Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie

57. Cards on the Table - an Hercule Poirot mystery
by Agatha Christie
mystery, 1936
Kindle book, 34
finished 8/20/11

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.


  1. this one I must read, if only to meet Ariadne Oliver - only person I've ever met with the same name as mine (altho mine's a nickname and my user name on Yahoo

  2. I love Agatha Christie! What a wonderful book you have there to cross reference the characters! Sorry, can't write too much about Agatha Christie without using exclamation marks!
    And I love Hercule Poirot too, I loved him when I read about him and I also love his character as portrayed by David Suchet!

  3. Janice, she features in a few of AC's books, but I think this is where she makes her first appearance. It's a great name!

    Kay, the book is great fun! David Suchet was born for that role, wasn't he?!

  4. I'll look into this one; great review.

    I recently got a short story collection - Tuesday Club Murders/Thirteen Problems - from the library and plan to start it soon; I'm less familiar with Marple than Poirot, so hopefully the short stories will get me better acquainted with her character.

  5. Nan, I have this sitting in one of my many piles and now must find the time to read it (along with a few pieces of your coffee cake from your previous post).

    I came across the Agatha Christie Who's Who this spring and it is a good reference. I knew you had written about another Christie anthology, so picked this up for pittance and might not have if it weren't for your references to the one you had at the time. Wonderful

  6. Ariadne Oliver is such fun! Have you read Elephants Do Remember? I think it's my face Ariadne/Poirot case. :)

  7. HKatz, I have that book! It belonged to my late aunt. One of my treasures.

    Penny, it is a fun book. I love it, and my companion book. They add a lot to my reading of the books. PS the coffee cake is great!

    I haven't, Eva. This is the first book I've read that she was in. I look forward to more.

  8. Thanks for the plug, Nan. :)

    CARDS ON THE TABLE is one of my favorite Agatha Christie books. Mr. Shaitana is such a deserving victim. Agatha Christie's birthday coming up on the 15th!

  9. Yvette, I am so enjoying that book. It's amazing how many characters I haven't met yet!

  10. I just finished all the Jane Marples and as many Tommy and Tuppence as I can find so far. So now I'm ready to dig out my list and start on Hercule. Loving your review which reminds me of why I want to do this -- and would download something Agathathis instant except we don't have wifi trip to town!

  11. Sallie, I really do adore Hercule Poirot. I'm looking forward to T&T. Nobody is called Tuppence anymore, are they?

  12. Nice review Nan! I'm more of an adventure fan but when I'm next craving a whodunnit I'll try find a copy of Cards on the Table. I have a similar book to your Who's Who which I picked up at a second hand book shop (back in March I wrote a blog post about Agatha Christie and took some photos of the copies of her novels which I own, it's in the archive if you're interested).

  13. I am embarrassed to admit I have never read Agatha Christie. I should, and perhaps this winter I will- And I wonder Nan, if you have ever read Mabel Seeley's "The Listening House". Old, but one of the best mysteries I have ever come across.

  14. Love the glorious double rainbow. Promise of better things to come.

  15. Sara, I'll go look now. I'm always interested in AC 'companion' sorts of books.

    Betsy, don't be a bit embarrassed. There are lots of writers I've never read. I didn't begin reading Agatha seriously until just a few years ago. And how I love her. She's a great writer who is also very accessible. Just brilliant, methinks.

    Barbara, it is supposed to be good luck, isn't it. When a young friend of ours was in a skiing accident, one appeared and it gave us hope. He is fine, by the way.

  16. Oh, and I meant to thank you Betsy for the recommendation. I love 'old' and I'll check it out.

  17. I couldn't believe it when I saw the title of this post in my Reader. I am also reading this book. I'm only about 25% through it and, happily, you didn't give any spoilers. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying it. It's a bit different from her previous books, although I haven't yet figured out in what way. I'm enjoying the resources you are using for your study of AC. I want to find my own copy of Who's Who.

  18. Margot, I would never knowingly give away anything in a mystery! I loved this book.


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