice of sexuality that is not agreeable as an heir. Subtly expressed as it should have been, it is fascinating to realise that such a thing was a reality – until it did not become no longer illegal in 1967. There is neither a remark from Crossfield to notice nor phrases from other minor characters as far as the matter is concerned nevertheless. Yet throughout the book all add up.

Crossfield reminds me of Roger Leonides, Aristide’s eldest son. He brings his father’s company into administration by way of wrong investment and tells him everything. On the brink of the bankruptcy, the only way is for Aristide to step in – something that Aristide then refused. Likewise, Crossfield will be saved by his uncle’s money and he might have understood about the nature of Richard’s illness. What makes another month different?

Be that as it may, does he have a killer temperament in him?

Clues:

Mr. Enwhistle to Hercule Poirot:

‘I might have passed her (Cora Lansquenet) without recognising her. he was a thin slip of girl when I saw her last and she had turned into a stout, shabby, middle-aged woman. But I think that the moment I spoke to her face to face (after the funeral) I should have recognised her. She wore her hair in the same way, a bang cut straight across the forehead and she had a trick of peering up at you through her fringe like a rather shy animal, and she had a very characteristic, abrupt way of talking, and a way of putting her head on one side and then coming out with something quite outrageous. She had character, you see, and character is always highly individual.’

George Crossfield (to Rosamund Shane with the presence of other members of family, Miss Gilchrist and Hercule Poirot at Enderby Hall for furniture distribution):

‘Because, don’t you see, nobody ever sees themselves –as they appear to other people. They always see themselves in a glass – that is – as a reversed image.’

Miss Gilchrist (to Mr. Ernstwhistle):

‘Mrs Lansquenet used to buy them [paintings] at sales. It was a great interest to her, poor dear. She went to all the sales round about. Pictures go so cheap, nowadays, a mere song. She never paid more than a pound for any of them, sometimes only a few shillings, and there was a wonderful chance, she always said, of picking up something worth while. She used to say that this was an Italian Primitive that might be worth a lot of money.’

‘Of course, I don’t know much myself, though my father was a painter – not a very successful one, I’m afraid. But I used to do water- colours myself as a girl and I heard a lot of talk about painting and that made it nice for Mrs Lansquenet to have someone she could talk to about painting and who’d understand. Poor dear soul, she cared so much about artistic things.’

Inspector Morton (to Mr. Ernswhistle):

“Yes, several possibilities… Of course this Gilchrist woman may have done it. Two women living alone together – you never know what quarrels or resentments or passions may have been aroused. Oh yes, we’re taking that possibility into consideration as well. But it doesn’t seem very likely. From all accounts they were on quite amicable terms.”

Notes On The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Rating: 4.5 out of five

Year of Publication: 1926

Motive for Murder: Identity

 

 

 

Poirot the mongoose versus the murderer the cobra. A mongoose has resistance to a snake venom. When a mongoose and a cobra fight, most often, the mongoose’s speed and its thick fur protect it from the snake.

Plot:

Roger Ackroyd is murdered. The wealthy man in King’s Abbot has been stabbed with a dagger at the back of his neck.  The suspects: a stepson, niece and sister-in-law, of whom are the beneficiaries of his will.

He was a widower, but everyone knows of his relationship with a widow, Mrs. Ferrars. They also understand of their planning to marry as soon as her mourning period is over. Yet she had committed suicide. Before taking an overdose of sleeping tablets she wrote him a letter in which she was telling him about a person who had blackmailed her for quite some time. She could not face any longer and decided to take her own life.

Hercule Poirot’s retirement in the village has come to an end. The seemingly tranquil surroundings are merely an illusion, for he realises that a cold-blooded murderer who is at large has killed both the widow and Mr. Ackroyd. Nonetheless, what made him being stabbed from the back?

 

Highlights:

I read the book many years ago. I did not grasp the subtlety the authoress had shown in giving clues inside clues between the lines. I could neither relate the significance of the mongoose family quote in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book  nor George Eliot’s biographical novel The Mill On The Floss at that time. As I reread it, I remember some details and that was all there was to it.

 

“The motto of all the mongoose family is, “Run and find out,” and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose.”

Rudyard Kipling, Rikki-Tivvi-Taki

 

 

Caroline and James Sheppard might mirror Mary Ann Evans’s relationship with her brother Isaac. The following is the exchange of words between Caroline and James in the book. CS: ‘I told Mr. Ackroyd that Ralph was staying at the Three Boars.’ JS: ‘Caroline, I said, ‘do you never reflect that you might do a lot of harm with this habit of yours of repeating indiscriminately?’ CS: ‘Nonsense. People ought to know things. I consider it my duty to tell them. Mr. Ackroyd was very grateful to me.’ JS: ‘Well,’ I said, for there was clearly more to come.

 

The narrator, Dr. James Sheppard, tells his side of the story being Poirot’s aide during the investigation. And therefore most of readers’ understanding heavily relies on the doctor’s subjectivity, as what the first-person account is all about. Bearing in mind that he is not Captain Hastings, he is not Dr. Watson either. In other words, he is a suspect, just like the diarist Sir Eustace Pedler in Christie’s previous novel The Man In The Brown Suit (1924).

 

To begin with, both aforementioned men are of respectable nature; one is a doctor and the other a nobility. Also, they are middle-aged bachelors. Unlike Sir Eustace, Dr. Sheppard  tends to be self-deprecating and simple in taste nonetheless. Besides, he does not seem like someone who likes travelling.

 

Furthermore, he lives with his spinster sister, Caroline, of whom is the chief gossip in the village. Her tongue is as sharp as her mind and nothing would escape from her watchful eyes. When her brother comes home trying to conceal the death of one of his patients, the ‘mongoose’ sniffs something amiss. With a little effort and a little bullying on her part she gets what news he was trying to hold back.

 

Roger Ackroyd’s body is found by the doctor himself, an hour and a half after leaving his home at nine pm. He rushes back to the other’s home having received a phone call from Parker the butler whom had urged the doctor’s assistance in a matter.

 

This is where the plot gets interesting. For Parker does not ring up the doctor whilst Dr. Sheppard repeats the message word by word. ‘Is that Dr. Sheppard? Parker, the butler at Fernly, speaking. Will you please come at once, sir. Mr. Ackroyd has been murdered.’ Who is one to believe?

 

On the home front, it is the situation the doctor hardly gets away from.  Caroline’s curiosity develops due to the night call her brother has to answer to a particular home. Naturally, her instinct tells that it is peculiar that two days beforehand he came for an early call to Mrs. Ferrars’s home. Before he comes back she already knows what happens to the widow.

