When I did a post last week about the celebrated author Agatha Christie I had not yet had the leisure to finish reading this lesser-known entry in her vast body of work.
To be honest, when I read the first couple of chapters, I was afraid that this would be a more modern retelling of The Murder on the Orient Express, one of my favorites, as it entails a murder committed on an airplane mid-flight in a cabin full of people. Luckily, the superficial resemblance to that other story ended quickly, as Hercule Poirot, the private detective, is both a witness, and (to some) a possible suspect in the case!
The victim is a “money-lender” a famed character in Paris who uses blackmail material as collateral for her loans. Who out of the passengers would benefit from her death? The case is complicated when the victim’s staff, following her pre-stated instructions, burns all the evidence of her clients’ misdeeds.
Poirot, assisted by detectives in both France and England, interviews witnesses and seeks clues that involve passengers from numerous walks of life, with more than a couple of hints of new romance blossoming out of the tragic event on the otherwise routine flight from Paris to London.
As usual, Christie wove a tale with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, with a pace just fast enough to maintain interest but not get the reader helplessly lost. I was actually able to anticipate one or two small clues before they were revealed, but the major villain was still a complete surprise.
The uniqueness of the methodology of the murderer was notable; as a blow-dart gun, a wasp and snake poison were, and still are, unusual elements in a murder of any sort, especially on a luxury flight. Perhaps this is why the writers of Doctor Who chose to utilize this story, among others, when they did an episode that featured the real-life disappearance of the author among mysterious circumstances.
Overall, a very good story, and as usual, a stand-alone, so new readers to the author will not be lost. I have to give this one five stars for originality, plot, well-developed major and secondary characters, and a slightly humorous but absorbing murder case.