I didn’t read much crime fiction in January, just two books, if you don’t count The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. They are The Burry Man’s Day by Catriona McPherson and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie.
And I’ve chosen One, Two, Buckle My Shoe as my crime fiction pick of the month. This was first published in 1940 (in the USA it was published as The Patriotic Murders). Hercule Poirot and Inspector Japp investigate the apparent suicide of Mr Morley, Poirot’s Harley Street dentist, who was found dead in his surgery, shot through the head and with a pistol in his hand. Each chapter is entitled after a line of the nursery rhyme and the first line contains an important clue.Earlier in the morning Poirot had visited his dentist and as he was leaving the surgery another patient was arriving by taxi. He watched as a foot appeared.
Poirot observed the foot with gallant interest.
A neat ankle, quite a good quality stocking. Not a bad foot. But he didn’t like the shoe. A brand new patent leather shoe with a large gleaming buckle. He shook his head.
Not chic – very provincial! (page 26)
The importance of the shoe and its buckle don’t become clear until much later in the book!
Mr Morley had seemed in good spirits when Poirot saw him and had shown no signs of wanting to take his own life. Was it coincidence that his assistant, Gladys, had been called away from his surgery on that day, leaving him on his own in his surgery? As Poirot and Japp interview the other patients it becomes obvious to Poirot that it was murder not suicide. Then one of the patients, a rich Greek, Mr Amberiotis is found dead, and another patient, Miss Sainsbury Seale, the owner of the buckled shoe, goes missing. Poirot begins to wonder if Morley had been killed by mistake whilst another of the patients Alistair Blunt, a banker was the intended victim.
This really is a most complicated plot, and even though the facts are clearly presented and I was on the lookout for clues, Agatha Christie, once again fooled me. Not all the characters are who they purport to be and the involvement of international politics and intrigue doesn’t help in unravelling the puzzle. Poirot, himself, is perplexed until during a church service he is alerted to the trap that has been set for him:
Hercule Poirot essayed in a hesitant baritone.
‘The proud have laid a snare for me,’ he sang, ‘and spread a net with cords: yea and set traps in my way …’
He saw it – saw clearly the trap into which he had so nearly fallen! (page 215)
It all fell into place and he saw the case ‘the right way up’.
Written in 1939, this book reflects the economic and political conditions of the time, with a definite pre-war atmosphere of a world on the brink of war. But Poirot is concerned with the truth, with the importance of the lives of each individual, no matter how ordinary or insignificant they may seem.
- My Rating: 4.5/5
- Paperback: 294 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins; Masterpiece edition (Reissue) edition (18 Aug 2008)
- Language English
- ISBN-10: 0007120893
- ISBN-13: 978-0007120895
You can see other people’s crime fiction picks of the month at Mysteries in Paradise.