Curtain

007

 

by Agatha Christie

Published 1975

Although this book was not published until 1975, Christie had actually written it years earlier, in the early 1940’s.  And it is every bit as brilliant as the other novels she was writing at the time.

Curtain is the emphatic and definite end to the Poirot books, and it is possibly one of the best series-conclusion books that I have ever read.  It was eerie, disturbing, enthralling, and a perfect mystery.  It is tragic and sad, and not everyone may like Christie’s manner of concluding the long and full career of Hercule Poirot.

This book returns Poirot to the location of his first British mystery, The Mysterious Affair at Stylesand also returns to him his favorite and most faithful of companions, Captain Hastings.

I had never before read Curtain, but I definitely recommend it if you have read some of Poirot’s mysteries before.  It is a fitting climax to an excellent series.  5/5.

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Elephants Can Remember

001

by Agatha Christie

Published 1972

In this Poirot case, our intrepid hero is once again called into action by his friend Mrs. Oliver.  However, this novel follows one of my least-favorite types of Christie’s mysteries–a mystery from the Past.  As Poirot and Mrs. Oliver do their research (mostly by interviewing ‘elephants’–people who were around at the time of suspected murder), the plot becomes to become entangled with loads of extraneous and contradictory information.  As with most of Christie’s novels that focus on a past history, it is difficult to relate to the individuals involved, mostly because most of them are dead, or we hear of them only through hearsay.  Also, Christie spent a lot of this novel complaining about modern society (much as she did in Hallowe’en Party) through the voices of her characters, and that gets rather dull after a while.

All in all, while it was a fine mystery, it is not up to the caliber I expect from Christie.  3/5.

Hallowe’en Party

003

by Agatha Christie

Published 1969

In this Poirot novel, our hero again teams up with Mrs. Oliver.  While helping prepare for a children’s Halloween Party, Mrs. Oliver overhears one of the children stating that she has seen someone commit murder, though at the time she was too young to realize what was going on.  Everyone laughs at the child, who is known for her untruthfulness and storytelling, and Mrs. Oliver wouldn’t have given it a second thought if the girl hadn’t been murdered later that same evening.

And so, she calls in Poirot, who begins is investigation.  While it was an alright story, there was a sort of weird vibe in this book that I can’t explain.  It just gave me the weirds.  And in the end, when the murderer is trying to kill again, he gives his victim a cup to drink, but then gets ready to stab her.  He’s stopped (by a couple of high school boys that Poirot had following him to make sure that the girl he was getting ready to kill was safe??  It seems like at this point he had enough evidence to justify having the police keep an eye on this dude, especially after he kidnaps the girl??) in the act of getting ready to stab the girl while she drinks, but when the police get there, the dude is dead because he drank the drink that he was going to have the girl drink, so apparently it was poison?  But if it was poison, why the stabbing?  It was just weird things like that that I couldn’t quite get my head around why the plot was going certain directions.

So, a rather meh book for Christie and Poirot.  2/5.

The Clocks

005

by Agatha Christie

Published 1963

This is another Poirot novel where Poirot spends most of the time lurking in the shadows, if you will.  The story begins promisingly, with a mysterious murder in a blind woman’s house in a room full of clocks that don’t belong, but rambles off into a rather ho-hum kind of ending.  Again, confusing threads of multiple unnecessary stories run together, while Poirot does not much more than pull the conclusion out of a hat.

A fine story, but nothing to get super excited about.  3/5.

Cat Among the Pigeons

004

by Agatha Christie

Published 1959

My personal preference is that if Poirot is going to be solving a mystery, he ought to be there all along instead of waltzing in at the last minute when everyone is bamboozled and tying it all in a neat bow.  But this is a late-entry-for-Poirot mystery, entangling gems, espionage, the headmistress position in a prestigious girls’ school, kidnapping, a foreign princess, tennis, and, of course, murder.

The story is good, but the ending a bit weak.  The conclusion comes almost literally out of no where, almost as bad as just saying, “Oh, actually it was the butcher who was barely mentioned on page 56.”  Ah well.

3/5.

Dead Man’s Folly

002

by Agatha Christie

Published 1956

This Poirot novel reintroduces one of my favorite Christie characters, Ariadne Oliver.  Setting aside the fact that I am completely unsure how to pronounce, and can never remember how to spell, Ariadne, this character is delightful to me.  I love her dialogue, her happy personality, her exasperation with fame and her fictional Finnish detective, her love of apples, and her tongue-in-cheek autobiographical references to Christie herself.

In Dead Man’s Folly, Mrs. Oliver is one of the focal points.  She has organized a mystery hunt for a local fete, creating the story for the hunt herself.  Poirot marvels at her ingenuity.  I love this bit of dialogue, wherein she is attempting to explain the hunt’s story to Poirot–

As she spoke the boathouse came into view.  It jutted out onto the river and was a picturesque thatched affair.

“That’s where the Body’s going to be,” said Mrs. Oliver.  “The body for the Murder Hunt, I mean.”

“And who is going to be killed?”

“Oh–a girl hiker, who is really the Yogoslavian first wife of a young Atom Scientist,” said Mrs. Oliver glibly.

Poirot blinked.

“Of course, it looks as though the Atom Scientist had killed–but naturally it’s not as simple as that.”

“Naturally not–since you are concerned–”

Mrs. Oliver accepted the compliment with a wave of the hand.

“Actually,” she said, “she’s killed by the Country Squire–and the motive is rather ingenious–I don’t believe many people will get it–though there’s a perfectly clear pointer in the fifth clue.”

“Your ingenuity leaves me spellbound!  The things you think of!”

“It’s never difficult to think of things,” said Mrs. Oliver.  “The trouble is that you think of too many, and then it all becomes too complicated, so you have to relinquish some of them and that is rather agony.”

Anyway.  So there is a murder and things proceed as they normally do in a mystery novel.  For me, as I was saying in my last review of a Christie book (Hickory, Dickory Death), there is just too much going on, and not enough of it seems realistic.  In this book, the story felt choppy and characters rather flat.  I didn’t feel much sympathy or interest in any of them (except for Mrs. Oliver, of course), and the ending seemed a bit of a stretch.

So while it was a perfectly enjoyable read, it wasn’t a particular favorite, making this a 3/5.

Hickory, Dickory, Death

002

by Agatha Christie

Published 1955

Also titled Hickory, Dickory, Dock

In this Poirot novel, the famous detective is called to the aid of the sister of his most efficient secretary, Miss Lemon.  Miss Lemon’s sister runs (but does not own) a boarding house/hostel that is usually the home to transient students and young foreigners.  Mrs. Hubbard, Miss Lemon’s sister, is concerned because certain random items have been disappearing from the boarding house.  Poirot, intrigued by the unusual list of stolen items, begins to investigate.

As seems to be typical of these later Poirot novels, there is just too much going on–kleptomania, murder, love triangles, drugs, alcohol, love affairs, smuggling–and consequently, the solution seems rather convoluted to me.  It’s not that hard to come up with a solution if we can choose any random crime to blame.  Many of Christie’s earlier novels are clever and intriguing because they are so possible.  The people involved are normal people; one gets the feeling that this murder could have happened in the house next door, and that is what gives them there personal creepy factor.  But these later novels are just over the top–I have no sense of connection with this story.  While it is entertaining, it doesn’t pack that more personal punch that many of the earlier stories do.

Still, a fun read with some interesting characters, 3/5.