Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Review: Cat Among The Pigeons, Agatha Christie

Cat Among The Pigeons
Agatha Christie
Fontana, 1981 (1959)

Another term has begun at Meadowbank, a prestigious, well-respected British girls' school. The indomitable headmistress is preparing to retire and name her successor. There is a disconcertingly mature Middle Eastern princess among the students and several new staff members in residence. And a brand-new sports pavilion is the pride of the campus.
But the school year suddenly takes a deadly turn when one of the teachers is found shot to death. As the investigation ensues, it becomes clear that the killer was not an outsider—and equally clear that no one at Meadowbank is who he or she seems to be. It is up to Hercule Poirot to determine who is who—and, more importantly, what has drawn the killer to the school—before anyone else falls victim to the cat among the pigeons.

Another Poirot, but only just. The majority of Cat Among The Pigeons takes place in a girls' boarding school, where the police (with the help of the Secret Service) must uncover the mystery of the dead school mistress and the kidnapping of a high profile student-slash-princess. There is also the case of the missing jewels, smuggled out of Ramat on the eve of the revolution, as well as the question of who will succeed the retiring Miss Bulstrode as formidable headmistress of Meadowbank...

It's reasonably difficult to review a crime novel without giving too much away, so I will just say this. Cat Among The Pigeons was a wonderfully plotted mystery whose ending did not disappoint. By the time Poirot steps in to wrap things up, all the different threads have become delightfully muddled, until the Belgian detective steps in to unravel them all and reveal the murderer.

The characters were interesting, from the rather bland schoolgirl Jennifer to the dramatic Princess Shaista, and from the hard-nosed Miss Springer to the bulwark that is Miss Bulstrode. What made this book one of my favourite Agatha Christie novels was the multifarious nature of the mystery, the different viewpoints, and the pairing of international mystery and cold-hearted killing with the setting of an English boarding school tucked away in the country. A fantastic and compelling read from the Queen of Crime herself.

Overall rating: 9/10

Book source: Bought secondhand from an Oxfam bookshop in Birmingham.

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