 

This brother and sister’s relationship is worth noticing, for it sheds some light about two distinctive personalities in the book. Eight years his senior, she rules the roost and dismisses him as having a lack of imagination of things.  ‘….You’ll see. Ten to one she [Mrs. Ferrar]’s left a letter confessing everything,’ she says.

 

Caroline’s minute interest to the other woman’s suicide and Ackroyd’s murder are described at length. There is an element of love-hate in it, given her aggresiveness and confrontational attitude towards her brother. Although both are close and very fond to one another, the doctor feels like wringing her neck at some point.

 

Nonetheless, without Caroline nearby James appears to be a man of confidence. His thoughts flow freely as he discusses the case with Poirot as he seems to be at ease with himself.

 

I wonder whether their relationship is similar to Tom and Maggie Tulliver in Eliot’s aforementioned book. For Maggie’s life resembles Mary Evans, Eliot’s real name and Tom’s is very much similar to Isaac, the estranged brother. They  fall out after the revelation of Eliot’s affair with a married man .

 

Be that as it may, James is a mysterious man. Poirot once remarks of the other being on his guard most of the time. He says: ‘Not so did Hastings write. On every page many, many times was the word ‘I’. What he thought – what he did. But you – you have kept your personality in the background; only once or twice does it obtrude – in scenes of home life, shall we say?’ He responds with silence; neither the words are contradicted nor agreed.

 

Moreover, he freely admits to have withheld information from the sleuth. The nature of it is for the Belgian to find out as if it is a game. All the same, the doctor is an equal whose carefulness and method deserve a bow.

 

The ending of the story is unexpected but brilliant. The curtain has fallen on the part of the murderer . In a casual meeting Poirot presents the facts and the circumstances which have led him to the solution. Despite being spoken matter-of-factly, his words made me shiver. ‘…I am willing to give you the chance of another way out. There might be, for instance, an overdose of sleeping draught. You comprehend?…’ He adds: ‘the truth goes to Inspector Raglan the next morning.’  Does he have a right to take matters into his own hands?

 

In the end, I wonder whether the identity of Mr. Ackroyd’s murderer will be revealed.  For the perpetrator will not be brought to justice. It is for the sake of a person whom matters most to the murderer such step is taken.  This scenario does not suit me nevertheless.

 

Hence the ending that matches the fate of Tom and Maggie Tullliver, of Mary Evans (Eliot’s real name) and her brother Isaac.

 

Will I recommend the book? Certainly. A praise is in order for the category of the ‘best’ narrator with Sir Eustace Pedler for silver in the second place and Hastings in the third.

 

Above all, this is Christie’s at her best; the book that is coincidentally published in the year that becomes a turning point in her personal life.

 

 

 

The Twists:

 

-Caroline Sheppard hears Ralph Paton talk to a woman in the wood hours before his stepfather is murdered

 

-Dr. Sheppard leaves Fernly Park at ten to nine pm and meets a stranger who heads for the house as the clock strikes nine

 

-Flora Ackroyd does not come into the study at half-past nine but stands in front of it holding the door handle

 

-Roger Ackroyd buys a dictatone from the salesman a few days before he dies

 

-Parker the butler tells Poirot that the chair in front of the grandfather clock in the study has been pulled out when he comes back into the room after ringing up the police

 

-Ralph Paton is secretly married to Ursula Bourne

 

 

 

Cast of Characters:

 

Mrs. Ackroyd (Roger’s sister-in-law, Flora’s mother)

 

Caroline Sheppard (Dr.James’s elder sister)

 

Colonel Carter (Dr. Sheppard’s acquaintance)

 

Christopher Kent (seen at Fernly Park by James Sheppard on the night of the murder)

 

Flora Ackroyd (Roger’s niece, lives in Fernly Park)

 

Gerrard Raymond (Roger’s secretary)

 

Miss Gannets (Caroline Sheppard’s friend)

 

Hector Blunt (Roger’s old friend who stays at Fernly Park)

 

Hercule Poirot

 

Dr. James Sheppard (the village doctor)

 

Colonel Melrose (the Chief Inspector at Cranchester)

 

Inspector Raglan (local police)

 

Ralph Paton (Roger’s stepson)

 

Roger Ackroyd (owned Fernly Park, was in relationship with Mrs. Ferrars)

 

Miss Russel (Fernly Park’s housekeeper)

 

Ursula Bourne (Fernly Park’s parlourmaid)

 

 

 

The Most Fascinating Character: Caroline Sheppard

 

Selina Cadell stars as Caroline Sheppard in 2000’s novel adaptation into Poirot series.

With her partner in crime Miss Gannets Miss Sheppard is King’s Abbot’s answer to o St. Mary Mead’s trio ‘old pussies.’ The only difference is that Dr. Sheppard’s sister is the ring leader. Seeing everything from the window of her house, she counts on her maid Annie to relay news from the networks of maids in the village.

 

She is likened to Kipling’s mongoose, of which has the motto of go and find out. ‘If Caroline ever adopts a crest, I should certainly suggest a mongoose rampant. One might omit the first part of the motto. Caroline can do any amount of finding out by sitting placidly at home. I don’t know how she manages it, but there it is,’ writers her brother James.

 

It irritates her, however, little information she can obtain regarding a little foreigner who lives next door; a man with an egg-shaped head who grows vegetable marrows. When she knows more about Hercule Poirot, the Belgian interests her a great deal. In return he sees a neighbour with ample ‘sleuthing’ skill who is too eager to help. As a result, she is more than happy to be sent on errands and gather some facts about the people.

 

Her analysis can be inaccurate on occasions although they are not entirely wrong. Sometimes she might not have realised how valuable her insights had been to her brother and Poirot. Just like her brother, she is curious and she can be very much like Miss Marple (minus the gardening, the knitting and her sweet approach to people).

 

From whom was the inspiration for this amazing woman?  In Christie’s later novels, there is a number of woman whose bear resemblances to Miss Sheppard, namely Imhotep’s mother Esa (Death Comes As The End), Mrs. Allerton (Death On The Nile) and Emily Arrundell (Dumb Witness). Although the most significant character with a touch of Miss Sheppard is the indomitable Jane Marple.

 

Perhaps the only mistake the murderer has done is not have ‘silenced’ Miss Sheppard. Readers, you know why.

