aka A Holiday for Murder / Murder for Christmas
This edition: Agatha Christie Signature Edition published 2001
Source: my local library
Christmas is the time for family gatherings, but, as Hercule Poirot points out to his host the Chief Constable, they are often fraught with tension.
- And families now, families who have been separated throughout the year, assemble once more together. Now under these conditions, my friend, you must admit that there will occur a great amount of strain. People who do not feel amiable are putting great pressure on themselves to appear amiable. There is at Christmas time a great deal of hypocrisy, honourable hypocrisy, hypocrisy undertaken pour le bon motif, c'est entendu, but nevertheless hypocrisy.
- I am pointing out to you that under these conditions - mental strain, physical malaise - it is highly probable thta dislikes that were before merely mild and disagreements that were trivial might suddently assume a more serious character.
Simeon Lee gathers his family around him for Christmas, including his black sheep of a son Harry, whom everyone had assumed (or hoped) was either dead or in gaol somewhere. His granddaughter Pilar, whose mother had died the previous year, turns up as does the son of his old mining partner in South Africa.
On Christmas Eve Simeon Lee signs his death warrant by telling his collected family that he is about to change his will.
- "Your mother had the brains of a louse! And it seems to me that she transmitted those brains to her children!". He raised himself up suddenly. A red spot appeared on each cheek. His voice came high and shrill. "You're not worth a penny piece, any of you! I'm sick of you all! You are not men! You're weaklings - a set of nanmby-pamby weaklings. Pilar's worth any two of you put together! I'll swear to heaven I've got a better son somewhere in the world than any of you, even if you are born on the right side of the blanket. "
I was struck right from the beginning with how Agatha Christie carefully describes the physical appearance of each of the characters. And indeed Poirot pays considerable attention to the portraits of each of the family members in the portrait gallery.
Several times the reader is given an update of the progress of the investigation, so we are given most of the information that Inspector Sugden, the police officer in charge of the case, has as well as Poirot's thinking. In the end though, of course, it is Poirot who comes up with the explanation.
A great read, particularly at this time of the year.
My rating: 4.7
Read as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.