By: Agatha Christie
Fatigued by a career filled with extraordinary cases, Hercule Poirot retires to the sleepy village of King’s Abbot, hoping to apply his ‘little grey cells’ to the cultivation of a thriving vegetable garden. But when the local squire is found with a dagger sticking out of his neck, the detective once again finds himself at the heart of a perplexing mystery. Far from sleepy, it seems that King’s Abbot is home to blackmail, illicit love affairs, and drug abuse which will lead Poirot to his most controversial conclusions yet.
Agatha Christie wrote murder so dryly and almost humorously that there’s never anything dark or sad to her plots. This lack of emotion would be mildly disconcerting if it weren’t meant to be interpreted that way. The focus instead falls on the mystery and intrigue rather than the murdered party. These stories are meant for entertainment that allow a reader’s junior sleuth to come out while being guided on the journey with the theatrical Hercule Poirot. We are not meant to feel sorry or attached to any of the characters.
My only real issue with the way these stories are told is that they suffer from the same logical inconsistencies that their inspiration, Sherlock Holmes, does. That is to say that Christie makes illogical deductions on Poirot’s part sound like obvious facts. The leaps our protagonist takes to reach his conclusions are often a stretch at best and ludicrous at worst. These small discrepancies are easily overlooked with the artful trick of having Poirot reveal an implosable detail only to have a side character back up his claim by revealing their secrets willingly. Meaning that no matter what, our detective will always be proven correct. Life, however, is rarely so accommodating or clean-cut. We, as readers, must suspend our disbelief to enjoy the “thrill” of the mystery and appreciate the entertainment value rather than the plausibility.
Christie had a tendency to shape her characters into stereotypes as well so that they never really had to develop as individuals. It’s all very theatrical and overdone almost like reading a play with wealth, theft, lies, death, and a doctor sidekick. Sound familiar? These elements, when handled well, form a solid narrative to the author’s credit even if they are a bit silly. This is a personal take, but I believe Christie’s success comes mostly from her powers of deflection. She writes important details as insignificant and minor ones as vital. I’ve learned from her other stories The Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder at the Vicarage, and Hallowe’en Party that almost everything that is mentioned is important somehow and to always suspect everyone. And unfortunately that means that surprise endings rarely surprise me anymore.
This story is fun and quick to read, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it exciting or stressful. Something light to kick off October 2021!
Overall rating: 3.5