 

 

 

Clues:

 

The excerpt of Mrs. Ferrars’s letter to Roger Ackroyd:

 

‘My dear, my very dear Roger – a life calls for a life. I see that – I saw it in your face this afternoon. So I am taking the only road open to me. I leave to you to the punishment of the person who has made my life a hell upon earth for the last year. I would not tell you the name, this afternoon, but I propose to write it to you now. I have no children or near relations to be spared, so do not fear publicity. If you can Roger, my very dear Roger, forgive me the wrong I meant to do you, since when the time came, I could not do it after all…’

 

Dr. James Sheppard: [in his narration on different pages]

 

-When had I last seen her [Mrs. Ferrars]? Not for over a week. Her manner then had been normal enough considering- well- considering everything.

 

-The letter had been brought in at twenty minutes to nine. It was just on ten minutes to nine when I left him, the letter still unread. I hesitated with my hand on the door handle, looking back and wondering if there was anything I had left undone. I could think of nothing. With a shake of the head I passed out and closed the door behind me.

 

-I was startled by seeing the figure of Parker close at hand. He looked embarrassed, and it occurred to me that he might have been listening at the door.

 

-As the story unfolded itself, I realized more and more damning what a damning series of facts it was. Alive, Ackroyd could hardly have failed to alter his will- I knew him well enough to realize that to do so would be his first thought. His death came in the nick of time for Ralph and Ursula Paton. Small wonder the girl had held her tongue, and played her part so consistently.

 

Roger Ackroyd

 

[to Dr. James Sheppard]: ‘But there’s another point. How am I to get hold of that scroundel who drove her to death as surely as if he’d killed her? He knew of the first crime, and he fastened on to it like some obscene vulture. She’s paid the penalty. Is he to go scot free?’

 

 

Notes On The Thirteen Problems

Rating: four out of five

Year of Publication: 1932

Motive for  Crimes: Jealousy, Fright, Identity and Wealth

Plot: Thirteen crimes told by different people in a group of six in the Tuesday Night Club at Miss Marple’ house and at the Bantrys’s near the village of St.Mary Mead. Then each offers their solution as to whodunit. Miss Marple scores most.

From the deadly supper at the Joneses to the superstitious Mrs. Pritchard; the creepy grove in Dartmoor to the drowning of a local girl, the elderly spinster beats a solicitor, an ex-commissioner of Scotland Yard and a doctor. Yet she gives up on one case. Why?

The thirteen problems (according to the book chapter):

  1. The Tuesday Night Club: Three people had a supper and one of them died.
  2. The Idol House of Astarte: A fancy dress party at a grove of trees in Dartmoor turned to be a murder scene (he was stabbed)
  3.  Ingots of Gold: The disappearance of Raymond West’s friend on a Whit Monday in Cornwall
  4. The Bloodstained Pavement:  an artist read the news about the drowning of a woman she met on holiday in a little village in Cornwall
  5. Motive vs Opportunity: A man with considerable wealth wished to leave money in his will for the American husband and wife psychic and therefore disinherited his next of kin
  6. The Thumb Mark of St. Peter: Rumour had it that Mabel Denman poisoned his husband.
  7. The Blue Geranium: Mrs. Pritchard allegedly died from fright after she received a letter saying that the Blue Geranium means Death.
  8. The Companion: the death of Amy Durrant, Mary Barton’s companion,  in Canary Islands
  9. The Four Suspects: An elderly German who sought political asylum in Britain was pushed off the stairs and killed in his home. Four people were around the house on that day: his niece Greta, Dobbs the gardener, his assistant Gertrud and his secretary Charles Templeton(police cover)
  10. A Christmas Tragedy: Miss Marple read a husband’s face who planned a plot to kill his wife for insurance money  in a Spa
  11. The Herb of Death: Foxgloves leaves, planned near to Sage, was picked and mixed with the herb in a Turkey filling for dinner. A girl dies as a result.

    Sage leaves; planted next to Foxgloves and both can be picked and mixed up.

  12. The Affair At The Bungalow: A burglary in an actress’s house revealed her scandal with a high-profile married man
  13. Death By Drowning: Emmot’s Daughter was drowned

Clues:

  1. Hundreds and thousands on a trifle at the supper
  2. One of the fancy dress participants wears a brigand chief costum
  3. A gardener does not work on a Whit Monday
  4. The tale of the landlord of Polharwith Arms killed by a Spanish captain’s sword and that the landlord’s bloodstain on the pavement cannot be washed out for a hundred years
  5. Miss Marple said, “It is a catch!And so is Mr. Petherick’s story a catch. So like a lawyer!”
  6. Geoffrey Denman was heard saying “something about fish or a heap of fish” by the cook and the housemaid before he died
  7. The appearance of Zarida, a psychic for Mrs. Pritchard who warned her client of “evil and danger in the house”
  8. Mary Barton appeared to grow fatter in a fortnight (before seeing leaving the island)
  9. The German man was seen throwing a letter with a foreign stamp he received in the morning
  10. Mrs. Sanders’s hat was on the side of her head when the police came on the murder scene whereas before it was on her head when her body was found for the first time by her husband and Miss Marple.
  11. Sir Ambrose had a heart problem and therefore has been prescribed with digitalin (Foxgloves also contains digitalin)
  12. Miss Marple: “I can’t help feeling that there was some- well, what I must describe as personal feeling about the whole thing.”
  13. Emmot’s daughter was expecting and she went out with Sandfrod, an architect

The Twists:

  1. “Hundreds and thousands” written in a letter and a trifle in the supper
  2. The tale of Astarte
  3. A crime gang scheme to bury bars of gold
  4. Blood dripping from the red dress hung over a balcony, which the artist saw as bloodstains on the pavement
  5. Evanescent ink used to write the will
  6. Geoffrey Denman’s father eyedrops containing atropine sulphate
  7. The pink primrose in the garden-theme wallpaper in Mrs. Pritchard’s room turned blue
  8. Mary Barton’s body was never found in Cornwall
  9. honesty was written with capital “H” in the letter
  10. The housemaid’s body was laid to rest in her room two doors away from the Sanders’s
  11. An old man’s jealousy towards the engagement of his ward
  12. Miss Marple failed to give the correct answer in front of everyone
  13. Jimmy Brown, a twelve-year-old boy, saw two men with a wheelbarrow on the river path amidst the mist and being in the dusk

Highlights:

Imagine Christie was smiling to herself as she tweaked some parts in the manner of a good cook who had agreed to the taste of a dish and yet adding a splash of olive oil or a sprinkle of sugar to enliven it.

Miss Marple appears for the second time after Christie introduced her in The Murder At The Vicarage (1930).She is acquainted with Sir Henry Clithering, the ex-commissioner of Scotland Yard, who is not in the least impressed at first with her referring various cases happen in her small village. Interestingly, his godson’s path crosses with the woman much later on in 4.50 From Paddington- twenty five years later to be precise. And therefore it is worth noticing the interaction between the two whereby in the end they establish mutual respect to one another.

