Three Grand Dames of Mystery: “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” by Agatha Christie

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51z7c081ogl-_sy400_ In Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Simeon Lee has gathered all his children around him to celebrate the holiday, but not for nostalgic reasons but rather to have fun by stirring everyone up. Simeon, who lived for years and made his fortune mining for diamonds in South Africa, has been known to stay just barely on the right side of the law, but certainly not of morality.

Simeon has quite a disfunctional family. His son Alfred, who dotes on his father, and daughter-in-law Lydia live with him, serving his every need. Next, David, married to Hilda, has had nothing to do with his father because David has a serious mother complex and resents his father for the suffering of his mother. Then, George, a member of Parliament who thinks himself God’s gift to humanity, considers his father’s allowance to be his right instead of a gift. The final son, Harry, the black sheep of the family, has returned upon his father’s having sought him out, and of course Simeon thinks of Harry as the best of his sons because of Harry’s spirits and the way he takes after his father’s wild ways. The last family member to arrive is Pilar  Estrabados, the daughter of Simeon’s recently decreased daughter, who had married a Spaniard. Pilar is the only grandchild, at least through Simeon’s legitimate line, and Simeon really enjoys her spunk and flavor.

With all the family’s being thrown together in chaos, they split up after dinner, when everyone hears an unwordly scream and the sound of the furniture in Simeon’s room crashing about. With the key in the lock turned from the inside, they must break the door down, only to find Simeon Lee lying on the floor with his throat slit, covered completely with blood, and the room in disarray. In addition, thousands of dollars of uncut diamonds have been stolen.

Hercule Poirot has been spending the Christmas holiday with his friend, the chief constable of the region, so he offers to assist in the investigation. He conducts his examination by conversing with the suspects, which he asserts makes things hard for criminals to keep their lies straight and obvious.

This book is full of unpleasant people, with, ironically, the two rogues, Harry and Pilar, being the most compelling and sympathetic. Sometimes the numerous characters get a little bit confusing, which might help explain why the recent BBC version cut out the role of David in its adaptation. But these many unpalatable characters just create plenty of plausible murderers.

Hugh Fraser gives the narration of this book as of many other Hercule Poirot books and continues to delight.

When the conclusion arrives, it tends to come as a surprise, but the answer is very logical. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas seems very dark to me for being a book about Christmas. I do wonder if its publication date of 1938, with World War II looming on the horizon, had an effect on the tone of the book. This book is one of my friend’s favorite Agatha  Christie books, mainly for the clever solution. I don’t give it quite as high a rating, but give it four stars.

To purchase this book for yourself, click here on Amazon.

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