Harper Collins, 2008 (1935)
From seat No.9, Hercule Poirot was ideally placed to observe his fellow air passengers. Over to his right sat a pretty young woman, clearly infatuated with the man opposite; ahead, in seat No.13, sat a Countess with a poorly-concealed cocaine habit; across the gangway in seat No.8, a detective writer was being troubled by an aggressive wasp. What Poirot did not yet realize was that behind him, in seat No.2, sat the slumped, lifeless body of a woman.
Death In The Clouds begins on a short-haul flight between Paris and Croydon, on a half-empty plane containing a number of interesting passengers, including M. Hercule Poirot himself. In the air, one of the passengers, a Parisian moneylender named Mme. Giselle, is killed, and Poirot must aid the police in unravelling the clues and catching the murderer.
I enjoyed Death In The Clouds. This is Poirot how I enjoy him the most - sure of himself but not so pompous, as in some of the later books, and putting his little grey cells to use is picking apart the clues, both obvious and hidden. The murder seems to be straightforward - a weapon is found, a cause of death established, and all that remains is to narrow down whodunnit. But Poirot is convinced there is more to the scene than meets the eye, and embarks on a Channel-hopping quest to put his theories to the test.
There are a range of characters, all of whom fall under suspicion to some extent - the society lady, the young hairdresser, the doctor, the French archaeologists. Poirot acquires lists of what was in their luggage, which the reader is privy to, and there is little investigation that goes on behind closed doors, yet the reveal is still a surprise. I read this book a long time ago, and remembered only part of the solution, but even then I failed to put all the pieces together on a second read. Death In The Clouds, in its original premise - the murder is committed on a plane, therefore one of the passengers must be the murderer - recalls some of my favourite Christie mysteries (Death On The Nile, And Then There Were None), and is an excellently executed and enjoyable mystery.
Overall rating: 7.5/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.