Furthermore, there is Raymond West, Miss Marple’s nephew, who starts the Tuesday Night Club. In Thirteen Problems he is a writer who falls into a trap of a crime gang plot, whereas in 4.50 From Paddington his collection of maps helps her aunt locate a woman’s body who is seen strangled on the train by Elspeth GilliMcCuddy.

Miss Marple’s reference of having “a mind like a sink” in both novels is amusing. Indeed it gives her a voice, as well as her wearing black lace mittens and bringing her knitting bag everywhere.

Just as an experienced cook, the authoress uses some basic ingredients in a cuisine to prepare different meals. First, in one of the “problems” an unscrupulous nurse may remind readers to Sad Cypress. Second, the actress Jane Helier has a touch of Jane Wilkinson’s manner (Lord Edgware Dies), of whom most everyone –but Miss Marple- thinks her a no brainer. Thirdly, the Bloodstained Pavement case is quite similar to a clever plot the murderers have in Evil Under The Sun (1941) although the circumstances of the murders are quite  different. In the former novel the victim is murdered beforehand whereas in the latter it is the opposite. Besides, there is a “red” reference. In Evil Under The Sun is a scarlet woman Arlene Marshall whilst in The Thirteen Problems Joyce Lempriere thinks she has a hallucination when she sees drips of blood on the pavement while painting. For it turns out to be a red dress with the victim’s blood on it hung in the balcony by the murderer! Lastly, there is Mary, the housemaid at the Hydro Spa who dies from a septic finger -albeit undeliberate. Add a cat’s wound and somebody is also killed from his septic wound in Murder Is Easy.

Honesty with capital “H”; a clue in the Four Suspects Case.

My most favourite case is The Four Suspects (the ninth one) owing to the letters received by the suspects and the victim. For one of them is a death warrant concealed in a language of flowers. Not only is it a touch of genius on Christie’s part but also  makes readers realise to whom a letter will appeal to – if a certain sex is associated with their knowledge on plants.

Another letter is written with common grammatical errors made by German speakers of English. Christie’s accuracy in highlighting them is outstanding, such as the habit of adding “s” after an infinitive and wrong word orders.

An illustration for a passport photograph of an English woman. On the right  is Virginia Woolf’s, stamped by Foreign Office in 1923. Does she look like any other English woman in their early forties?

In The Companion’s case, Miss Marple hints that an English woman’s look of a certain age is so like another. ‘I don’t suppose the different photograph on her passport was ever noticed – you know what passports are…’ she said. Is it? It is fascinating then should a woman, having altered her hair style or make-up,  could travel abroad with another woman’s identity.  Lucky? Because of the doubt I have decided to lower my rating to four out of five. It does bother me because the murderer then goes scot free.

What I enjoy most is the banters among the characters and the dynamics shown in the groups are marvellous. I also appreciate the gradual change in the characters along the way. Still, there is the twist in the end. Miss Marple knows who the murderer is no sooner has a girl in the village died from drowning. Having no proof, she makes a plea to Sir Henry Clithering to bring someone to justice.  Will he believe her?

Finally, is it just me or does anyone here wonder as to why the parish priest is Dr. Pender, not Mr. Clement? Did he resign the post after ColonelProtheroe’s death at his study?

Cast of Characters:

1. The Tuesday Night Club at Miss Marple’s house:

-Sir Henry Clithering (ex-commissioner of Scotland Yard)

-Jane Marple (the host)

-Joyce Lempriere (an artist)

-Mr. Petherick (a lawyer)

-Dr. Pender (the clergyman at St. Mary Mead parish church)

-Raymond West (Miss Marple’s nephew and a writer)

2. At the Bantrys’s:

-Colonel Arthur Bantry (the host)

-Dolly Bantry (Colonel Arthur’s wife)

-Sir Henry Clithering (ex-commissioner of Scotland Yard)

-Jane Helier (an actress)

-Jane Marple

-Dr. Llyod (a doctor at St. Mary Mead)

The Most Fascinating Character: Jane Helier

She appears halfway when another group at Colonel Arthur Bantry’s home is formed a year after the previous one in Miss Marple’s house. Described as “the beautiful and popular actress”, she is somehow vague and makes unintelligent remarks to every case uttered. She does not offer her solution and admits she has not got any. Nonetheless, she is polite and hardly speaks ill to anyone. As a result, others tend to treat her kindly; an unreliable voice who is out of place.

It is not clear whether her presence is due her being a friend of the Bantrys or invited by Sir Henry Clithering. When it comes to her turn telling a most strange case, everyone knows that it is not about someone she knows but what does really happen to the actress herself.

At the end of it, when Helier stops and the five of them then gazes at Miss Marple for the answer, she surprisingly says that she has had no idea in the least. The group is dismissed and Jane Helier’s case is declared as the winner.

But before Miss Marple leaves, she approaches Helier and whispers to her: ‘I shouldn’t do it if I were you, my dear. Never put yourself too much in another woman’s power, even if you do think she’s your friend at the moment.’

Readers, do you remember what Miss Marple means? (please, do not shout your answer in the comment).

Notes On Lord Edgware Dies

Rating: 4.5 out of five

Year of Publication: 1933

Motive for Murder: Intention and Knowledge

Plot:

‘If I don’t, Madame?’ said Hercule Poirot. Lady Edgware laughed. ‘I’ll have to call a taxi to go round and bump him off myself.’

A few days later Lord Edgware is found dead in his house. Two witnesses say his estranged wife came to see him on the night of the murder. At the same time fourteen people at Sir Montagu Corner’s party are quite sure that the same woman has been with them.

Prior to her husband’s demise Lady Egware enquires the sleuth to persuade the Lord to divorce her. She has tried many times through lawyers and letters but failed. When Poirot speaks about the issue to the husband, it surprises the detective that the other has had a change of mind. What makes him being murdered apart from it?

Lady Edgware’s  alibi puzzles Inspector Japp. In the meantime, the motive for money is revealed. Coupled with strange occurences and opportunity the evidences point at the Lord’s nephew later. For he will benefit from his uncle’s death. Further discussions of the case bring about five questions, of which the answers are required before bringing somebody to justice.  More importantly, one murder won’t be enough because it is a habit. 

 

Highlights:

Christie was at her prime as an authoress, having presented her study of the mind of a murderer with clarity and sensitivity. Captain Hastings as a narrator is quintessentially English;  stiff upper lip, occasionally funny and sometimes doubts himself.

