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.

After the Funeral

008

by Agatha Christie

Published 1953

In this Poirot novel, Hercule is called into the mystery by a lawyer friend, Mr. Entwhistle.  An old man (and long-time friend of Entwhistle) has died.  After the funeral, during the reading of the will, one of the daughters makes a comment about how nice it is that they are keeping the man’s murder quiet.  A few days later, the woman is dead, too.

The story was good, and quite gripping, although the conclusion seemed a bit far-fetched to me.  The overall tone of the book was a downer, too.  The grind and difficulty of post-war life in England is strong in this book, and the usual glint of humor that Christie flashes is somehow lacking.

A fine mystery, but nothing to get terribly excited about.  3/5.

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

005

by Agatha Christie

Published 1952

I have to admit, the later Poirot novels are not my favorites of Christie’s work.  The last several that I’ve read are just not at the same level as the earlier works.  In this particular book, an old woman is murdered.  All evidence points to a young man who was boarding in her home, and he is duly arrested.  However, the police superintendent in charge of the case has a niggling doubt that he cannot explain or justify, and so he comes to Poirot and asks him to investigate.

Part of the reason that this book was hard to like was due to the fact that the accused is completely unlikable.  Poirot doesn’t even like him.  The guy doesn’t even like himself! And that’s part of the story, I guess, but still.  You just don’t really care whether or not he gets hanged.

Secondly, the plot gets quite convoluted (in my mind).  A newspaper article has been published, talking about four women who were involved in murders back in the day, a sort of retro “where are they now,” and Poirot believes that somewhere Mrs. McGinty (who was a cleaning woman) saw the original photograph, and that was why she was murdered.  So now there are four possible women involved, but he doesn’t know which one, and it could not only be one of the woman, it could be someone related to one of the women, or someone related to one of the women’s victims, and, I don’t know, it’s just all very vague and haphazard in my mind: somehow, the whole story is just a bit too coincidental.

The only bright part in this book is the appearance of Ariadne Oliver, whom I love.  Loosely based on Christie herself, Ariadne is an absent-minded writer of mystery novels who happened to write a mystery with a Finnish detective.  Her book was wildly popular, and so she has to keep writing about him, even though she knows nothing about Finns.  Her tongue-in-cheek references to Christie’s own difficulties with writing are always delightful.  She’s one of my very favorite fictional characters of all time, and I am super happy whenever she appears.

Overall, this was a 3/5.  Too many gaps in the plot for me, but some of the characters are just great fun, and Poirot’s complaints of his dreadful boarding house are also delightful.

Taken at the Flood (AKA There is a Tide)

003

by Agatha Christie

Published 1948

This particular Christie novel was a mixed bag for me.  The mystery wasn’t that great, in my opinion.  But, some of the characters were, if that makes any sense.

The background of this book is post-war.  People trying to settle back into life.  People readjusting to all the changes.  People relearning who they are and what they’re doing.  And that part of the book was, I think, excellent writing.  Lynn Marchmont has been in the war, in the Women’s Royal Navy Service, and now has returned to the small village where she grew up.  Her fiancee (since before the war), was exempt from service–he and his cousin owned a farm, and only one had to go; the cousin won (or lost, depending on your view) the draw, and went to war.  He was killed there.

So, the background story is about Lynn, trying to settle back into her life in this small village, after she’s seen the world and been all about.  And now she’s coming  home and marrying someone with whom she’s grown up, who never left, who doesn’t understand what she’s seen and where she’s been.  And in the midst of all of that, drop a handsome and dashing young stranger.

I enjoyed that story’s unwinding, and watching Lynn and Rowley (her fiancee) work through their misunderstandings.  But the mystery itself, and, in some ways, the very involvement of Hercule Poirot, seemed almost jarring.  Almost, this story could have just been written as a story about Lynne and Rowley, without any murder or mystery, and I would have liked it.

As a mystery, it was just pretty average, a 3/5.

The Labours of Hercules

003

 

by Agatha Christie

Published: 1939

As a side note, the list of Poirot titles that I have has let me down the last couple of books by not having them in accurate published order, which is a tad annoying.  Ah well.

This book is comprised of twelve short stories, tied together with a common theme.  In the introduction, Poirot is talking with someone, who comments on the irony of Poirot’s first name (Hercule).  Poirot responds that he does not know what possessed his mother to name him after Hercules, but he thinks that they are not unalike, for while Hercules performed tasks requiring superhuman strength, he, Poirot, performs tasks that require superhuman mental strength.  After his guest departs, Poirot researches the life of the mythological Hercules, and decides that he, Poirot, will undertake to solve twelve mysteries that follow the same lines as Hercules’s Labors.

Usually, I am not a huge fan of Christie’s short stories, but these were actually a lot of fun, with a bit of snarky humor thrown in.  I think that the reason that they were enjoyable was because they were not super-involved mysteries crammed into a chapter, but mysteries that made sense to solve in a chapter.  It was also fun to see how Poirot followed the twelve Labors.

Overall, 4/5.