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The Plot: A woman is found murdered at her table at a posh restaurant. Was Rosemary a suicide victim or was she murdered? Her husband George hopes to reveal the murderer by inviting the same guests to dinner one year to the day his darling was poisoned with a jigger of cyanide?
Several of the suspects recount their memories of the murder and we follow what happens at the second party held at the Luxembourg restaurant.Christie's characters are more rounded in this novel than in some of her other books. The story is intriguing and is an excellent entry into the extensive Christie canon.
On another note- This isn't in my top favorites by AC, but it's still a good (& quick) read. It also is not a Poirot or Marple mystery, for those wondering.
I should also mention that some of these publishers have more recently begun editing, redacting, and even (unscrupulously) re-writing some of Christie's actual words which is why I much prefer the older editions. But the one I've cited as reviewing here is terrific if you can find it.
THE STORY: A young heiress of stunning appearance weds an older gentleman, a man blinded by love, who is thus unable to recognize his lovely bride's personal failings as a wife. She soon expands her illicit romantic activities with her enthusiastic, dynamic, and passionate paramours. But she doesn't get to engage in her concupiscent behavior for too long because, during an elaborate birthday supper sponsored by her generous husband at a high-end restaurant, she drops dead of cyanide poisoning. Even though the death is suspicious and likely suspects abound, the coroner ultimately rules the death a suicide, citing the decedent's depression subsequent to her having suffered from the flu.
After a year passes, the husband becomes convinced of two actualities:
1. His wife had been having love affairs behind his back.
2. She was murdered by someone at the dinner table.
These epiphanies were chiefly the result of anonymous letters which he began receiving, advising him directly of the latter thought and strongly implying the former. So the distraught husband calls in his lifelong friend and man-of-the-world, Colonel Race, to aid him in trapping the killer. Unfortunately this widower's meticulous plan, which involved a second celebratory dinner with all the same guests present as before and conducted at the same restaurant, gives rise to a second murder.
That last comment is not a spoiler as all this is revealed by the book's back cover teaser -- Christie wanted us to know all this up front. The resolution is quite clever and most readers will anticipate neither the murderer nor the method.
Christie devotees have previously encountered the fictional Colonel Race, formerly of Great Britain's MI-5 organization, a man who also paired up with the renowned Hercule Poirot in Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot). Race's role is somewhat unique to Christie mysteries in that he functions as a (semi-private) "helper detective" to the primary investigator who in this case is Scotland Yard Inspector Kemp, (whom, it is further noted, had been mentored by the more well-known and now-retired Inspector Battle, ergo: Towards Zero (St. Martin's Minotaur Mysteries).) While it is true that even Hercule Poirot serves as a secondary detective to the Scotland Yard one most of the time, (as does Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, etc.), the reader still knows that it will be Poirot, and not the Scotland Yard sleuth, who actually resolves the case. But here, Colonel Race's role is truly a supplemental and secondary one.
While this mystery is a pretty good read overall, it's not, from my view, Christie's best effort. But since she generated a total of over eighty mysteries, romance novels, and plays it's logical that not every work can rank among "the very best." Of British cozy murder mysteries in general, (all authors), this one easily falls within the top twenty percent because Christie was simply that skilled in the art.
This book was first published in 1945 by Dodd, Mead. For those who are just commencing to explore the plethora of Agatha Christie mysteries there are probably better starting points. I would recommend Agatha Christie's Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot Mysteries);Murder at the Vicarage: A Miss Marple Mystery (Agatha Christie Collection), or; By the Pricking of My Thumbs.
Highly recommended for all Christie fans and generally recommended for those who enjoy various authors of the cozy murder genre.
The puzzle is an interesting one, the characters well-drawn, and the writing style, of course, authentic Christie. Colonel Race does not possess the color of Poirot or Marple, but he is adequate for the occasion. Christie does give us a number of surprises before the denouement so that there are no dull spots waiting for something to happen.
All-in-all a treat for every Christie fan and, I should think, also, for any fan of the classic style mystery.
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