I am back once more with my #ReadChristie2021 challenge choice, this time for March. This one was under threat all month due to my fingers being slavishly glued to the keyboard in an attempt to complete the first draft of my next book by the end of the month. Somehow, though, I’ve managed to squeeze in my reading through some matchstick-propping of eyelids. 🙂
The remit for this month was a book containing a society figure. The recommended read was Lord Edgware Dies, but I chose to read a story that I haven’t read since I was about fourteen. I picked Death in the Clouds, partly to see how much of the original story I remembered, and partly to see how it differed from the film version starring David Suchet as Poirot.
The setup for the story is as follows: After a visit to France, Poirot and others, some who have been to watch the tennis, some who had other reasons to be there, head to England on a plane. Poirot is among a small group of passengers in the first class compartment but, as he hates flying, he wraps himself up and tries to block out the trip altogether. As they approach the end of the flight, one of the stewards discovers one of the passengers is dead. At first glance, it appears she has been stung by a wasp, but on closer examination, it’s blatantly clear that a poisoned dart has stabbed her in the neck and a blowpipe is discovered in the back of one of the chairs, right near where Poirot had been sitting. And poor Poirot isn’t trusted, then, by most of his fellow passengers or by certain members of the authorities.
It turns out that the dead woman is a notorious money-lender, publicly known as Madame Giselle, and who targeted people with secrets which she could hold over them in order to ensure repayment of their loans. One of the passengers in that first-class compartment must have killed her somehow, even though it seems impossible that anyone could have blown a dart at the woman without being seen. But someone did, and there are a number of distinctly likely candidates. Poirot is determined to help Inspector Japp solve the case – if only to reclaim his respectability!
The trail leads them back to France to discover the secrets of Madame Giselle – including any information they can find out about the secret daughter who inherits everything. Back in England, and with the aid of two of the younger passengers, Jane grey, a hairdresser, and Norman Gale, a dentist, (and who form the beginnings of a romantic attachment as a nice little sideline) the plot gradually unfolds, despite the many attempts to misdirect and misinform Poirot, until the culprit is revealed.
So, where does the society figure come it, then? Well, of course, she is one of the suspects. Lady Horbury is an addicted gambler – and she’s also addicted in other ways, too. She really is one of those characters who make me ‘bristle’. I struggle to find anything at all in the way of a redeeming feature. And she is, as you can well imagine, a strong suspect. Whether she did a very clever job on the woman to whom she was in debt and who knew way more about her than she wanted leaking to the press or other members of her society circle, I shall not tell you – obviously!
I’m going to be honest and say that this is not one of my favourite Christie stories, but as ever with books, this is just my subjective opinion. I do, however, think that the plot device used to enable the perpetrator of the crime to do their dastardly deed was very clever. It is one Christie used several times, for example in the short story ‘The yellow iris’, which she extended and which also became the novel Sparkling Cyanide. If you’ve read them, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, I’m not going to spoil it for you!
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Have you decided to join in the Read Christie challenge this year? If you have, I’d love to hear about what you’ve been reading. If not, I’d still love to hear about what you’ve been reading – I’m always happy to add to my ‘to be read’ pile! Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments.