Top positive review
Classic Agatha Christie Mystery
on December 24, 2014
One of my favorite Christies and one I haven't read in quite a while. I remember the cover of my old paperback had the gruesome image of a screaming, skeletal old man in chair surrounded by flying objects. Ugh. That's the main reason I gave the book away. The murder is one of Christie's more interesting, not to mention puzzling.
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.