7 February 2011

Review: APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH, Agatha Christie

First published in 1938 by William Collins
This version  published by Fontana 1980
159 pages
Source: second hand book table at a market
In 1945 Agatha Christie rewrote the novel as a play.

Publisher's blurb
Among the towering red cliffs and ancient ruins of Petra sits the corpse of Mrs. Boynton.  A tiny puncture mark, the only sign of the fatal injection that killed her.  Hercule Poirot recalls a remark he overheard back in Jerusalem: "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" Mrs. Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he had ever met.  With only 24 hours to solve the case, can Poirot find the killer amongst so many suspects?

My take:
Mrs Boynton's American family are in thrall to her. She dominates their lives like a giant spider and saps their individual wills to rebel. Only one of her family are actually her own child. Three of the remaining are her step children and one of the women is married to her eldest step-son. They are all totally dependent on her for financial support, although they will all inherit a massive fortune equally at her death.
    " What a horror of a woman!" Old, swollen, bloated, sitting there immoveable in the midsts of them - a distorted old Buddha - a gross spider in the centre of a web!
Onlookers can see the toll that attendance on their mother is taking on the younger members of the Boynton family. They are nervy, drained, and apparently exhausted. What should have been a holiday in Jerusalem and Petra is a constant battle of wills with their mother who controls where they go, what they see, and who they talk to.

By the end of Part I, nearly half way through the novel, Mrs Boynton keeps her appointment with death while visiting Petra. Hercule Poirot had already observed the family in Jerusalem. Just now he is visiting Colonel Carbury in Amman with a letter of introduction from Colonel Race. Mrs Boynton's body is brought to Amman and Carbury invites Poirot to assist him in the investigation.
    Hercule Poirot ... the egg-shaped head, the gigantic moustaches, the dandyfied appearance and the suspicious blackness of his hair.
Poirot is fresh from his success in DEATH ON THE NILE. Where Colonel Race was his confidante in that case, Colonel Carbury takes on that role in APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH. Poirot is pretty confident though thta he will be able to solve the puzzle fairly quickly. Carbury says that he is only able to detain the family members and fellow travellers for 24 hours, so Poirot has a limit to the time available to him.

Poirot says he will succeed through
    ... methodical sifting of the evidence, by a process of reasoning.... And by a study of psychological possibilities.
Carbury is very sceptical of Poirot's ability, but of course, in the end Poirot proves what he said at the beginning.
    I am gifted.... I know my own ability.
This is once again an enjoyable read. What strikes you with these novels is that they are relatively short by today's standards. Christie seems to have the ability to put a small world under the microscope, and yet at the same time can supply us with a considerable amount of detail, enough to float a red herring or two.

My rating: 4.4


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. Many people say this isn't Christie's best, but one thing that I found particularly fascinating was the way each family member reacted to the hold Mrs. Boynton has over them. Some very nicely-drawn portraits of people and as you say, Christie did it in the span of a relatively short novel.

Nikita Johri said...

Great review..I loved this book and am a big fan of AC.. :)
Checkout my review at http://njkinny.blogspot.in/2013/11/bookreview-hercule-poirot-19.html

New Follower via twitter.. :)


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