The actress Jane Wilkinson, aka Lady Edgware, is determined to arrange a divorce from her husband, to the extent that she asks her new acquaintance Hercule Poirot to speak to him for her. He does so, as a study in human nature, but is surprised to find that Lord Edgware has no objection to the divorce at all. So it is all the more surprising when he is found the next morning in his study, stabbed in the back of the head.
Even more surprising is the news that Jane Wilkinson committed the deed. She was witnessed entering the house at the time of the crime – despite being in the middle of a dinner party miles away at exactly the same time. When an entertainer who makes her name impersonating the rich and famous – including Jane Wilkinson – it seems that someone has gone to extraordinary lengths not only to kill Lord Edgware but to ensure that Lady Edgware pays for the crime as well…
Another book for Crimes Of The Century 1933 for Past Offences and I seriously doubt that I won’t be the only person to be reviewing this one. And, as you might guess, it’s a re-read for me – I first read this one at least thirty years ago. According to Goodreads, this is the median of Poirot books – 15th out of 29 – but I have very fond memories for it. Not sure that’s a good thing… but more on that later.
First off, what does this book tell us about 1933? Well, we’ve got that good old casual racism, as Poirot fears that a Jewish character will be in danger due to her love of money – at this point, Poirot knows nothing about her apart from her race. We’ve got the fact that Dame Agatha seems to think that “anyrate” is a word – she uses the phrase “at anyrate” at least four times in the book. We learn that in June 1933, “the hat of the moment was shaped like an inverted soup plate and was worn attached (as if by suction) over one ear, leaving the other side of the face and the hair open to inspection.” And being a “kinky sort of person” definitely doesn’t mean the same thing. See, who said you can’t learn things from blogs.
The mystery… Right, obviously I’m not going to spoil it, but if you’re smarter than the average bear, I think you might put two and two together. So you might want to skip the bit in italics below. In the meantime, it’s a good early Poirot although not the best. Pretty median, to be honest. Well Worth A Look.
OK, the mystery… it’s well clued and everything is there to work out what’s going on – but it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? I solved it when I first read it when I was fourteen-ish and, unlike when I read Peril At End House, didn’t feel as if I was being clever – just that Poirot was being exceptionally stupid. He takes an age to spot the bleedin’ obvious – the purpose of the mysterious phone-call shouldn’t take him all book to work out and if you spot it, it gives the whole game away. You also find yourself looking for what the clever Christie trick and given that it doesn’t really appear in the set-up, there’s only one way it can appear in the solution. Genuinely curious here – was anyone fooled by it?
Oh, and what’s that gun doing on the cover?