Agatha Christie liked using nursery rhymes as themes for her books, so Hickory Dickory Dock features students living in a boarding house on Hickory Road with “Mother” Hubbard, the sister of Hercule Poirot’s inimitable secretary, Miss Lemon, as their house mother. Little items have been disappearing from the boarding house, so Mrs. Hubbard brings in Poirot to help solve this mystery. These items include a ripped up rucksack (British for backpack), a diamond ring that was returned the next day in the soup, a compact, one dress shoe, a stethoscope, and boracic powder. The unusual mystery delights Poirot, who eagerly visits Hickory Road.
He soon uncovers the fact that Celia has been taking things, posing as a kleptomaniac in order to gain the attention of Colin McNabb, a student of psychiatry who has no real interest in “normal” people. But she claims not to have committed all the thefts, saying that she is sure it will all be cleared up by the next day. But that next day, Celia never wakes up, dead of an overdose of morphine tartrate, with a suicide note next to her bed. The timing seems so strange, as the previous night Celia and Colin had announced their engagement. But when Mrs. Hubbard realizes proof that the note has been faked, showing that Celia has been murdered, giving Poirot a more serious case to investigate.
This book has an intriguing introductory premise, with the theft of small items with little in common, but the plot turns into a stretch as it progresses. Plus, the connection to the nursery rhyme is somewhat tenuous, especially given the strong connection that other books like Five Little Pigs or One, Two, Buckle My Shoe have. That said, the book still has plenty of enjoyable elements.
This is the first Hercule Poirot book to be set entirely in post-World War II England and its aftermath. Published in 1955, it has moved past the war, the lives of those who fought in it, and the rationing that existed in England long after the war concluded.
Hugh Fraser returns to narrate this book, and as always he does an outstanding job. He handles the accents of the various foreign students, including an American, a West Indian, a West African, and some Indians.
Hickory Dickory Dock is well worth reading, especially for those who already know Hercule Poirot, but I would not recommend it as an in introduction to Christie or Poirot. I give the book four stars.
Hickory dickory dock
The mouse ran up the clock.
The police said boo
I wonder who
Will eventually stand in the dock.
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