Review No.237 – Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie

Fontana, 1957

Originally publishd in 1938

‘Tis the season of peace and goodwill – unless you happen to be living under the roof of Simeon Lee, wealthy patriarch and habitual tyrant. After years of quiet living, he has decided to shake things up. From the disreputable eldest son to the estranged youngest, the Spanish granddaughter no one has ever met and a handsome stranger who simply appears on the doorstep, the family and friends of Simeon’s long lifetime are all descending on the house for a Christmas reunion. What could possibly go wrong?

There are all sorts of things that frustrate me about Agatha Christie’s writing – the tendency to infantilise women, the little xenophobic asides and casual classism – all of which are present in Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, along with some very creepy familial banter that never gets properly addressed. But she’s just so damn good at this. No one can structure a mystery with the same mixture of clarity and obfuscation as the Queen of Crime, or make massive contrivance seem so natural. As is often the case, Hercule Poirot takes a while to show up, but from the moment the famous Belgian detective sets foot in the story it is 100% his. This isn’t the most cheerful seasonal storyline, but it’s a glamorously gruesome romp and very easy to read.

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