Skip to main content

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie


Cover image (c) HarperCollins
Christmas in the Kelly household means a few things: seeing Gran in the morning, a midday trip to the Falcon Inn, a mountain of food, an animated film, sleeping, drinking and then a Poirot murder mystery on TV. This year, being on the Agatha Christie binge that I am, I figured that I would have a read of a Poirot novel to get me in the mood.

Having focused my Poirot reading on the Middle-Eastern mysteries so far with the intrigue that they present to the reader, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is a much more traditional Christie novel. All the necessary elements are there: the big house in the countryside, a rich old man, the ‘black sheep’ of the family returning, mysterious strangers, jewels and a squabbling family.

The story starts on December 22nd and centres on a family Christmas to be hosted by Simeon Lee, a millionaire who made his money in South Africa as a diamond miner. Alfred and Lydia Lee, his son and daughter-in-law respectively, live with him in a large country house as Alfred runs the family business.

After many years of seemingly not caring for his family, Simeon Lee decideds to invite all of his sons and their wives to share Christmas with him. Reluctantly, his children accept. Also invited to the planned festivities is his hitherto unknown granddaughter, the exotic, half-Spanish Pilar Estravados. The final guest to party, arriving uninvited and unannounced is Stephen Farr, the son of his former business partner in South Africa.

Prior to Simeon Lee’s demise, a number of uncut diamonds go missing from his safe after he has shown them to Miss Estravados. Superintendant Sugden is called to look into the theft. Later that evening Simeon Lee is killed in a noisy and bloody battle, in an apparently locked room. Chief Constable Colonel Johnson attends the crime scene and brings along his friend to help look into the case. His friend is, of course, Poirot and as you would expect, it is not long before Poirot takes the lead.

As the investigation unfolds within the confines of the mansion, it appears that many of the characters are not what they seem, or who they say they are. Everyone has a potential motive and just when the reader is becoming sure of the guilty party, Poirot reveals the most unlikely of perpetrators during a gripping denouement.

Again, Christie uses a different structure to entice the reader. Choosing to separate the action into the seven days from 22nd to 28th December, allows us to see the disparate Lee family considering the invitation to Christmas, coming together, observing the tensions grow, all before the trouble erupts.

So, if you want a break from the family, or from stuffing the turkey this Christmas, take a trip back to 1938 with this novel, and thank God that your dinner will be a lot simpler than that of the Lee family!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Atay Maghrebi: To Essaouira and the Atlantic

Leaving Marrakech, the landscape stays flat, except for a few distant outcrops of rock. The sensation of the inhospitality of the environment creeps up on you as the olive groves become fewer and further between and rough scrub runs away to the base of distant hills.
Eventually, the landscape starts to undulate as you pass through small towns like Sid L’Mokhtar, and, after two hours, Morocco simply runs out of land as the coach starts to plummet down to the Atlantic coastline and the peeling whitewash of Essaouira’s medina.

The morning started with the obligatory slices of sweet cake dipped into apricot jam, with a side of yoghurt and coffee. I had a chat with Merissa who was already awake and wearing sunglasses like she was nursing a hangover.
I packed up my bags and meandered my way out of the medina towards Bab Laksour to get a taxi.
Having learned the lesson last year that taxi metres are always mysteriously broken in Marrakech, I readied myself for a battle with the driver who…

Atay Maghrebi: Out of the Dark and into Jemaa El-Fnaa

The night time offers a wealth of opportunity and intrigue in almost any country, but when I'm somewhere where my understanding of the language extends to just a handful of phrases and disconnected words, I find it all the more enthralling. Marrakech genuinely quickens the pulse and widens the eyes by night, with the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa as its wildly arrhythmic beating heart.

After a day of perfectly idle wandering and preparing for my journey to Essaouira, I sat up on the roof terrace, ordered atay, read the ending of Alex Garland’s The Beach and waited for sunset.

During this time, a Dutch woman and a Belgian man sat near to me and started to talk about a range of subjects. Most of their discussion was centred around the regular banalities of two travellers who don’t know each other well and clearly don’t have a great deal in common.
Shortly before sunset, the Belgian man caught my attention as he started to regale his newfound friend with quotes from the Quran taken both ou…

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called