As he follows Hercule Poirot and gives details of the other’s focused mind – I object “peculiar”- as well as his unusual behaviour, readers may feel the mutual respect and understanding both develop to one another nevertheless. Oftentimes it appears to be hard for Hastings to comprehend the other’s method.  Yet Poirot seems to “soften” over the years.  Compared to their first case (The Mysterious Affair At Styles) the Belgian is no longer a refugee but an esteemed member of British society and rich. Moreover, he sounds to take things easier and even can tolerate Japp’s bad jokes about his foreign thinking. Personally, the trio is wonderful as the authoress is able to make each of them a unique voice. As a matter of fact, they actually complement each other and work for a number of cases later. I have found that in this book Japp’s remarks to Poirot’s sudden leap of thoughts are quite amusing, especially as I imagine how the other responds.

‘Poirot,’ I said, as he remained rapt in thought. ‘Hadn’t we better go on? Everyone is staring at us.’ ‘Eh?Well, perhaps you are right. Thought it does not incommode me that people should stare. It does not interfere in the least with my train of thought,’ ‘People were beginning to laugh,’ I murmured. ‘That has no importance.’

Concerning the characters,  readers might recall that Ronald Marsh, Lord Edgware’s nephew is similar to Emily Trefusis’s fiancée in The Sittaford Mystery. Both are young men,  good looking but penniless. More importantly, they are in dire need of money. When they make a plea to their respective uncles to have lent them money those are are refused.  Both men happen to make the request  a few hours before the uncles are killed. They have a strong motive and opportunity.

As for the female one, there are echoes of Gerda Christow (The Hollow) in the major character. In her letter to Poirot she expressed the fact  “everyone always say I haven’t got brains – but I think it needed real brains to think of that.” John Christow’s wife also says similar words to Poirot that she was not as stupid as everyone had thought.  Further on, I recall the same thing to Miss Amy Carnaby (The Labours of Hercules) who appears twice in the novel.  

In terms of the theme, the plot seems to resemble Murder Is Easy. There is an extreme hatred concealed, after which the revenge is planned and carried out in such a way that the evidence will pinpoint to the target. Nonetheless, the difference in Lord Edgware Dies is that one of the victims has anticipated the danger beforehand. Although in the end the murderer still attacks, perhaps it might have been comforting for some readers that the death was instant.

The Savoy Hotel where Lady Edgware held a supper.

As regard to the locations, it delights me that Christie chose London entirely as the setting. The Savoy. Euston. Regent Palace Hotel . Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Chiswick. Kensington. And Edgware: why – of all London towns?

I suppose the Underground station in Edgware has not exist yet and the town was  still considered outside London as well (no Greater London yet!).

I wonder what impression Christie had about Edgware that made her decide to use it as the book title. Once I read a blog in which the write was not impressed with its High Street. He disliked the Tudor-mock The Railway Hotel and the town’s uncharacteristic shops. Well, if I may say, in Station Road the restaurants cater different taste buds; Afghan, Chinese, Persian, Jewish, Pakistani, Turkish and Thai to name a few. It may be at the edge of London bordering with Hertfordshire but it is multi cultural and lively.

Edgware Town Centre Now and Then.

Anyhow, I have this irritating habit of jumping towards the last chapter while reading. I did scan the lines to understand the murderer’s motives.  My first reaction was a disappointment, for the methods and plans are revealed through a letter to the sleuth. Admittedly the letter is intriguing, just as what the authoress does in And Then There Were None.  I just felt at that time that readers like me either would have had lost their interest to the rest of the novel  or regretted reading the end. With this kind of mood I dragged myself towards the ending. In the second reading, however, I reflected the authoress’s rationale on the necessary of the letter and started to see the beauty in it. The letter is simply necessary as it speaks volumes of Christie’s way of giving a murderer the voice. In other way the chance to tell things in the murderer’s own words, bearing in mind that most things are told from Hastings’s point of views.

Lastly, can I say that in this book love is particularly a nasty business? It tears people apart, melts someone’s heart, drives people to the wall and triggers deaths.

On the whole, Lord Edgware Dies is a stupendous crime novel.

The Twists:

-A telephone call for Jane Wilkinson during the party at Chiswick

-A box containing a deadly dose of drugs found among Carlotta Adam’s possessions

-Ellis’s pince-nez (glasses) in Carlotta Adam’s Bag

-The missing page of Carlotta Adam’s letter to her sister in America

Cast of Characters:

Bryan Martin (an actor; Jane Wilkinson’s friend)

Carlotta Adams (an actress who impersonated Jane Wilkinson on stage)

Miss Caroll (Lord Edgware’s secretary)

Donald Ross (a young actor who was among the guests at Sir Montagu Corner’s party)

Dorothy Adams (Carlotta’s little sister, to whom she wrote the letter)

Dowager Duchess of Merton

Duke of Merton (the man Jane Wilkinson wanted to marry)

Lord Edgware (who died – George Alfred Vincent Marsh, fourth Baron Edgware)

Ellis (Jane Wilkinson’s Assistant)

Geraldine Marsh (Lord Edgware’s daughter)

Captain Hastings

Hercule Poirot

Inspector Japp (of Scotland Yard, Poirot’s contact)

Jane Wilkinson (an actress, a.k.a. Lady Edgware)

Jenny Driver (Carlotta’s best friend, owned “Genevieve” hat shop)

Sir Montagu Corner (the host of the party at his Chiswick home)

Ronald Marsh (Lord Edgware’s nephew)

The Most Fascinating Character: Ellis

She was Jane Wilkinson’s assistant. To Hasting’s mind she was a Lady’s maid. Ellis was someone who shadowed the actress’s life as she ran errands for her employer. Most of the time her presence was overlooked. When Poirot interviewed her it was known that she had been with Lady Edgware before her marriage to Lord Edgware ; five years Ellis had worked for her to be precise.

What jumped off my mind straightaway was the name. For there was Ellis the missing butler in Three-Act Tragedy. Conversely, Ellis was a woman here and worked for a successful actress seeking divorce from her husband. Do you think it was a coincidence that Lord Edgware’s butler was also missing after his death?

It was fascinating how Christie had shaped Ellis. For she heard and listened to everything said and done. She was a bit like Laura Newman’s housekeeper in Sad Cypress. She was sensible but did not have the intelligence and courage like Amy Carnaby’s.

Furthermore, in the story Hastings acknowledged that he did not regard her much at first. He then paid more attention when Ellis managed to persuade Wilkinson to come to Sir Montagu Corner’s party on the grounds of its importance in maintaining a good relationship with the influential Jews (see Clues). More significantly, Hastings also noted Poirot’s remark to Lady Edgware afterwards. ‘You owe Ellis a debt of gratitude, Madame,’ he said seriously. He might have hinted the degree of influence Ellis had had on the other.

