Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#BookReview--> Hercule Poirot #20- Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie



Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?
- Macbeth

With this quote from Macbeth starts the book, Hercule Poirot's Christmas which takes us on a psychological roller coaster in search of a murderer who vanished into thin air after murdering a man behind a closed door with no other way of making an escape!

It is Christmas Eve and on receiving summons
from Simeon Lee, the Head of the Lee family, all his sons have made an appearance at Gorston Hall to celebrate Christmas with family. Mr. Lee is a tyrannical man who takes pleasure in suppressing and goading people and so their is no love lost between him and his family. Only his eldest son, Alfred seems to like him and is devoted to him.

As everyone preparing for dinner, there is a sudden commotion and then a high pitch shrill scream which seems to be coming from their father's room Upon breaking hi door and entering, Mr. Lee is found dead, lying in a pool of his own blood with the room in shambles. All windows are either closed or stuck at heights that don't allow enough space for anyone to escape. No one has come out through the door as it was locked from the inside with the key still in it!

Who killed Mr. Lee and How?
How did the killer escape?

Everyone is asking this question. Hercule Poirot, who is spending the holidays at his friend Colonel Johnson's house, who is the chief constable of the local village accompanies him to the crime scene and the atmosphere he finds at the Lee household is not of mourning but of mutual suspicion and secrets.

Can he solve this bizarre murder where no one went in and no one came out but still Mr. Lee got murdered?

As Colonel Johnson says to Superintendent Sugden,
"Do you mean to tell me, Superintendent, that this is one of those damned cases you get in detective stories where a man is killed in a locked room by some apparently supernatural agency?"

Hercule Poirot's Christmas, was written by Agatha Christie in 1938 as a gift to her brother-in-law who was an avid fan of her stories but had recently complained of her murders getting too refined or anaemic which could easily pass as normal deaths. He wanted a good violent murder with lots of blood where there was no doubt about its being a murder!

Like her other stories, Agatha Christie wows the reader yet again with a gruesome murder with lots of blood. But be aware that this no simple murder, this murder has a character of its own. There is an almost supernatural quality to it. Everyone is downstairs, the old man is alone locked in his room yet suddenly their is a loud band with furniture falling, like two people are struggling and then suddenly a high pitched scream like "killing a pig", "a soul in hell" etc. as it was described by different members of the household.

The characters are sketched and developed to give more color to the mystery like Magdalene Lee is usually described as "a platinum blonde with plucked eyebrows and a smooth egg-like face" which looked "quite blank and devoid of expression" like she was a bit dim witted but she was anything but slow. "Her hazel eyes were sharp and keen. The expressionless egg-like face showed sudden meaning" when there was talk of money. Similarly, Pilar can be demure and naive but is extremely quick and sure of her actions which are always such that suit her purposes. Likewise, Mr. Simeon Lee is a man who "amuses himself by playing upon the cupidity and the greed of human nature- yes, and on its emotions and its passions, too!"

The psychological analysis of the characters and the ingenious way in which the crime is committed shocked me. I learned a lot about human character and was very impressed by the knowledge that the author exhibits here.

"The character of the victim has always something to do with his or her murder. The frank and unsuspicious mind of Desdemona was the direct cause of her death. A more suspicious woman would have seen Iago's machinations and circumvented them much earlier."

A book with a mystery unlike any that I had read. I was enchanted by the whole atmosphere. 5 super shiny stars to Hercule Poirot's Christmas and a strong recommendation that you read it. The solution is so shocking and ingenious that I was left speechless and totally amazed with a new respect for the author's expertise and creativity in devising and so skillfully executing such top- notch mysteries which are as surprising and engaging as when they were first written so many decades ago! :)

Another gem from the "Queen of Crime"Hercule Poirot's Christmas is not to be missed. :)

"No! Evil is not only in one's mind. Evil exists! You seem to have no consciousness of the evil in the world. I have. I can feel it. I've always felt it- here in this house-" - Lydia Lee to her husband, Alfred Lee


 

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