Lots of people collect things. I used to collect Spider-man comics. That’s a safe thing to collect. Mr Shaitana collects murderers. That ISN’T a safe thing to collect… especially when you invite four of them to dinner.
Shaitana invites four suspected (by him) murderers and four sleuths – Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle and a certain M. Hercule Poirot. And while the four suspects play bridge together while Shaitana watches on, one of them leaves the table and stabs him. But as the murder was silent, nobody witnessed it – and everybody left the table at some point. With no evidence at all, apart from the bridge score cards which fascinate Poirot for some reason, how will it be possible to find the killer and even more, to prove it?
This my post for Past Offences 1936 Challenge. It’s a popular Poirot but when I first read it (years and years ago), I never really liked it much. The bridge information is a somewhat specialised area of information (although not anywhere near as bad as, say, the topic of the clue in The Finishing Stroke) and to the young Puzzle Doctor, it rather spoiled the mystery.
Things change – this is a genuinely impressive piece of work that probably needs a place in my Poirot Top Five, a post that I wrote a few years ago but really needs to be re-evaluated.
This is a very clever mystery, with much more to it than the bridge clues (although I do know a lot more about bridge these days). You could make the case that one of the suspects is a little too clearly innocent from early on, but manages to bounce from reveal to reveal and still manages to pull a surprise (partly due to, for once, having a very short wrap-up, so that the page count doesn’t work against the finale.) The sleuths are given some decent air-time – obviously it’s Poirot’s show, but Race (previously in The Man In The Brown Suit, appearing in the future Death On The Nile and Sparkling Cyanide), Battle (four other appearances, two as the main sleuth) and Ariadne Oliver (six further appearances, five with Poirot) all do themselves justice. The overall plot (not just the murder) is clever and Christie does a good job of keeping things moving with such a small cast of characters.
Always a pleasant surprise to stumble across a book that has improved with (my) age. Highly Recommended.