Loyal and efficient, she did not beat around the bush. I supposed Hastings tried to say that neither Poirot nor him realised how valuable Ellis was.  She sided with the actress regarding her intention to marry the Duke of Merton.

Hastings’s observation of Ellis said a lot about a minor character that mattered. I must give Christie a credit for her understanding the English class society and its division. For a class tend not to appreciate the other while such was acceptable and the lower class had to comply.  It was worth noticing that Hastings being Hastings sometimes did forget that he was Poirot’s eyes and ears; he did not grasp the idea that Ellis’s knowledge on a suspect was extremely crucial. Luckily Poirot made the discovery towards  the end; in a hilarious scene Hastings witnessed the other stood in the middle of the road as “an idea” came through his mind. He was oblivious to the traffic and some bus drivers who were swearing at him.

Until the end I wondered about Ellis. She was not Mrs. O’Brien (Downtown Abbey Series) and she did not fit into Celia Austin’s personality (Hickory Dickory Dock). Curiously she sounded like a robot as she attended to the whims and wishes of the actress without further interest or questions. Yet, unlike Lady Hoggins, Amy Carnaby’s employer, Ellis was treated well. Ellis and Jane Wilkinson may have had mutual respect to each other.

Readers, what did you make out of Ellis?

Clues:

Bryan Martin:

[to Hercule Poirot and Hastings]

‘I believe  she’d kill somebody quite cheerfully – and feel injured if they caught her and wanted to hang her for it. The trouble is that she would be caught. She hasn’t any brains. Her idea of a murder would be to drive up in a taxi, sail in under her own name and shoot.’

[answering to Poirot’s query ‘You think she would do – murder?’]

‘Upon my soul, I do. Perhaps one of these days, you’ll remember my words…I know her, you see. She’d kill as easy as she’d drink her morning tea. I mean it, M. Poirot.’

Hastings:

‘Why, Poirot, I think a voice and the general gait are about the most characteristic things about a person.’

Jane Wilkinson/Lady Edgware

[to Hercule Poirot]

‘Ellis went on at me. Said I couldn’t afford to turn it down. Old Sir Montagu pulls a lot of strings, you know, and he’s a crotchety creature – takes offence easily. Well, I didn’t care. Once I marry Merton I’m through with all this. She said there’s many a slip, etc. and after all I guess she’s right. Anyway, off I went.’

Jenny Driver:

[to Hercule Poirot and Hastings]

‘Well, then, Carlotta was excited. She isn’t often excited. She’s not that kind. She wouldn’t tell me anything definite, said she’d promised not to, but she’d got something on. Something I gathered, in the nature of a gigantic hoax.’

Ronald Marsh:

[to Hastings in a tipsy state]

‘I ask you? I mean if you take a girl – well, I mean- butting in. Going around upsetting things. Not as though I’d ever said a word to her I shouldn’t have done. She’s not the son. You know- Puritan Fathers- the Mayflower- all that. Dash it- the girl’s straight. What I mean is – what was I saying?’

A girl on the street [overheard by Poirot and Hastings]:

‘Idiotic story, If they’d just had the sense ask Ellis right away. Which anyone worth sense would have done…’

Notes On The Clocks

Rating: 3.5 out of five

Year of Publication: 1963

Motive for Murder: Wealth

Plot: Sheila Webb left 19 Wilbraham Crescent screaming murder in the quiet street.  The young woman had found a dead man’s body in the house.  She also nearly knocked down Colin Lamb, who happened  to stand outside of the house.  A few weeks later another life was claimed. This time was a woman who was strangled in the telephone box.

Inspector Hardcastle interviewed the neighbours during which interesting facts about them were gathered.  There was a professor who resigned from his Chair at Cambridge and then a lot of time in the garden, a woman who owned many cats in number 18 and at number 61 a builder’s wife inherited a wealthy sum of money from a dead Canadian uncle.

In the meantime, the police identified four clocks in the room where the dead man was. When the evidences were collected later on, a clock was missing.

As every lead came to a dead end, the young Lamb decided it was time to see Hercule Poirot. He listened to the former giving details of the case.  Then, he responded:

‘ “The time has come” the Walrus said,

“to talk to many things.

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,

and cabbages and kings.

And why the sea is boiling hot

And whether pigs have wings” ‘

(The Walrus and the Carpenter, Alice Through The Looking Glass)

Highlights:

It was the Cold War era and the memory of Cuban Missile Crisis had still been fresh in the public’s mind. The young Colin Lamb was in the neighbourhood following a hunch. He was  a marine biologist who was looking into crescents of all sorts. For at the time he had a paper in his hand containing a scribble of a crescent , number “61” and “W”. Hence a murder was the last in his mind and therefore when he saw Sheila Webb he thought nothing but how beautiful she was. He fell for her straightaway before he even realised that she was a suspect.  Further on, the man in love was torn between saving her neck and accomplishing his mission.

This novel reminded readers with some unforgettable minor characters in Christie’s previous novels.   To begin with, Celia Austin (Hickory Dickory Dock) resembled Edna Brent. Next, readers might recall the French mistress in Cat Among The Pigeons as Mrs. Merina Rival; her seeing an opportunity  to be wealthy. Her appearance, however, was more like the sister who identified his brother’s body in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Thirdly, Colin Lamb bore the traits of Dr. Peter Lord (Sad Cypress). Then, a Lady Macbeth reappeared, just as the one in By The Pricking of My Thumb. Lastly, Millicent Pebmarsh was the embodiment of Miss Bulstrode (Cat Among The Pigeons) and her wide blue eyes was as beautiful as Elinor Carlisle’s (Sad Cypress).

I wondered whether Christie asked this following question to herself while planning the plot: are neighbours as they seem to be? It was worth noticing the police’s interviews with the neighbours, narrated by Colin Lamb, in which peculiar facts were revealed, which then triggered background checking as to confirm their accounts. More importantly was the children’s voices, of whom certain facts  were found. Their wits and insights were delightful, for one had watched with her opera glass every movement at Wilbraham Crescent and wrote it down in the notebook.

What I liked most about the story was Christie’s touch on Communism itself and its implication. Personally it was daring on her part to suggest that a spy was not a super human. They could fall in love and it was as frustrating as others would experience. As a result she contradicted her protagonist by letting him  get distracted and moreover doing things against what he had been required to do.

Interestingly, the authoress was once under surveillance following the fear that she might have known about Bletchley Park. It was the result of her having a Major Bletchley as a character in N or M (1941).

Enigma (2001), a movie based on the true story at Bletchley Park starring Dougray Scott andKate Winslet.

