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, and for that, I’m reading a novel per day and posting a review here. This is my third review this week, with the first two being The Boomerang Clue and Murder in Three Acts.
…Poirot is a passenger on board a flight from Paris to Croydon. Some time before landing, one of the passengers, Madame Giselle — a moneylender — is found dead. Initially, a reaction to a wasp sting is postulated, but Poirot spies the true cause of death: a poison-tipped dart, apparently fired from a blowpipe. It becomes apparent that the victim has been murdered.
In earlier novels, The Mystery of The Blue Train and Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot has investigated murders on board a train. All that’s left to finish the trifecta is to investigate a murder on a plane and in an automobile. In this one, naturally, he investigates a murder in the air.
Again, like the last two cases that he undertook, Murder in Three Acts and Murder on The Orient Express, Poirot does so without the assistance of Capt. Arthur Hastings, who had joined him for many of his previous cases. However, he once again is joined by Chief Inspector Harold James Japp of Scotland Yard, who provides a slight comic foil to Poirot, although in my opinion, a little too late in this one.
Once again, like in Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot finds himself in a compartment where (surprisingly? hmm, I think not) occurs. The suspects are mostly English, with two Frenchmen and, of course, Poirot, himself, a Belgian. Poirot becomes a suspect when the blowpipe, believed to have been used in the murder, is found pushed down in the seat in which he was sitting– a point that is not lost on a grand jury which first names him in its verdict, but then relents after the judge tells it he can’t accept its verdict.
Poirot, of course, must clear himself, but who committed the crime? Could it be the doctor who easily identified the dart as being from South America? Or the mystery writer who seems to know a lot about poisons himself? Or a countess who owed money herself to the victim? Or the two Frenchmen, both archaeologists, just suspicious because they are French?
Again, like in the last book, Poirot reveals a little more about his method:
“What a horrible tricky sort of person you are, M. Poirot,” said Jane. “I shall never know why you are saying things.”
“That is quite simple,. I want to find out things.”
“I suppose you’ve got very clever ways of finding out things?”
“There is only one really simple way.”
“What is that?”
“Let people tell you.”
Jane laughed. “Supposed they don’t want to?”
“Everybody likes to talk about themselves.”
“I suppose they do,” admitted Jane.
“That is how many a quack makes a fortune. He encourages patients to come and sit and tell him things– how they fell out of the perambulator when they were two, and how their mother ate a pear and the juice fell on her orange dress, and how, when they were one and a half, they pulled their father’s beard; and then he tells them that now they will not suffer from their insomnia any longer, and he takes two guineas, and they go away, having enjoyed themselves, oh, so much– and perhaps they do sleep.”
“How ridiculous,” said Jane.
“No, it is not as ridiculous as you think. It is based on a fundamental need of nature– the need to talk, to reveal oneself…”
Unfortunately, as well as he describes his method, when it got to the end and the perpetrator of the crime, I didn’t quite believe it. It seemed a little too much of a leap that really wasn’t see in earlier parts of the book. Whereas in other Poirot mysteries, I could make the leap, in this one, I couldn’t connect the dots as easily as Poirot did in his summation.
For that reason, I give this one a 3 out of 5, a good read for any Poirot fan, but perhaps one to be skipped by others not so interested. However, check it out of your local library like I did and judge for yourself.
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:
- Belle at Ms. Bookish (audiobook)
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.