1938, 214 pages
I've been wanting to try reading mysteries for a while, and I figured what better way to start than with the 'Queen of Crime' herself, Agatha Christie. I picked this one up on an impulse in the bookstore, mostly because I liked the setting and thought the plot sounded interesting.
In this book, Christie's beloved detective Hercule Poirot is on vacation in Jerusalem, and during his first night's day he overhears part of a conversation in which someone says, "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" Not long after that, Poirot is asked to look into the murder of Mrs. Boynton, the controlling matriarch of her family, who by all accounts is better off dead. Poirot perserveres in his investigation regardless, and in time virtually everyone comes under suspicion for the murder of Mrs. Boynton.
I didn't quite know what to expect coming into this novel. I think I may have watched a few too many procedural tv shows, where the story starts off with a body being found, and the investigation takes center stage. In this book, Christie spends over 80 pages setting the stage before the murder even takes place, and where Poirot was barely featured. I was surprised by this and, as I was reading, almost wished that the murder would happen already, since you know who's going to die before you even open the book. After finishing the book, I can see why this build up was important and understand why it's there. But I'm curious - is this long buildup before the crime typical of mysteries? Just trying to manage my expectations ;)
Anyway, I really liked the premise of this book - the question of whether Mrs. Boynton deserved to die, and the fact that virtually every character has some motive for wanting her dead. The resolution was a surprise to me, but it made sense in hindsight and I really liked the way it played out in the end.
"There is no doubt that her death was--how shall we put it?--beneficial to the community. It has brought freedom to her family. They will have scope to develop--they are all, I think, people of good character and intelligence. They will be--now--useful members of society! The death of Mrs. Boynton, as I see it, has resulted in nothing but good."This book definitely makes me want to pick up some more mysteries in the future. The jury is still out on whether I love Agatha Christie's mysteries - I thought this one was enjoyable, but not quite what I expected.
Poirot repeated for the third time:
"So, are you satisfied?"
"No." Dr. Gerard pounded a fist suddenly on the table. I am not 'satisfied," as you put it! It is my instinct to preserve life--not to hasten death. Therefore, though my conscious mind may repeat that this woman's death was a good thing, my unconscious mind rebels against it! It is not well, gentleman, that a human being should die before his or her time has come." (p102)