At an archaeological dig in Mesopotamia, Nurse Amy Leatheran is recruited by Dr Leidner, the leader of the dig, to look after his wife. Everyone seems to have a different opinion of Louise Leidner, but when she is murdered in her bedroom, it rapidly becomes apparent that someone in the camp actually hated her enough to kill her. But how could one woman instil such a motive in someone. Luckily, there’s a Belgian nearby who knows a thing or two about murder…
This is my last stab at finding that book to introduce some girls at school to the divine work of Dame Agatha, and it’s always had a reputation as a bit of a classic. I read it yonks ago, and, apart from the murderer, couldn’t remember much about it at all. So, is this the one to entice young readers under the spell of Dame Agatha?
Actually, let’s get something straight. This has got a good reputation, hasn’t it? Because, quite frankly, I thought it was a bit rubbish.
First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way. I’ve seen this book referred to as Christie’s only novel-length attempt at a certain type of mystery. It’s not, in my eyes, for the same reason that a certain Ellery Queen novel that has the same reputation, isn’t either, or indeed, The House of the Red Slayer by Paul Doherty. The latter book, in fact, was minorly spoiled for me by being described as such – luckily, it’s such a good read, that it didn’t bother me one bit. But a mystery which is SPOILER for only one suspect should not be described as a SPOILER SPOILER mystery. Because it gives the game away, and that’s no fun for anyone.
So, what did I dislike about this one? Three things in fact.
Number one – some of the most cardboardy of cardboard characters. With the possible exception of the narrator, Amy Leatheran, the characters are the least interesting bunch that I’ve ever met. In fact, if you asked me now (only a few hours after reading the book) how many people were at the summing up… I’d have to go and look it up. A right bunch of dullards, which made the first section of the book, where not much happens at all, quite tough going.
Number two – the mechanism of the murder. No details here, obviously, but if you’re going to describe something as barred (highlight for mild spoiler) then you should make clear that there appears to be a massive gap between the bars big enough to stick something important through (highlight again for mild spoiler). Not to mention that basic physics means that the final position of something is unlikely to have been where it was – indeed, I’d be surprised if it was in one piece.
Number three – she didn’t notice? Really? No more than that, but it concerns the motive.
So, dull characters, unlikely method and really stupid motive – part of it at least. Oh, and Poirot’s a bit slow to realise the importance of something, despite twigging that it was SPOILER very early. All in all, a real disappointment.
Anyway, tune in next time to find out what we’ll be using for the introduction. But it certainly isn’t going to be Murder in Mesopotamia.