I’ve fallen back on an old favourite this month, since it’s been ages since I last got into a Poirot mystery. The copy of Peril at End House by Agatha Christie that I borrowed from the library had obviously been subjected to a series of borrowers who clearly enjoyed a cigarette (or seven thousand) while reading, and I subsequently suffered a reading experience that included itchy eyes, runny nose and a general pervading stink…but I soldiered on and quite enjoyed the story. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Hercule Poirot is vacationing on the Cornish coast when he meets Nick Buckly. Nick is the young and reckless mistress of End House, an imposing structure perched on the rocky cliffs of St. Loo.
Poirot has taken a particular interest in the young woman who has recently narrowly escaped a series of life-threatening accidents. Something tells the Belgian sleuth that these so-called accidents are more than just mere coincidences or a spate of bad luck. It seems all too clear to him that someone is trying to do away with poor Nick, but who? And, what is the motive? In his quest for answers, Poirot must delve into the dark history of End House. The deeper he gets into his investigation, the more certain he is that the killer will soon strike again. And, this time, Nick may not escape with her life.
It’s a classic Poirot-comes-out-of-retirement story here, with Poirot and Captain Hastings inadvertently stumbling onto a life-threatening mystery while on holiday. The standard set-up applies: a strange event draws Poirot in, a murder happens despite his best intentions and then Poirot goes full bloodhound mode until the murderer is found and the iconic “get everyone in a room and reveal the murderous fiend’s identity” unfolds to the delight of the reader.
The Usual Suspects:
This one has a good range of expected suspects. There is the slightly mysterious and cold best friend of the threatened protagonist, her rich (or is he?) boyfriend, the true-blue Aussie renters on the block with some connection to the previous master of the house, the beyond-reproach military man who is fond of the protagonist, the family lawyer with a possible claim on the protagonist’s residence, and a collection of servants who may or may not be acting as the “person on the inside” for the killer. Poirot actually writes a handy list of all the suspects at one point, including a mysterious unknown person who may or may not be involved. Or actually exist.
The Hunt for the Murderer/s:
I’d have to say that this is a pretty straightforward example of a Poirot mystery, with exactly the expected amount of red herrings. If this was the first Christie you had ever picked up, I expect you would be drawn in by various twists and turns, but for the seasoned Christie fan, the hunt unfolds just in the way you would expect it, with plenty of clues dropped that will allow canny sleuths to form a viable theory of who the murderer/s might be. Prepare for a lot of self-flagellation on the part of Poirot and the usual amount of Hastings-baiting.
Three poison bottles for the truth in the old saying that bad things happen in threes.
Since it’s been such a long time since I’ve picked up a Poirot, I probably enjoyed this more than I would have otherwise. It’s a textbook Christie, with all the plot twists you would expect (if you’re an experienced Christie reader) and a reveal that I probably could have guessed had I really pressed the little grey cells, but was completely satisfied with regardless. The strange thing about this book compared to other Poirot stories I’ve read is that Christie seemed to leave obvious clues in plain sight. I actually picked a few up as I was reading them, rather than my usual of thinking back to them later in the story as things start to come together. Even though there was a bit of a sense of “been there, read that” with the story, I still found it really enjoyable as the characters are personable enough and the dialogue of the Australian characters was faintly hilarious.
I’d recommend this as a good starter if you haven’t read any Poirot mysteries before, or if you are looking for a fun Poirot romp that won’t make you work too hard, but will leave a satisfying aftertaste nonetheless.
I’m also submitting this one for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:
You can check out my progress toward that challenge here.
Until next time,