What I least liked from the story was her lacking of clues about the murderer.  By elimination process I could guess whodunit correctly but I could not explain about the presence of the clocks. Were they some kind of jokes? It was explained in the end; no doubt by none other than Hercule Poirot. Still, I was not a happy customer. Hence my rating 3.5 out of five.

Nonetheless, Christie’s mentioning of a dinghy book shop at Charing Cross Road and Portobello Market  were much appreciated. For she took part in preserving the image of a famous street in London where independent shops and second-hand and rare bookshops used to be – once upon a time.

Finally, I concurred with Professor Purley that parking wardens could be a nuisance.  I just did not know that such an issue had exist  fifty years ago!

The Twists:

-there were two Mrs. Bland

-Miss K. Martindale insisted a call was made by Millicent Pebmarsh at 1.49 pm on 9th September.

– a scrap of paper Colin Lamb found in Hanbury’s wallet in which a crescent, letter “W” and number “61” were scribbled on it.

-Gary Greggson’s manuscript, which Poirot obtained in a sale of authors’ manuscripts.

-Mrs. Merina Rival identified the dead man as her ex-husband, Harry Castleton

-The identity of Mrs. Ramsay’s husband and Miss Millicent Pebmarsh

 

Cast of Characters:

People who lived at Wilbraham Crescent:

Mr. and Mrs. Bland (at number 61, the husband was a builder)

Geraldine Brown (a ten-year-old girl who lived in a flat on the other side of the road)

Mrs. Hemming (at number 20 “Diana Lodge”, owned a  lot of cats)

Millicent Pebmarsh (the woman who lived alone at the murder scene)

Mr. and Mrs. McNaughton (the husband was a keen gardener)

Mrs. Ramsay (a mother of two boys)

Miss Waterhouse (at number 18, who lived with her brother)

Others:

Colin Lamb (as a marine biologist)

Mrs. Curtin (Millicent’s cleaner)

Edna Brent (the receptionist at the Cavendish Bureau)

Miss Katherine Martindale ( Edna and Sheila’s boss, the Principal of  the Cavendish Bureau)

Mrs. Lawton (Sheila’s aunt, with whom she lived)

Mrs. Merina Rival (who identified the body of the man)

Professor Purley (Sheila’s client)

Inspector Richard Hardcastle (Crowdean Police)

Sheila Webb (a stenographer, who found the dead body, Edna’s colleague)

The Most Fascinating Character: Millicent Pebmarsh

 ‘The whole thing’s daft’

The dead man was found in her house. As she stepped into the house, Sheila Webb warned her promptly about the body.

Miss Pebmarsh was an ex-school teacher, sharp and poised. Inspector Hardcastle noted those in his interview with her. Her above quoted remark referred to the a stranger killed in her house and the presence of the four clocks, of which none of them were hers. Yet, rather than regarding her remark as a fact, the Inspector thought they were words of an upset middle-aged woman.

She told him that she moved into the neighbourhood as she got a job teaching  Braille to disabled children. Prior to that her eyesight was failing and after she became blind then she learnt  Braille and was retrained. Other than asking Mr. McNaughton’s advice about gardening, she did not mingle with other neighbours.

Was she as everyone thought she was- a spinster? As Christie was keenly quoted, “old sins have long shadows” (see also Elephants Can Remember). Unbeknown to anyone, the former had a daughter out of wedlock. She asked her much younger sister to raise the baby and then vanished. Much as she got updates about her daughter, never did she want to meet her. Nor did she inform her sister that they lived in the same city.

The mother and daughter were reunited once in an awkward circumstance. They were in the same room but only one who later on understood who the other was.

 

Clues:

Mrs. Curtin:

‘Must have been foreign. Me and my old man went on a coach trip to Switzerland and Italy once and it was a whole hour further on there. Must be something to do with this Common Market. I don’t hold with the Common Market and nor does Mr. Curtin. England’s good enough for me.’

Edna Brent:

(to Constable Pierce after the inquest)

‘Oh, it doesn’t matter really. It’s-well-just that I don’t see how what she said could have been true because I mean…’

Geraldine Brown:

(to Colin Lamb)

‘Nobody called at all [on the day of the first murder at 19 Wilbraham Crescent] except the laundry.  It was a new laundry.’

‘Nothing happened. The driver got down, opened the van, took out his basket and staggered alng round the side of the house to the back door. I expect he couldn’t get in. Miss Pebmarsh probably locks it, so he probably left it there and came back.’

Miss Katherine Martindale:

(answering to Inspector Hardcastle’s queries)

‘It [the telephone call from Millicent Pebmarsh] came through to me direct. That would mean that it was in the lunch hour. AS near as possible I would say that it was about ten minutes to two. Before two o’clock at all events. Ah yes, I see I made a note on my pad. It was 1.49 precisely.’

‘I had been secretary to the well-known thriller writer, Garry Gregson, for many years. In fact, it was with a legacy from him that I started this [Cavendish] Bureau. I knew a good many of his fellow authors and they recommended me. My specialised knowledge of authors’ requirements came in very useful. I offer a very helpful service in the way of necessary research….’

Mrs. Merina Rival

(to her friend Fred)

‘It’s not right. It’s not fair. No, it’s not right. I know what I’m talking about, Fred, and I say it’s not right.’

Miss Millicent Pebmarsh:

(to Inspector Hardcastle)

‘..But I can only assure you, Inspector Hardcastle, that I had no need for a stenographer and did not-repeat not-ring up this Cavendish place with any such request.’

‘Either you or I must be mad, Inspector. I assure you I have no Dresden china clock, no – what did you say- clock with “Rosemaery” across it- no French ormolu clock and- what was the other one?’

‘The whole thing’s daft.’

(to Colin Lamb)

‘I’m not taking advantage of your offer. What would be the use? I shall stay here until-they come. There are always opportunities – even in prison.’

Mrs. Valerie Bland:

‘We’ve got all our friends here – and my sister lives here, and everybody knows us. If we went abroad we’d be strangers…’

Notes On Third Girl

Rating: four out of five

Year of Publication: 1966

Motive for Murder: Wealth

Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver in a more recent interpretation of Christie’s novels.

Plot: “I want a murder,” said Poirot to Ariadne Oliver. The Belgian was on edge. He knew a murder was to be carried out imminently but he could not make it out how.

At breakfast, a young woman came to his flat unannounced. She told him that she might have committed a murder. She then walked out, having given no details.

She was what Mrs. Oliver called the “third girl”; the one who responded to the advertisement in the papers for a flat share with two other women. ‘ …better than in P.G.s or a hostel,’ Mrs. Oliver said to Poirot. Furthermore, the girl did not come back to the flat the day after he met Poirot. Moreover, Mrs. Oliver found out by chance that a forty-something woman who lived one floor up the third girl had died a few weeks before the girl disappeared.

