Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cards on the Table: Agatha Christie

Cards on the Table is the 15th Hercule Poirot book and it is another novel in that series with a unique approach. A strange and somewhat disconcerting man, Mr. Shaitana, has invited Hercule Poirot to dinner. When he arrives, he learns that three other sleuths have been invited: Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle and Ariadne Oliver. (Mrs. Oliver is actually a mystery writer, but in this case she tries her hand at detecting.)  After dinner, two foursomes play bridge. At one table are the sleuths, the remaining four guests play at the other table. During the bridge game, Mr. Shaitana is killed. The four sleuths take it upon themselves to solve the crime.

I had been looking forward to reading this book for a while, and it was an engaging and pleasurable read. Again in this novel Poirot emphasizes psychological analysis in searching for the murderer. As the sleuths investigate, we learn more about the suspects, their backgrounds, and their connection to Mr. Shaitana. I had no clue who did it, and Christie did a super job of misleading me, misdirecting my attention.

It was an added bonus to have Superintendent Battle, Ariadne Oliver, and Colonel Race working together with Poirot. I have enjoyed both Battle and Race in previous books. This was the first appearance of Mrs. Oliver in the series, and the first book I have read with her in it, so I enjoyed meeting her.

Even though I know nothing about bridge, I enjoyed that element of the story. I can see how familiarity with bridge could help solve the crime in this situation. There was a drawing depicting each suspect's score card.

I highly recommend this book; Christie's writing always entertains me. I have said this before, but it bears repeating: In the first few novels I read featuring Poirot, I found Poirot to be smug and irritating. After reading more books in the series, I now find him charming, and am glad I have many more to read in this series.

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Publisher:  Berkley Books, 1984. Orig. pub. 1936.
Length:     226 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Hercule Poirot, #15
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Mystery
Source:    Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, Sept. 2007.


21 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite Christie books and I've read it several times. I loved the 'team' of investigators as well.

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    1. I may be rereading some of these books, Kay, but although I read Christie's books when I was young, I remember only The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and not much about that one.

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  2. Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, Sept. 2007

    Hurrah for your choice of shopping place!

    I'm the person -- there always has to be one, doesn't there? -- who isn't a great Christie fan. You make this one sound very appealing, though, so the next time I feel the infrequent urge to dip into Christie again I'll look out for it.

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    1. Thank you, John. We have been going to the Planned Parenthood book sale here for around 30 years.

      I always find something to like about a book by Agatha Christie. Sometimes the plot, sometimes the setting, and sometimes just the characters.

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  3. A favourite of mine, too, Tracy. I like Superintendent Battle too and enjoyed him in Towards Zero - I wish she had used him more.

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    1. I agree, Christine. I have not read Towards Zero or Murder is Easy, so I have two more to look forward to.

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  4. Count me as another who really likes this one, Tracy. I've always liked the psychological angle of the novel, and I do appreciate the skill it took to create a sort of 'claustrophobic' murder, and still keep the interest up. It's an interesting set of character studies, too, and I do like Superintendent Battle.

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    1. Margot, I like the psychological aspect too. I don't usually like it when there are so many characters, but this time it worked for me.

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  5. Yes, this is a good one, though, like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, once the ending is known, a reread isn't quite as much fun. Yet so many people do reread it.

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    1. I do want to reread The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Rick. Of course it is hard not to know the ending even if you haven't read it, but otherwise I don't remember much about it.

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  6. Like you, I read this one for the time quite recently, having looked forward to it based on enthusiastic comments on some blogs, and i am happy that it delivered on my expectations as well. I believe the two female suspects bring a welcome element of human emotion to the tale, lifting it beyond the typical ratiocination Christie is admired for. And Ariadne Oliver was a hoot.

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    1. I was surprised by Ariadne Oliver's character, Christophe, and she was very fun to read about. I have at least 20 more Hercule Poirot mysteries to read, probably more, and I am looking forward to them.

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  7. Tracy, this reminds me of Neil Simon's spoof Murder by Death, the movie version of which I watch from time to time--and each time remind myself it's time to catch up on my Christie. And here you are, reminding me again! I long ago ran out of credible excuses for such neglect, and I remain embarrassed, but am by no means ready to surrender!

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    1. My goodness, Matt, I looked up Murder by Death and I am not sure I have ever seen it, but I should. There are many authors and books to read, you should read the ones you want to.

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    2. The movie Murder by Death is hilarious. A bit corny, but nevertheless really funny in a good way. I have watched this tongue in cheek homage to Golden Age detection several times.

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  8. Glad you enjoyed it Tracy but I'll stick with what I have and try and read one someday soon.

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    1. Oh definitely, Col, any of the Agatha Christie books that you have already would be good I am sure.

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  9. Oh I like this one, I love the clever structure. Such a ridiculous plot in one way - the whole idea of the murderers' party! Yet she makes it work. When I first read it I had never played bridge. When I later learned how to play I read it again, but it didn't make all that much diference!

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    1. I agree, Moira. When I finished this book I thought that the main plot was unrealistic, yet Christie's skill allows me to accept and enjoy the story.

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  10. This is an excellent Christie. Flamboyant and outrageous. She's showing off but she gets away with it.

    I also disliked Poirot at first but grew to love him.

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    1. I agree, dfordoom, and I like your description of the book. And interesting that you also disliked Poirot at first.

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