6 December 2012

Review: HICKORY, DICKORY, DOCK, Agatha Christie

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • first published 1955
  • File Size: 390 KB
  • Print Length: 307 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007120990
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Masterpiece ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004APA4UM
Synopsis (Amazon)

There’s more than petty theft going on in a London youth hostel…

An outbreak of kleptomania at a student hostel was not normally the sort of crime that aroused Hercule Poirot’s interest. But when he saw the list of stolen and vandalized items – including a stethoscope, some old flannel trousers, a box of chocolates, a slashed rucksack and a diamond ring found in a bowl of soup – he congratulated the warden, Mrs Hubbard, on a ‘unique and beautiful problem’.

The list made absolutely no sense at all. But, reasoned Poirot, if this was merely a petty thief at work, why was everyone at the hostel so frightened?

My Take

This novel begins with a lovely description of Hercule Poirot's very efficient secretary Miss Lemon.

She is very much disturbed with a problem her sister Mrs Hubbard, who runs a student hostel in London, is facing.
    Hercule Poirot frowned. ‘Miss Lemon,’ he said.
    ‘Yes, M. Poirot?’
    ‘There are three mistakes in this letter.’

    His voice held incredulity. For Miss Lemon, that hideous and efficient woman, never made mistakes. She was never ill, never tired, never upset, never inaccurate.
    For all practical purposes, that is to say, she was not a woman at all. She was a machine – the perfect secretary. She knew everything, she coped with everything. She ran Hercule Poirot’s life for him, so that it, too, functioned like a machine.

    Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life.
    Now that crumpets were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.
It is always interesting with these "nursey rhyme" novels to work out what is the connection between the title and the nursery rhyme. In this case, the student hostel is in Hickory Road but that is not the only connection:
    ‘Hickory, dickory, dock,’ said Nigel, ‘the mouse ran up the clock. The police said “Boo”, I wonder who, will eventually stand in the Dock?’
There are two murders in the time frame of this novel and eventually a revelation about an earlier murder committed by the same person. The author cleverly moves the finger of suspicion from one person to another over the course of Poirot's investigation. The sad thing is that the two more recent murders could have been prevented if the opportunity had been taken earlier to report the murderer to the police.

At the end Miss Lemon is returned to her usual efficient self by Hercule Poirot and the police discovering the identity of the murderer.

I think that Agatha Christie was struggling with this story to create and maintain the nursery rhyme connection, and really didn't do it all that successfully.

I read this as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. and this is my 47th novel read mainly in order of publication.

My  rating: 4.2

I did some research into the origins of the nursery rhyme. Here is the most interesting one:
    Hickory Dickory Dock, is the Anglicisation of 8,9,10 in Cumbric ( North West England- the lake district) and devolved from the ancient Gaelic.. It was a language used by shepherds for their daily sheep count.
I don't think that adds much in this case though.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - You're not the only who thinks this isn't Christie's strongest novel. I have to admit I'm fond of it though because I do love the slightly more prominent role that Miss Lemon plays. I've always liked her character.

Clothes In Books said...

I didn't think this was her best mystery, but I liked the way she seemed to very convincingly show the atmosphere of post-war London, and an interesting milieu, with the lodging-house and the foreign students...


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