Thursday, December 12, 2013
Hercule Poirot's Christmas: Agatha Christie
I collect books, especially older paperbacks, with skulls or skeletons on the cover. Moira, a lover of Agatha Christie's mysteries, and author of the entertaining blog Clothes in Books, graciously offered to send me a copy of this book with a skull in a Santa hat. I decided to jump ahead in the series so I could feature this book during the Christmas season.
This is truly a country house mystery. The house belongs to Simeon Lee, the head of a large family that doesn't get along. He is overbearing, argumentative, and delights in stirring up trouble among his children.
His son, Alfred, and Alfred's wife, Lydia, live with Simeon, and Alfred has faithfully attended to the family business for many years. Simeon's other children left home at an early age and have never returned. However, all of them have accepted monetary support from Simeon over the years. Simeon has asked all of his sons (and their wives if married) to join him for Christmas at the familly home. And they have accepted.
His only daughter married a Spaniard and has recently died, so her daughter has also joined them. And a surprise guest shows up, the son of Simeon's old business partner when he was living in South Africa.
Before Christmas, someone in the family is murdered. There is not much festivity on Christmas day. Hercule Poirot is called in to investigate, to cooperate with the local policeman and the Chief Constable, Colonel Johnson.
There is a large cast of characters. Most of the characters in the family were not very likable but that did not bother me. Hercule Poirot, on the other hand, is very likable in this book. He had his quirks but he was not annoying.
I read other reviews and it is really interesting how differently various reviewers interpreted the book. This is one of my favorites so far. Certainly my favorite one starring Poirot. But some reviewers complained about the lack of description or character development.
I thought the mystery was good and for once I had no clue who the culprit was. Maybe a twinge of a suspicion that just flitted through my mind and was rejected. I always love to read books written in the late 1930's and the 1940's, around the time of World War II. This one was written before World War II. Simeon Lee's granddaughter, who has left Spain and has come to live with Simeon, speaks of the effects of the unrest and fighting in Spain at that time. All in all, a very enjoyable read for me, even if not a jolly Christmas story.
This book has had several titles. Per Wikipedia, it was first serialised in the US from 12 November 1938 to 14 January 1939 under the title Murder For Christmas. It was published in book form in the UK in December 1938 under this title (Hercule Poirot's Christmas). It was published in US in book form in 1939 under the title of Murder for Christmas. A later paperback edition in the US was titled A Holiday for Murder.
As I said above, Clothes in Books is a wonderful blog, full of entertaining information about books of all types. Here is an entry on Hercule Poirot's Christmas at Moira's blog. Please check it out.