Appointment With Death
Harper Collins, 2007 (1938)
"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" Strange words to float in through a hotel window. Stranger still that Hercule Poirot is the man who overhears them. Later Poirot identifies the voice and his attention is drawn to the Boynton family. Even then he appreciates the psychological forces at work and the terrible emotional strain the Boyntons are undergoing.
We got with them on their journey--from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and onward into the desert. And there, in the rose red city of Petra, the appointment is kept--with Death...
A perfectly natural death, so it would seem, but Colonel Carbury is worried. He appeals to Poirot who promises him the truth within twenty-four hours. Poirot keeps his word.
After reading Hallowe'en Party and being reasonably disappointed with the whole affair, Appointment With Death was a welcome return to some kind of form. I have seen the David Suchet adaptation of AWD, and the book's blurb was such that I didn't realise this was the same story until I was a couple of chapters in. Luckily, I didn't remember 'whodunnit' - but with Poirot/Christie, that's only half the fun anyway. More thrilling is the untangling of clues and Poirot's determination not to take anything at face value, to work the "little grey cells" until he's unravelled the whole mystery.
In AWD, the first half of the book is told through the eyes of Sarah King, who is holidaying in Jerusalem and becomes transfixed by the Boynton family, presided over by the monstrous matriarch Mrs Boynton. The murder takes place at the end of the first half of the book, and only in the second half does Poirot make his entrance. I much prefer those Poirot novels where he is involved from the beginning, but this was still an enjoyable read. (Sarah King, though, displays what may be the fastest case of insta-love I have seen in a while.)
Poirot abroad is always interesting, and the lengthy denouement (one of my favourite things about Christie's novels, and the character of Poirot in particular) is enjoyable and somewhat surprising. Poirot's list of events and pertinent facts (as requested by the Colonel) also made a return. And you know how I like a list.
This is not classic Poirot blasting alibis to pieces on the Nile, but it was a good, solid read that fixed the damage done by Hallowe'en Party and has whet my appetite for more Belgian crimesolving!
Overall rating: 7/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.