2 July 2011

Review: ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE, Agatha Christie

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 438 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Masterpiece ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • originally published 1940. (aka AN OVERDOSE OF DEATH; also THE PATRIOTIC MURDERS)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046RE5GI
  • Source: I bought it

Product Description  (Christie web site)

What reason would an amiable dentist like Dr. Morley have for committing suicide? He didn't have emotional difficulties, money problems, or love trouble.
What he did have was an appointment with Hercule Poirot, who is not persuaded by the suicide story. Poirot therefore takes it upon himself to question the good doctor's patients, partners and friends. He has a suspicion that Dr. Morley wasn't an unlikely murder victim after all. Nor was he the first...

My take

Every now and then in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge I come across a title I genuinely don't think I have read before, and this is one of them.

Hercule Poirot (and his good friend Inspector Japp) become involved in this investigation because Poirot has a 6-monthly checkup with the dentist Morley only hours before he dies. Morley's death appears to have the hallmarks of suicide but Poirot is puzzled how someone contemplating suicide could have appeared so "normal".

And then there is the fact that Morley's young female assistant received a bogus telegram luring her out of the dental surgery for the day. As Poirot and Japp begin to interview other patients from the day they discover that one of them, Mr Amberiotis, has died. He seems to have been poisoned by Mr Morley. And then another patient walks out of her hotel and does not return.

There are 3 other aspects of ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE that I was conscious of.
  1. It was published in 1940 and England has just begun war with Germany. Earlier novels have reflected Christie's awareness of political and economic issues and they surface in this novel too.
    Alistair Blunt, a banker who has great influence in Britain's economic policies and has been responsible for the nation's healthy solvency, was also a patient in Morley's surgery that morning. Is the death of Morley somehow connected to attempts on Blunt's life?
    Poirot himself is witness to just such an attempt.

    Through Poirot however Christie seems to be making the point that dictatorships can exist even within democracies, and it is how life is valued that is important.

  2. There is some delightful description in this novel.
    "Mr Morley was a small man with a decided jaw and a pugnacious chin. His sister, who kept house for him, was a large woman rather like a female grenadier. She eyed her brother thoughtfully and asked whether the bath water had been cold again."

    "They were going down the steps of the house when a car drew up in front of it. It was a car of sporting build – one of those cars from which it is necessary to wriggle from under the wheel in sections. The young woman who did so appeared to consist chiefly of arms and legs. She had finally dislodged herself as the men turned to walk down the street. The girl stood on the pavement looking after them. Then, suddenly and vigorously, she ejaculated, ‘Hi!’ Not realizing that the call was addressed to them, neither man turned, and the girl repeated: ‘Hi! Hi! You there!’ They stopped and looked round inquiringly. The girl walked towards them. The impression of arms and legs remained. She was tall, thin, and her face had an intelligence and aliveness that redeemed its lack of actual beauty. She was dark with a deeply tanned skin."

  3. ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE is one of the novels where Christie has used a nursery rhyme to provide both the title and the structure.
    While this structure does have some constraints, it also provides interest. The title for each chapter is a line from the nursery rhyme and occasionally there is a comment in the text that reminds the reader of the connection.
    When he learns that Mr Amberiotis has died (Three, four, shut the door)
    To Hercule Poirot it was as though a door had gently but firmly shut.

    and, after Alistair Blunt's cousin has been giving her opinion (Nine, ten, a good fat hen)
    Mrs Olivera clacked on. She was, thought Poirot, rather like a hen. A big, fat hen! Mrs Olivera, still clacking, moved majestically after her bust towards the door.
The novel gets its title as I have said from the nursery rhyme and here is the way the buckle on the shoe makes its first appearance.
The lady got out of the taxi, but in doing so she caught her other foot in the door and the buckle was wrenched off. It fell tinkling on to the pavement. Gallantly, Poirot sprang forward and picked it up, restoring it with a bow. Alas! Nearer fifty than forty. Pince-nez. Untidy yellow-grey hair – unbecoming clothes – those depressing art greens! She thanked him, dropping her pincenez, then her handbag.

Finally there were a couple of things I had to look up (a rarity for me, as I usually understand the text)
- are they new to you?
  • "these things are all my eye and Betty Martin"
  • "The Phillips Oppenheim touch seemed to be reappearing"
I think I have interpreted them correctly - the first basically means baloney or rubbish, while the second is reference to an early writer of spy fiction, who wrote a novel called THE GREAT IMPERSONATION.

I wasn't entirely happy with the way the story panned out. In the long run I thought the ultimate merging of the threads was rather far fetched. But it is a novel with many redeeming qualities.

My rating: 4.3

This is my 29th novel in sequence as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge


che said...

"All my eye and Betty Martin" is a phrase I first read in Miss Marple's Final Cases. Strange Jest, I think the story was called. It plays a Big part in the story too. I think Christie really liked the saying.

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks so much for this thoughtful review. I think you've touched on a lot of things I like about this novel. It shows some of the social issues of the time (e.g. What is the role of government and how should people be governed), there is some humour and terrific description, and the mystery itself gets readers intrigued. It may not be the very finest of Christie's work by many people's standards, but it raises some interesting questions.

Nan said...

I'm now very interested in this one. I do like those nursery rhyme stories! Thanks for the great review.


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