Skip to main content

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

Following on from my first foray into the world Agatha Christie's Poirot earlier this year, I couldn't resist picking up another novel from the collection. Similarly to last time, I selected a novel set in the Middle East, this time in the British Protectorate of Mesopotamia, what is now Iraq.

Published in 1936, and set prior to Poirot's most famous case, Murder on the Orient Express, this novel is centred around a group of scientists on the site of an archeological dig - something close to the author's heart as her second husband, Max Mallowan, was himself an archeologist. Most of the action doesn't take place at the dig though, but rather focuses around the claustrophobic confines of the staff compound.

The narrative starts with a preface by Dr Giles Reilly, who goes about introducing us to our narrator, Nurse Amy Leatheran. Nurse Leatheran assumes the narrative, retelling the story of what happened subsequent to her employment by Dr Leidner, one of the archeologists, to look after his wife; the rather jumpy and increasingly unbalanced Mrs Leidner. 

In a typically Agatha Christie way, we have a group of characters so disparate in their personalities, that they actually become believable. In addition to the nurse and the Leidners, we have: a lover, a drug user, an angry lady, a Bertie Wooster sound-a-like, a stroppy daughter, a French priest, and for good measure, a dead first husband.

When Mrs Leidner gets killed after having seen strange apparitions at the windows, and after a local Arab man is seen peering into the compound, it seems that any number of suspects could be responsible. Cue our favourite Belgian detective to come and sort out the situation, but not before another murder can be committed.

Nevertheless, this novel contains as many surprises as you would expect from this writer and this genre. Poirot is typically masterful in discovering the truth, despite having no real proof. The tension within the walls of the compound is unbearable, the murders ingenious and plot is not what you would expect.

Poirot starts his revelation of the truth with, "Bismillahi ar rahman ar rahim". Telling us that it is, "the Arab phrase used before starting out on a journey," and this storyline is quite a journey.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Wild Nights: Camping Britain's Extremes by Phoebe Smith

Cover image © Shutterstock. It’s been nearly two years that I’ve been talking about my desire to go wild camping. So far I’ve bored my parents intermittently and failed to convince any friends to join me. I chanced on an article on the Guardian’s website by Phoebe Smith and realised that wild camping was an actual thing that people actually did. In my own inimitable style, I set about obsessively researching experts, equipment, locations and guides – a process that is still continuing at the time of writing. With this in mind, I looked up Smith’s book Wild Nights: Camping Britain's Extremes . In the book, one of a few that she has penned on the subject of wild camping, she documents her own personal challenge to sleep in a number of extreme places: furthest points of the compass on the UK mainland, the highest/lowest places above/below sea level and the remotest in terms of distance from any roads. Her story begins in Glencoul, Scotland with what should be a bea

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

Cover image © Harper Collins. I’m definitely a fan of Agatha Christie. There’s something about her work that makes me think of Sunday afternoons and Christmas. That said, I’m much more of a Poirot fan than I am of the Marple stories, but, being in the Caribbean, and needing a ‘small island’ mystery, I turned to A Caribbean Mystery  (1964) . Set on the fictional island of St. Honoré, Miss Marple has been bought a holiday in the Caribbean by her nephew to help her recuperate from some recent ill health. At first she seems distinctly unimpressed with her location where there is nothing to engage her interest; “Lovely and warm, yes — and so good for her rheumatism — and beautiful scenery, though perhaps — a little monotonous?” To pass the time, as one could expect at an exclusive resort like the Golden Palm Hotel, gossip is an easy method. When retired Major Palgrave starts spinning one of his yarns about a murder, he stops abruptly, just as he is about to produce a photo o

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Cover image © Virago Press. I have often been unsure about where in the grand scheme of all things literary Maya Angelou fits. Last August, whilst considering my teaching options for AS Level literature, the decision was reached to switch from teaching Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry collection The World’s Wife to Angelou’s collection And Still I Rise . In the absence of the ubiquitous York Notes to provide information on the poetry, it made sense to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  not only to shed some light on the context of the poetry, but to answer a nagging question: who is Maya Angelou? Caged Bird is the 1969 autobiography of Angelou’s early years in the small town of Stamps, Arkansas, in the USA, through to the age of seventeen. As soon as you learn that she is living with her paternal grandmother, Momma, you realise that her family history is bound to be laced with complexities and confusion. A recurrent theme is the pervading sense of abandonment felt by Maya