How I discovered
I have joined Kerrie from Mysteries in Paradise with her Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and this is part of that.
Among the towering red cliffs and the ancient ruins of Petra sits the corpse of Mrs. Boynton, the cruel and tyrannizing matriarch of the Boynton family. A tiny puncture mark on her wrist is the only sign of the fatal injection that killed her. With only twenty-four hours to solve the mystery, Hercule Poirot recalls a remark he overheard back in Jerusalem: “You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?” Mrs. Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he had ever met.
— from Google Books (click on cover for more about the book)
Like in other books, Poirot hears something he isn’t supposed to hear at the beginning of a journey, a tidbit of a conversation that seems oddly prescient in hindsight. He later realizes who the two people who were having the conversation are, two members of a family of a murder victim, and wonders if one or both of them could be the killers. Of course, it isn’t that simple, with the victim hated equally by a large group of people, including many others within her own family. Even those who aren’t members of the family, though, recognize the victim’s evil, for example, Dr. Gerard, who happens to be along for the journey to Petra:
And then, suddenly, the old woman’s eyes were full on him, and he drew in his breath sharply. Small, black, smoldering eyes they were, but something came from them — a power, a definite force, a wave of evil malignancy. Dr. Gerard knew something about the power of personality. He realized that there was no spoilt tyrannical invalid indulging petty whims. The old woman was a definite force. In the malignancy of her glare he felt a resemblance to the effect produced by a cobra. Mrs. Boynton might be old, infirm, a prey to disease, but she was not powerless. She was a woman who knew the meaning of power, who had exercised a lifetime of power and who had never once doubted her own force. Dr. Gerard had once met a woman who performed a most dangerous and spectacular act with tigers. The great slinking brutes had crawled to their places and performed their degrading and humiliating tricks. Their eyes and subdued snarls told of hatred, bitter fanatical hatred, but they had obeyed, cringed. That had been a young woman, a woman with an arrogant dark beauty, but the look had been the same.
Key in that passage is that she had exercised a lifetime of power, implying not only against her own family, but against anyone with whom she has come in contact. That means anyone in the party of tourists could be the killer, even Dr. Gerard himself. After all, he and another member of the party, Sarah King, discuss Mrs. Boynton several times throughout the narrative, and not in flattering terms. Could they be the killers?
Of course, I’m not going to tell you, but will tell you the journey toward discovering the killer is worth the ride. The end of the journey, though, was less than satisfying in my mind, for reasons I can’t quite put a finger on. However, for some reason, it just seemed too simple “an out.” For that reason, I give this one a 4 out of 5. Originally, I gave it a 3, but after reading the next Christie, A Murder for Christmas, which I felt was a solid 3, I bumped up my rating on this one.
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
If you have reviewed Appointment with Death and would like your review to be listed here, add your link in the comments and I will add here as well.
FTC Disclosure: I didn’t receive a copy of this book from the publisher, but took it out from my local library.