… Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie. This was first published in the UK in 1933 and later the same year in the USA as Thirteen for Dinner. It’s the eighth book featuring Hercule Poirot, narrated by Captain Hastings. Agatha Christie had written it in the autumn of 1931 at her house in Ninevah, whilst with her husband, Max Malloran on his expedition in the Middle East sponsored by the British Museum.
Lord Edgware Dies is set far from Ninevah, in London’s West End. Poirot is having supper at the Savoy with Hastings after they had been to the theatre to see the celebrated American impressionist, Carlotta Adams. At the next table is Jane Wilkinson, Lady Edgware, also a celebrated actress, who Carlotta had impersonated during her show. Jane implores Poirot to help her to ‘get rid of her husband’ – to convince him to agree to a divorce. Poirot agrees to go and see Lord Edgware. Much to Poirot’s surprise, Lord Edgware readily agrees to a divorce, but as Poirot and Hastings leave the house, Hastings is surprised to see an astonishing change in Lord Edgware’s face:
That suave smiling face was transformed. The lips were drawn back from the teeth in a snarl, the eyes were alive with fury and an almost insane rage. (page 33 0f my copy)
The next morning Lord Edgware was found dead, stabbed in the back of the neck. Jane was seen at the house the night before, but there are witnesses who can testify that she was at a dinner party with twelve other guests. Could Jane have been in two places at once and killed him? She had boasted to her friends that if Poirot couldn’t help her that she would
‘have to call a taxi to go round and bump him off myself. (page 17)
Or was it Carlotta Adams impersonating Jane?
It’s not a simple mystery and there is a second murder which complicates matters. Poirot is at his best, relying on his knowledge of psychology, the ‘employment of the little grey cells‘, which gives him such mental pleasure. There are small personal touches such as this where Poirot compares his moustache to that of Hastings in this conversation between the two of them:
‘You have made a hit, Poirot. The fair Lady Edgware can hardly take her eyes off you.’
‘Doubtless she had been informed of my identity’, said Poirot, trying to look modest and failing.
‘I think it is the famous moustaches’, I said. ‘She is carried away by their beauty.’
Poirot caressed them surreptitiously.
‘It is true that they are unique,’ he admitted. ‘Oh, my friend, the ‘tooth-brush’ as you call it, that you wear – it is a horror – an atrocity – a wilful stunting of the bounties of nature. Abandon it, my friend, I pray of you.’ (pages 12-13)
Yet again, another baffling case solved by Hercule Poirot – a very entertaining book.
The Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012 is a meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.