Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Death in the Clouds: Agatha Christie

This Hercule Poirot mystery was published in 1935. A woman is killed on an airplane during a flight from Paris to Croydon. Her death isn't discovered until well into the flight. Hercule Poirot is a passenger on the airplane but he slept through most of the flight. Once the airplane lands, Inspector Japp is on the case and of course invites Poirot to work with him on the investigation. Since the flight is between France and England and the passengers come from both countries, Inspector Fournier of the Sûreté comes over to take part too. As the investigation proceeds, Japp is working in England, Fournier is working in France, and Poirot goes back and forth wherever the clues lead him.

I found this a different type of Poirot story and very entertaining. A closed environment, somewhat similar to Murder on the Orient Express but even more contained. The victim is killed with a dart from a blowpipe but no one on the flight sees the crime take place. Eleven suspects, twelve if you count Poirot, which he insists should be done. But no one takes that seriously (except the jury at the inquest, initially).

I do always love a map or a diagram, and the one supplied here was very useful.  It was a diagram of the seating in the section of the airplane where the victim and the suspects were seated. If I had had to rely on the descriptions of seating placements in the text I would have been lost. Also it was fun to read about flying at that time, the size of the airplane, the stewards, etc.

This  time I suspected someone early on, but dismissed them as unlikely. Then it turns out that person was the murderer. This has happened to me multiple times when read Christie's books. I think she is very clever with her diversions and her books are such fun to read. I used to get really irritated with Poirot; now I am used to his idiosyncracies and enjoy them.

I have been looking for an edition of this book with the cover illustration by Tom Adams but so far have not been successful. Then I remembered that Moira of Clothes in Books sent me this postcard with the same illustration, so I am sharing it here. Isn't it gorgeous? I am still going to find one with that cover some day.


Another book I read with an airplane flight playing an important part was The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree, a Hildegarde Withers mystery by Stuart Palmer, also written in the 1930's. A Dragonfly Seaplane arrives at the island of Santa Catalina off the California coast with a dead passenger on board.

Other reviews at Clothes in Books, crossexaminingcrime, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, and A Crime is Afoot (with links to several other posts)


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Publisher:  Berkley Books, 1984. Orig. pub. 1935.
Length:     230 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Hercule Poirot, #12
Setting:     UK, France
Genre:      Mystery
Source:    Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, Sept. 2017.


24 comments:

  1. Death in the Clouds is one of my favorite Christie books. I've read it multiple times. As it's a locked room mystery, it suits me very well. And the info about airplanes and that type of travel at the time is fascinating. Yes, I do think that Christie does share clues all along. However, they are usually very difficult to find on first read. I think for most of us, it takes going back and rereading to see them. Love that postcard!

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    1. I can easily see myself rereading this one, Kay. Agatha Christie is just a marvel. I just finished reading Death on the Nile because I want to watch the 1978 movie with Peter Ustinov.

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  2. I enjoyed this one as well. And I too love the illustration on the postcard - amazing! Another murder mystery that involves flying is The 12.30 From Croydon by Freeman Wills Croft, it's one of those BLCC books.

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    1. I will be looking for that Freeman Wills Croft book, Cath. I had heard of the title but had not realized it was about flying. Don't know how I missed that.

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  3. I like this one very much, too, Tracy. I especially like the way Christie follows up on the various passengers - the suspects - to give their backstories. I thought the outcome was clever, too. As you say, she was so good at misdirecting...

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    1. Every time I say I will not be fooled, Margot, and then it happens again. But I always enjoy the novels.

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  4. I have this one, Tracy! Yay! Not the Tom Adams cover though. I’m going to read it right after I finish The Moving Finger.

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    1. The Moving Finger is very good too, Peggy. I think that is my favorite Miss Marple, although A Murder is Announced is very nice too.

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  5. Thanks for the mention. The Adams cover is definitely a fave of mine.

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    1. I want to own a copy of all the editions with covers by Tom Adams, Kate, but don't know that I will achieve that. I have two books on his cover illustrations, but haven't made a list of all the Agatha Christie books with his covers yet.

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  6. That is a great cover. I don't think I've read this one but have seen it a few times on TV.

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    1. As soon as I finished this book, Katrina, I thought an adaptation would be really fun. I will be looking into where I can find one to watch.

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  7. I like this one, without its being in my top 5 or even 10. So glad you like the cover/card -that was definitely a card I would only send to another fan, a non-crime reader might be less than charmed by it!

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    1. I have only read 8 books with Hercule Poirot since I started blogging, Moira, so don't have a lot to compare against. But this one is close to the top, after Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile (which I just recently finished reading).

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  8. Okay, okay, time for another Christie--love that picture!

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    1. Tom Adams did some lovely paperback covers, Mathew, and not just for Christie. I have been reading more Christie lately and that trend will probably continue for a while.

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  9. Definitely a good one. Though I must say the killer in this one had guts of steel. Ha. The Tom Adams cover is especially good, Tracy. There is a book, if I'm not mistaken, featuring all the many Christie covers done by Adams.

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    1. There are two books with Tom Adams covers, Yvette, and I do have both of them. I think one of them is only Christie covers and the other includes covers of other books too. I just need to go thru and figure out which ones I have. I found quite a few last year at the book sale, maybe a few more will show up there in September.

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  10. 0Christie is always a good choice, regardless of cover. It's been a long time since I read this one, but I remember that I enjoyed it. However, like Ackroid, once you know the trick, it's harder to be fooled.

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    1. I know, Rick, I just read Death on the Nile (because I want to watch the movie with Peter Ustinov) and I figured that one out early on even though of course I doubted myself throughout.

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  11. Tracy, I'm glad you enjoyed it, but not one I'll be seeking out thanks.

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    1. If I ever find an Agatha Christie novel that I think would be perfect for you, Col, I will let you know.

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    2. Thanks - I do have a few to try - Clocks, Brown Suit 4.50 to or from Paddington!¬

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    3. I have not read Clocks or 4:50 to whatever, but Brown Suit is good. However, it still may not be your type of book, Col.

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