I seem to have fallen into a habit of listening to British audiobooks (it’s the accent, I admit it!) and my most recent was no exception: Peril at End House by Agatha Christie, which besides giving me a nice accent to listen to, played into my general goal to “read” more of Dame Agatha.
This is a Hercule Poirot mystery, narrated by his friend Captain Hastings. The two encounter Miss Nick Barkley, owner of End House and recent survivor of several strange accidents. Poirot puts the pieces together, convinces Nick that someone is trying to kill her, and sets to work to prevent the murder, investigating all the people around Nick.
This is, I think, Christie in the classical style, with a big cast of suspects, frequent misdirection and re-direction, a final confrontation scene bringing all the suspects together and, of course, a final twist that I must admit I didn’t see coming. I’m going to have to try this one again one day, and watch how the clues fit together now that I know the ending!
Poirot was a lot of fun in this one, dramatic without becoming farcical. He swings from supreme self-confidence to the depths of despair and frustration, which perhaps stops me from being annoyed by the arrogance. Captain Hastings, on the other hand, is rather a nil item. I didn’t dislike him but I didn’t think he added anything as a character—and while I haven’t read enough stories with him to get fond of him, I have read enough to be tired of the repeated joke about his (erroneous) confidence in his instinct and deductive abilities. He’s an obvious Watson parallel, but somehow I just like Watson better!
My favorite thing in mysteries is the puzzle of it all, and this one was beautiful. Poirot begins with almost no information at all, including a motive, and even once he puts together the convoluted (but reasonable) motive, we’re still left with multiple suspects, all with different clues pointing to them. The final answer was so unexpected as to almost feel like cheating (a kind of deus ex machina equivalent) but not quite!
This is at some points so very classic mystery (as when Poirot helpfully puts together an itemized list of suspects and clues) as to be almost amusing, but I enjoyed that aspect of it. And this is my favorite Poirot novel to date—although I should say that I’ve only read two novels. But I’ve listened to a lot of Poirot short stories, and it was fun to explore the added room for convoluted plot twists that a novel allowed!
Author’s Site: http://www.agathachristie.com/
Read in a Single Sitting
Buy it here: Peril at End House
2 thoughts on “Book Review: Peril at End House by Agatha Christie”
I’ve only read a couple of AC mysteries — ‘Nemesis’ springs to mind — and wasn’t inclined to invest more then. Not sure I’ve changed my mind — I like believable characters I can invest in, and for intellectual puzzles I do cryptic crosswords!
Having said which, I’m not averse to crime fiction with the right mix of characterisation and intrigue. And then I ‘m happy to take notes, like a detective, and sort out timelines and alibis and so on, while engaging with people I can imagine are real flesh and blood personalities.
And never tried audiobooks so far, I’m a visual ‘reader’ myself — though I know that works for a lot of people. Perhaps I’m put off by memories of some dreadfully narrated audiotapes of yesteryear that our kids enjoyed before going to sleep — the recollection still grates!
Christie really goes for the multiple suspect style of mystery writing, which I like, too. I think an itemized list of suspects and clues would be helpful to the reader since it would pull them together in case the reader missed anything along the way. Will have to check this one out.