By Shabna Cader Ceylon Today Features
Invited to a luncheon on a weekend, Hercule Poirot counts the minutes as he makes his way to the front gate and is ushered in by a strange but smart looking butler to where his hosts seem to be. “Why would anyone host a lunch outside by the pool?” he thinks to himself as he is directed towards the lush country outdoors and lap pool.
He is met with a scene that appears to be staged. Yes, staged is the first thought that comes to Poirot’s clever mind. It looks set, and ready to be called for ‘action’. Why, there’s the body lying beside the pool, drooping of what appears to be blood (possibly a red goopy like liquid that they made do with), another standing over with a gun in the hand, two others beside having entered the scene from two separate pathways and the host herself coming up from yet another pathway and direction. Their reactions and body language screamed it in fact. And yet, somehow it was not to be. It wasn’t staged. It was an actual murder he had walked into.
Of all the books I’ve read in Poirot’s series by Agatha Christie, this one intrigued me the most (thus far). Poirot himself has never claimed to have come upon a murder site and thought it to have been a cruel joke, a play, a scenario that was being staged for amusement. What made him think so? The characters’ reactions? Their body language? The manner and position in which each of them stood? Could possibly be all of it eh?
I also liked how there was quite the introduction to each of the main characters at the beginning of the novel. John and Gerda Christow, the so-called happy but not so happy couple, each with a mind of their own - John with enough thoughts of other women apart from his wife, and Gerda with too many thoughts of mucking things up on a constant roll. Quite mismatched, I thought and yet, there was also the underlying sense of simple contentment from having married into each other and allowing life to simply go on. They’d two children as well.
Henrietta, the sculptorist was fascinating to read on. I enjoyed the manner in which she came to think of things, and the way she dealt with difficulties in life - in the most practical sense, which annoyed John. Ah, well you see, she was his mistress. Theirs was also a relationship I thought quite odd but yet somehow fit.
Lady Angkatell was someone I just could not fathom. Her frame of thought was shorter than a two year old, and it also made a lot of things seem jumbled up. Seemed, being the key word. However, if you read closely and carefully, you’d come to realise she also spoke a lot of sense amongst her constant chatter.
There’s a few other characters that are introduced as the story continues. With the death of John, it appears that the first on the list of suspects is of course, dear wife Gerda, who happens to be seen standing over his body with a revolver. And then there’s John, who whispers Henrietta’s name on his last breath. What does all this mean? As someone who has read plenty of crime and mystery novels, my first instinct was to look at the possibility of the killer being the most obvious one - Gerda. But then it appears that the gun she was holding, wasn’t the gun that killed John. What?!?
Piqued your interest? It’s a good read alright.