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Hercule Poirot's Christmas Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2000
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From the Back Cover
Christmas Eve, and the Lee family’s reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture and a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed.
When Hercule Poirot offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man. . . .--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The story revolves around the Lee family. The Lee patriarch is the colorful, cruel, and charismatic Simeon, who sadistically toys with his children, none of whom have lived up to his expectations. Things come to a head one fateful Christmas when all of his surviving children converge for a nice family get together - the ever faithful Alfred, the eldest son and resident doormat, and his cool, elegant wife, Lydia; the rakish Harry, the family blacksheep (who always reminds me of George Sanders for some reason); miserly politician George with his much younger (and quite expensive) wife Magdalene; David, an artistic, overly sensitive Mama's boy who still mourns his mother and hates his father a passion; David's loyal, very motherly wife Hilda; and Pilar, the half-Spanish daughter of Simeon's only daughter, Jennifer, who passed away a year earlier. Also entering the mix is the mysterious Stephen Farr, son of Simeon's former business partner in South Africa. Then, of course, there are the servants, especially the very loyal, ever present butler, Tressilian, and the valet, Horbury, who is described by Magdalene as "Sneaking round like a cat and smirking.”
Once the family is assembled, old Simeon lets loose and tells them all what he thinks of them.
“You’re not worth a penny piece, any of you! I’m sick of you all! You’re not men! You’re weaklings—a set of namby -pamby weaklings. Pilar’s worth any two of you put together! I’ll swear to heaven I’ve got a better son somewhere in the world than any of you, even if you are born the right side of the blanket!”
His daughter-in-law Hilda tries to warn him:
"Hilda Lee said slowly: 'I’m afraid. . . .'
Simeon said: 'You’re afraid— of me?'
Hilda said: 'Not of you. I’m afraid— for you!'
Like a judge who has delivered sentence, she turned away. She marched, slowly and heavily, out of the room. . . ."
Of course, Simeon gets his comeuppance in a surprisingly dramatic and violent - for Christie anyway - manner. This is one of the more enjoyable Poirot outings and is really a lot of fun. The murderer is very surprising and Christie does an excellent job with the clues.
If you're looking for a sentimental holiday read....this isn't it! If you're looking for a murder mystery that will have you scratching your head and gasping at the end, you're in the right place.
The story focuses on the murder of patriarch Simeon Lee, a bitter and hateful old man who traumatizes his children and is brutally murdered in a locked room. This has all the other classic markers of a Christie tale: unlikeable victim that many people would want to kill; murder in a selaed room; family that hate one another; secret siblings and offspring; family secrets; secret family treasure, etc. World-famous detective Hercule Poirot is on the case, but acts much different than his usual modus operandi. He holds all the cards close to his chest and gives us, the readers, very little to go on. The ending was complete shock. While I had plenty of guesses, none of them even came close.
I loved the way this book starts. It opens with an unknown character and the reader watches and watches for him/her to return and tries to figure out how all these pieces fit together. I am not one of those really smart readers who keep track of all the clues and try to solve the mystery. For most mysteries, I'm just in it for the ride and this one is no exception. What a thrill ride from beginning to end! The Dame does it again.
'Hercule Poirot's Christmas' is a quick whodunit that will keep many readers in the dark until the very end. However, one important clue in the solution was obscure to me and I had to look it up on the Internet. It may have been a common item in 1938 when Ms. Christie wrote it, but it does not hold up well in 2014. I enjoyed the book except for the aforementioned outdated clue. As usual, the colorful vain Hercule Poirot is a delight.
Ms. Christie did a fabulous job of setting up a locked-door murder mystery. Her red herrings had me guessing all over the board for the true culprit, or was it two culprits? She also offered a delightful cast of characters, diverse and colorful. The plot was intricate and complex enough to hold my interest throughout the story.
A mild disappointment lay in the lack of Christmas in Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. Granted, no one is in a festive mood once a body takes center stage, but the title raised my expectations and I would have liked a bit of holiday spirit, at least before the murder scene.
Within Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, there is still the holiday madness, however, and this author’s superb writing is worth the read.