In Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral, Richard Abernathy is dead, and his heirs are leaning about his will when his sister Cora, long estranged from the family, pipes up, “It was murder, wasn’t it?” This of course throws the whole family into chaos, leaving Mr. Entwhistle, the family lawyer, concerned enough to decide to do some discreet checking into things. He never gets the chance to talk to Cora though because the next day she is discovered murdered with a hatchet, a particularly gory crime.
In concern over the apparent lack of motive and the subsequent attempt to poison Cora’s companion with arsenic-laced wedding cake, Mr. Entwhistle calls upon his old friend Hercule Poirot, who agrees to look into the case. This is one of the few books where Poirot actually goes undercover, as Monsieur Pontalier. He pretends to have bought Enderby Hall on behalf of the fictional UNARCO, an agency to house refugees. He arranges a reunion to select pieces from the house by all the family, which includes Richard’s sole surviving brother, his sister-in-law, a nephew, and two nieces with their husbands. This allows Poirot the opportunity to examine each person privately through conversation and publicly by watching their arguments over certain items that more than one person wants. It takes plenty of ingenuity for Poirot to solve this unusual case.
Hugh Fraser reads the book in the audio version. He keeps the book, which is not my favorite, moving and of interest.
As just stated, After the Funeral is not nearly as strong as many other Poirot books. The characters did not come to life quite as much as most of Christie’s characters. It also signals the end of the World War II era, the last book to feature a butler and rationing that remained in England years after the end of the war. Still, despite my considering the book one of the less impressive Christie books, the high quality of Christie’s writing that it has to live up to means it is still good and worth four stars.
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