57. Cards on the Table - an Hercule Poirot mystery
by Agatha Christie
Kindle book, 34
An odd man, with strange tastes, Mr. Shaitana has a dinner and bridge party with eight invited guests. Four of them have literally gotten away with murder. Their past stories are known to the host. The other four people are Colonel Race of the Secret Service, Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, Ariadne Oliver a famous mystery novelist, and our own Hercule Poirot, Detective. My new acquisition, The Agatha Christie Who's Who, recommended by Yvette , says of Mr. Shaitana:
It was generally felt that he "knew a little too much about everybody," and he certainly knew something about the lives of Anne Meredith, Dr. Roberts, Mrs. Lorrimer, and Major John Despard, for they all in some way feared him.The two groups play bridge in two separate rooms, while their host sits by the fire in the room with the alleged killers. What was he thinking, I wondered?! And sure enough, the slimy fellow is stabbed with a dagger which was displayed in the very room. Now the problem is who on earth could have killed him? Wouldn't it be noticed if one of the players got up and went over to Mr. Shaitana?
In her forward to this book, Agatha Christie says that
Hercule Poirot considered the Shaitana murder one of his favourite cases but that, when he described it to Captain Hastings, his friend thought it very dull.In the way many people felt Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to be real people, Agatha lets her readers think that just maybe Hercule and Arthur are real as well.
It was very pleasant reading about Ariadne Oliver. The reader suspects there is more than a little Agatha in the character, who had written a book called The Body in the Library (which Agatha didn't publish until 1942!). She talks of being tired of her Finnish detective, just as it is said that Agatha Christie tired of Poirot. She is quite a strong feminist who often insists that Scotland Yard would solve more crimes if 'a woman was at the head of things. Women know crime.'
I was a little leery that I would feel lost in the book, not being a bridge player but I should have trusted that the author wouldn't do that to a non-playing reader. Yes, the strategies of bridge are an important and interesting part of the mystery, but I did okay just understanding them from Poirot's point of view. This is a very intelligent story, and I thought it was most excellent. The author was brilliant, that's all.