Even great detectives need healthy teeth, and when Hercule Poirot visits the dentist, thankfully hilarity doesn’t ensue – bet it did on the television adaptation – and after “just” a couple of fillings, he is on his merry way, glad that he doesn’t have to go back for another six months. Needless to say, he’s back later that day as his dentist, Morley, has apparently shot himself. Let’s face it, from that cover picture, he doesn’t look like the model of mental stability – and yes, I know what pedants might say…
While Japp tries to establish a motive for the suicide and Poirot scents murder, it transpires that apparently Morley accidentally gave a fatal overdose to his last patient that day and shot himself out of guilt. Yeah, right. Poirot sets out to find a murderer, but when Japp is pulled off the case, Poirot finds himself on his own.
Continuing my habit of looking at hard-to-find authors – Brian Flynn, John Rhode, etc, I’ve come across this one – any heard of Agatha Christie? Just kidding. It’s been over six months since Dame Agatha cropped up on the blog with the rather woeful Elephants Can Remember, so I thought it was time to take a look at her again. My first plan was to look at After The Funeral, but that was just done over at The Reader Is Warned. Then I thought Three Act Tragedy, but discovered that there are different UK and US versions and now want to get my hands on both so I can compare them. Then I remembered this one, as it fits nicely as a counterpoint to my “Do Mention The War” theme – it was published in November 1940, but has no overt wartime shenanigans. So I thought I’d give it a go.
First off, there isn’t a mention of the war. I wonder – how far in advance of publication did Christie write this? I don’t have my copy of her notebooks to hand but Christie does take a stab at reflecting the political climate of the time – well, there’s a fascist (referred to as an “Imperial Shirt”) and a communist amongst the suspects, anyway – and one of the central characters is presented as vital to the future stability of the UK economy for conveniently vague reasons. There’s no mention of the unrest in Europe, at least not that I noted, which makes it odd that Christie is attempting to make it current while ignoring the rather important events that were happening when she was writing it. There is a mention (sorry, the bookmark fell out) of an immigrant Jewess, but it’s only in passing.
So, putting all that aside, is it any good? Plot-wise, I’d say yes. I could remember part of the solution – the mechanics of it – but was still a bit unsure about the killer, and while it is fairly guessable, it’s not obvious. The book trundles along nicely enough – it’s hardly Christie’s most sparkling book, but it’s still head and shoulders over a lot of her contemporaries – and there’s some effective work done in the finale, which I won’t go into for obvious reasons.
Oh, and Poirot?
“They were chic, these little London girls. They wore their tawdry clothes with an air.”
Get your mind out of the gutter – although at least he’s not banging on about women’s bottoms like in Dead Man’s Folly…
So, not the best and certainly not the worst, but the politics are rather unsubtle. Oh, and the attempts to tie it around the poem that shares the title? The less said about that the better. Still, it’s Well Worth A Look.