Meanwhile, it was the girl’s remark that had played in Poirot’s mind. She said: I’m awfully sorry and I really don’t want to be rude but you’re too old..’  It was a wake-up call for the semi-retired detective. He was determined to find the girl and solved the riddle of her saying having committed a murder. Had she really done it or was it simply her imagination?

 

Highlights:

The sixties for Christie centred around artists, recreational drugs and the unisex fashion.  Her take on the disparate mindset between her generation and the younger was refreshing.  Take the example how anxious Poirot had been about “beautiful young men” and the terrible sense of girls’ fashion. On the contrary, Mrs. Oliver, his partner in crime, was quick to embrace the change by trying some hairstyles for a different look.

The effects of recreational drugs were observed and presented readers with an idea on how to get away with crimes by drugs.

On the outset, it was unusual that a murder was not announced but a mere possibility. In a nutshell, Poirot did not have a case with his mysterious guest vanished while there were plausible scenarios and hunches only.  Mr. Goby the informant also could not find anything untoward about the girl’s background.

Christie took readers on the journey to guess whether there was really a murder. Was the girl right? Or insane?  Meanwhile, rumours had it that the girl might have known something about her stepmother’s gastric problems. For the girl did not like his father’s second wife.

Things looked “brightened up” when Mrs. Oliver was hit on the head and unconscious after she was following the girl’s boyfriend to a studio at Chelsea Embankment.

More importantly, Poirot somehow admitted that he was stuck, as nothing did not seem to fit in its place – yet. On the one hand, he was quite sure that Miss Restarick’s life was at stake.  On the other, there were no evidences but his surmises and loose links. In his frustration, he thought: ‘Enfin, it is too much! There is far too much. Now we have espionage, And counter espionage. All I am seeking is one perfectly simple murder. I begin to suspect that that murder only occurred in a drug addict’s brain!

Alas, Mrs. Oliver’s hairstyle gave him an idea. Nevertheless, when he realised who “Louise” the girl had referred to, another life then was claimed.

All ended well fortunately. The perpetrator was caught in the eleventh hour along with an accomplice.   If readers cared to peruse once more The Mysterious Affair At Styles (1920), they would see the similarities in the motive and the mastermind. On the contrary, if it was a matter of wigs which might be of interest, Elephants Can Remember (1972) would provide more as the topic was amplified further. And Mrs. Oliver was more annoying, too!

Cast of Characters:

Andrew Restarick (Norma’s father)

Ariadne Oliver (a crime novelist)

Miss Battersby (Norma’s former headteacher at Meadowfield school)

Claudia Reece-Holland  (the first girl – Norma’s flatmate)

David Baker (Norma’s boyfriend)

Mr. McFarlane (the manager of Borodene Mansions)

Frances Cary (Norma’s flatmate -the second girl)

Mr. Goby (Poirot’s informant)

Hercule Poirot

Miss Jacobs (a woman who lived next to Norma)

Dr. Stillingfleet (a psychiatrist who treated Norma)

Mary Restarick (Norma’s stepmother)

Norma Restarick (the third girl)

Chief Inspector Neele (Poirot’s good friend at Scotland Yard)

Sir Roderick Horsefield (Andrew’s uncle by marriage)

Sonia (Sir Roderick’s assistant)

The Most Fascinating Character: Ariadne Oliver

Forthright, impatient, curious but inspiring. A well-known crime writer, she was not in the least interested in people’s applauds regarding her prolific writing.  She was into a real murder instead because it was exciting and got the thrills from doing a real detective job.

Through her eyes geriatric topics and the hassles of being a public figure flew freely. Her gossiping skill was invaluable, of which it enabled her to extract information from people with various backgrounds.

More importantly, she was a woman of action. Thus she could not have sat comfortably in a square-backed armchair and let the “grey cells” do their wonder.

There was a scene in which she asked her servant Edith to post her manuscript to her publisher. But she fret about it; that her writing was not as not as good as the public might have believed it. A classic writer complex? Or did Christie project her personal feelings on the matter?

She reappeared later on in Elephants Can Remember – funnier, wittier and more spontaneous. She might have been quite a trying one sometimes but to Poirot she was indispensable.

Finally, in the story she retrieved crucial evidence from a van that provided Poirot with “the last link”. Although at the time she did not realise its importance and then remembered it in the nick of time.

Clues:

Ariadne Oliver:

‘It seems she (Mary Restarick) had some kind of mysterious illness – gastric in nature and the doctors were puzzled. They sent her into hospital and she got quite all right, but there didn’t seem any real cause to account for it. And she went home, and it all began to start again – and again the doctors were puzzled. And then people began to talk…’

‘I give up. You just won’t believe that Norma tried to kill her stepmother’.

Miss Battersby:

‘She (Norma) is an emotional but normal girl. Mental instability! As I said before – rubbish! She’s probably run away with some young man to get married, and there’s nothing more normal than that’.

Frances Cary:

‘I think it might have been me he (David Baker) really came to see’.

Miss Jacobs:

‘No- I don’t think the knife had been washed or wiped in any way. It was stained and coloured with some thick sticky substance’.

Dr. John Stillingfleet:

On Norma: ‘A father complex as a child. I’d say I didn’t care much for her mother who sounds a grim woman by all accounts- the self-righteous martyr type. I’d say Father was a gay one, and couldn’t quite stay the grimness of married life – Know of anyone called Louise?…The name seemed to frighten her – She was the girl’s first hate, I should say. She took Father away at the time the child was five. Children don’t understand very much at that age, but they’re very quick to feel resentment of the person they feel was responsible. She didn’t see Father again until apparently a few months ago. I’d say she’d had sentimental dreams of being her father’s companion and the apple of his eye. She got disillusioned apparently. Father came back with a wife, a new young attractive wife….’

Mary Restarick:

‘..Norma is a very difficult girl. Sometimes I think she’s not right in the head. She’s so peculiar. She really looks sometimes as though she isn’t all there. These extraordinary dislikes she takes…’

Norma Restarick:

‘You don’t understand. You don’t understand in the least what hate is. I hated her (Mary Restarick) from the first moment I saw her’.

‘I used to love him (Andrew Restarick) once. I loved him dearly. He was-he was- I thought he was wonderful’.

The Twists:

-The loose number plate on the door at Norma’s and Louise Charpentier’s flats

-Poirot’s encounter with David Baker at the Restaricks’ house

-Frances Cary’s overnight bag

-Andrew Restarick’s portrait in his City office