Murder in Three Acts

Agatha Christie CollectionTitle: Murder in Three Acts (aka Three Act Tragedy)
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication Year: 1934
Pages: 199
Genre: Mystery
Count for Year: 43

How I discovered

I have joined Kerrie from Mysteries in Paradise with her Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and this is part of that. Also this week is Agatha Christie Week, which coincides with a celebration of Agatha Christie’s birthday, Sept. 15, 1890 (she would have been 109 today) and for that, I’m reading a novel per day and posting a review here. This is the second review of the week.

The setup

When a clergyman dies at a dinner party thrown by theatre actor Sir Charles Cartwright, it is thought by nearly everyone (Poirot included) to be an accidental death. Shortly afterwards, however, a second death in suspiciously similar circumstances and with many of the same people present puts both Poirot and a team of sleuths on the trail of a poisoner whose motive is not clear.

— from Wikipedia

After being slightly disappointed by the last Christie book, The Boomerang Clue (aka Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?), I was looking forward to this one, especially because I knew that this was a Hercule Poirot novel. Christie doesn’t disappoint, although throughout the first two acts, Poirot is a figure on the periphery as the two crimes are investigated by Cartwright, Miss Hermione “Egg” Lytton Gore and Mr. Satterthwaite. However, after Satterthwaite baits Poirot on vacation in Monte Carlo with a newspaper article about the second man’s death, in the third act, Poirot joins the “team of sleuths,” as they are described above, in their investigation.

Why? As Satterthwaite himself asks Poirot: “Just what do you yourself hope to get out of this business? Is it the excitement of the chase?” To which Poirot replies in a statement that perhaps summarizes his quest in all of his cases:

“No, no, it is not that. Like the chien de chasse, I follow the scent, and I get excited; and once on the scent, I cannot be called off it. All that is true. But there is more. It is– how shall I put it?– a passion for getting at the truth. In all the world there is nothing more curious and so interesting and so interesting and so beautiful as truth.”

As the mystery draws to a close, of course, Poirot has the gathering of all the suspects. However, unlike other mysteries, this is not where he solves the crime. He saves that for a small gathering later of only a few of the characters, a monologue, one again that sheds light on his own methods, that begins with:

“To reconstruct the crime– that is the aim of the detective. To reconstruct a crime, you must place one fact upon another just as you place one card on another in building a house of cards. And if the facts will not fit– if the card will not balance– well, you must start again, or else it will fall.”

So who did it? Well, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to read it for yourself. However, I can tell you that even if like me, you had an inkling of who the murderer was, you won’t be disappointed in the ride on which Dame Christie takes you to expose him (or her).

My rating: 4 out of 5.

My rating system:

5- Classic, must read
4- Worth
owning a copy
3- Worth picking up at library
2- Worth skimming at the bookstore
1- Worth being a doorstop


For others reviews of the book:

If you also have reviewed this book and would like a link to be included here, please leave it in the comments or e-mail me at unfinishedperson (at) gmail (dot) com.

9 responses to “Murder in Three Acts

  1. Pingback: What I’ve Read So Far For The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge « Just A (Reading) Fool

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  7. I thought I’d read most of the Poirot books – but not this one. I do like the way Christie gets her characters to analyse their methods, as you’ve highlighted in this post.

    I like your rating system – it makes me smile!

  8. A book a day! I couldn’t manage that. I’ve never liked reading books by the same author all in a row…I find even the best authors tend to get repetitive.

    I don’t recall reading this one although the plot sounds familiar enough that I think I must have seen a TV version somewhere along the way.

    Good luck with your challenge

    • Well, I’m reading a book a day. It looks like at this point, because of other things — like life — I’ll be doing the reviews the following day. Oh, plus a special post tomorrow on Christie for Kerrie’s blog tour. 🙂

      I always overshoot a bit on my challenges. Tonight I’m actually calling it quits so I can go to bed earlier and get a fresh start tomorrow. Then I’ll also catch up on visiting all the blogs so far in the tour, including yours. 🙂