Hercule Poirot returns one final time in Curtain: Hercule Poirot’s Last Case, and he reunites with Captain Hastings, not seen since 1937 in Dumb Witness, in their old age at Styles Court, the scene of their first case together and Agatha Christie’s very first book. Badly deformed and tied to a wheelchair, his hair ever so visibly dyed and his mustache now false, Poirot still retains his brains but must rely on Hastings to do the legwork for him. Poirot explains to Hastings that he has discovered a connection among five murders and that the supposed murderers do not bear the responsibility. Instead, someone is at work to trigger murders, and this person is making his or her residence at Styles Court, now a bed and breakfast. Hastings spends all his time trying to figure out the criminal Poirot is chasing, but Poirot refuses to tell him the identity and gets exasperated when all Hastings wants to do is figure out the identity of the person. Instead, Poirot wants Hastings to discern who is most likely to get killed next, now that he knows some details of the modus operandus of the criminal.
The rest of the book follows a lot of the psychological details of Poirot’s relationship with Hastings, as well as Poirot’s investigation. Hastings comes across as a sad, newly widowed man who feels broken down. His scientist daughter Judith and her
employer, Dr. Franklin, with his wife, also have taken up residence at Styles Court, and the two scientists spend a lot of their time doing research on an obscure bean that they hope will yield a cure for an obscure disease. But Hastings’s attention is drawn to Major Allerton, a womanizer whom he believes has his hooks into Judith. Taking his time to spy on Allerton distracts Hastings from his job for Poirot, who wants him to figure out the next victim, causing him to miss out on a couple significant actions.
Since I don’t want to give away any of the key points of plot, I won’t go into further details on the story, so instead I’ll focus on general issues surrounding this book, including the background of its being written. While the book was published in September 1975, a mere four months before the death of its author, Christie actually wrote Curtain circa 1940, during the Blitz in World War II. Working in London during this extremely dangerous point of the war when many civilians were killed and seriously injured, Christie wrote the manuscript to this book and to Sleeping Murder, the final Miss Marple book, which was published after her death. Christie wrote both books, giving the rights to Curtain to her only daughter, Rosalind Hicks, and the rights to Sleeping Murder to her husband, Max Mallowan, as an inheritance to make sure each family member would be provided for. Both books written during the Blitz went into a bank vault to be preserved, and Christie made some edits to the original text of Curtain before it got published at the end of her life to make the book fit into the time period of the novel and make it fit into the canon of other Hercule Poirot books.
WhenCurtain was released, this book created quite a sensation. It wouldn’t be going too far to state that the world mourned, knowing that they had just read the last of this iconic character. The creative nature of this book and its impact can’t be understated. Though Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd have gained the attention, Curtain shows the same innovation as they do. I gift the book 5 stars!
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