Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Peril at End House: Agatha Christie

Description from the back of my paperback edition:
End House was most appropriately named. Its young mistress nearly met her end… three times in three days. It was the fourth near-fatal “accident”, witnessed by Hercule Poirot, that convinced Miss Buckley that someone was trying to kill her. But who, and why? Now the celebrated crime-solver is dedicating himself to crime prevention. That is, until an unexpected—and successful—murder attempt carries Poirot’s investigation to the bitter end…

Captain Arthur Hastings is companion and friend to Poirot in some of the earlier novels. In this one he is also the chronicler of the tale. Poirot and Hastings are staying at a Cornish resort, the Majestic Hotel. Hastings describes the area:
No seaside town in the south of England is, I think, as attractive as St. Loo.  It is well named the Queen of Watering Places and reminds one forcibly of the Riviera. The Cornish coast is to my mind every bit as fascinating as that of the south of France.
In one of my earlier reviews of a novel featuring Poirot, I said: "I find the Poirot character to be smug and irritating..." At this point, having read several more, I no longer feel that way. He is much more charming in this one.

I enjoyed this one especially because Arthur Hastings was narrating it. I loved some of the scenes between Hastings and Poirot. Poirot says, in response to a question about his retirement:
To step from your pinnacle at the zenith of your fame – what could be a grander gesture? They say of me: “That is Hercule Poirot! – The great – the unique! – There was never any one like him, there never will be!” Eh bien – I am satisfied. I ask no more. I am modest.
Hastings thinks:
I should not myself have used the word modest. It seemed to me that my little friend’s egotism had certainly not declined with his years.
Inspector Japp shows up late in the book to help with the investigation. In my  recent rereads of Christie's novels, I have not read many books with Inspector Japp, so that was a pleasant surprise.

This is the sixth novel featuring Hercule Poirot that I have read since I started blogging. It is probably the one I have enjoyed the least, and I think it was mostly that it seemed such an obvious ending and left me less satisfied. However, even though I felt that the culprit was obvious almost from the beginning, the motivation behind the crimes was well hidden (from me, at least), although there were definitely clues.

Yet that is just a minor quibble; the book was still entertaining. Sometimes I wonder if what is obvious to an experienced mystery reader would be obvious to someone who is new to mysteries. And it also depends on what one is looking for in a mystery.

Robert Barnard says in A Talent to Deceive: "Some creaking in the machinery, and rather a lot of melodrama and improbabilities, prevent this from being one of the very best of the classic specimens."

See other reviews at: Mysteries in Paradise, The Game's Afoot, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, and Letters from a Hill Farm.

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Publisher:  Berkley Books, 1991. Orig. pub. 1932.
Length:     182 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Hercule Poirot, #7
Setting:     UK, Cornish coast
Genre:      Mystery
Source:    Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, Sept. 2007.

22 comments:

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    1. My pleasure, Jose Ignacio. I loved your enthusiasm for this book.

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  2. This is not one of my favourites, for the same reasons that you outline, though I do like the setting, which is very recognizably Devon and probably Torquay, where Christie grew up.

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    1. The setting is nice, and done well, of course. I really need to read a biography of Christie. I just don't have time to add more non-fiction to the the list. Some day I will.

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  3. It's been years since I read this one. I ought to reread it sometime. If I put enough years in between, I have a tendency to sort of forget 'who dun it'. LOL

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    1. I do that too, Kay. Lately when I reread some of my earlier reads, I don't remember much at all, so it is just like a new book.

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  4. Glad to see you discuss this one, Tracy. I'll be honest; it's not my absolute tops of Christie's work. But I do like the way the motive is hidden and then presented. And like you, I've always liked the dynamtic between Poirot and Hastings.

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    1. Margot, I wish that Hastings had been used as a character in later Poirot mysteries. Most of Christie's novels are good even when they are not favorites.

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  5. You're entirely right that someone new to reading mysteries would probably not pick up on the clues in this (or any other mystery) book. When I think of all the accolades GONE GIRL received and it was nothing but two awful people and a "shocking twist" any avid mystery reader could see coming a mile away. As I like to say, a mystery for people who haven't read too many of them.

    Have you read Christie's ENDLESS NIGHT? It's my favorite of hers--although absolutely atypical of Christie. And the twist in that one I truly didn't see coming!

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    1. Deb, I have not yet read ENDLESS NIGHT (unless I read it long, long ago and have forgotten it). I will see if I can move it up on my list. I am reading the series books in order, where I can, but that one is stand alone so I will give it a try.

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  6. I have this but set it aside several months back. Your review confirms it. I will go straight to his most popular adventure in Murder on the Orient Express. BTW, Amazon had all the Miss Marple ebooks in one bundle for $5.99 (US). Great deal since they're normally priced at $69.99.

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    1. Murder on the Orient Express is a great book, Keishon. I hope you enjoy it. It is one that I can enjoy rereading even when I know the story so well.

      Thanks for the tip on the Miss Marple books. That is definitely a good deal.

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  7. Tracy, I have not read PERIL AT END HOUSE and even out of the few Christie novels that I have read so far, I'd be hard-pressed to say which ones I liked and which ones I didn't. I'm a reader but not quite a discerning one.

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    1. I like your approach to reading, Prashant. You find good in all that you read.

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  8. This is a particularly cruel murderer far as I'm concerned. And the motivation is not the strongest. There is a major hint midway through on the night of the murder and if you're a long time reader of mysteries you might pick it up and start to unravel the thing. But maybe not. The bullet thing in the beginning is kind of a fairy tale moment far as I'm concerned. But with Poirot, you never know. And I always hated when Christie brought in drugs. Ugh.

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    1. That is interesting, Yvette. I did not like the drugs aspect of it either. And there were a number of events that just did not feel right, as you mention.

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  9. I must admit that Christie fools me almost every time, and probably did with this one too, though it's been a long while since I read it. Maybe it's time for a re-read, I have it on the shelf.

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    1. Richard, with Christie I usually guess correctly, but she keeps me doubting myself the whole time. She is so gifted with plotting and misdirection, and I did not remember that from my earlier reading of her books. I read much differently when I was younger.

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  10. "Sometimes I wonder if what is obvious to an experienced mystery reader would be obvious to someone who is new to mysteries."

    Not counting The Hardy Boys mysteries I read as a kid, I was very new--11 or 12 years old--to mysteries aimed at adults when I discovered Christie in THE LABORS OF HERCULES and THE A.B.C. MURDERS. At nearly 60 years' remove, I can't tell you why I read only a few chapters of PERIL AT END HOUSE and gave up, but I did--then guessed at the murderer's identity and glanced over the last chapter or chapters to see if I was right or wrong. Turns out I guessed correctly.

    Since then there've been a myriad of mystery writers, Christie among them, who've fooled me. The paperback editions of Christie novels I read years back often touted certain titles as "her most baffling mystery." Those always seemed to be the ones I correctly guessed or reasoned out, whereas those that made no such claims consistently tripped me up.

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    1. Barry, thanks for sharing those experiences of reading Christie's novels. I find it interesting that every Christie novel has its fans, even the ones that are generally not liked (as well). She was an amazing writer, to entertain people when she was first writing in the twenties and to still be entertaining readers.

      I am not sure when I first read Christie's books. I do remember reading Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout in my teens... many years ago.

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  11. Glad you enjoyed, but probably not one for me I don't believe

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    1. This one was not a favorite for me, but still not bad.

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