Sunday, August 29, 2010

Poirot Loses a Client

A few years ago, I realized that I'd somehow missed several Agatha Christie mysteries.  I started reading her as a teenager, and by the time I graduated from high school owned copies of all her novels.  I've also read several of them (Death on the Nile, Third Girl, Sparkling Cyanide) multiple times, and because I tried to read them in order when I was about 15, I've read the first dozen or so.  Still, I've somehow missed a few along the way.

Poirot Loses a Client is one of those missing mysteries.  It's been on my shelf since about the time I graduated from high school (the print date for my copy is May 1986), but I've spent nearly 25 years passing it over for a fifth reading of Evil Under the Sun or a third reading of The Pale Horse.  Poirot Loses a Client is a middling Christie, entertaining but not overly memorable, so maybe it's best that I left it until I was older.

Elderly Emily Arundell lives in Market Basing with a fluttering paid companion and a dog.  While hosting her nieces, nephew, and nephew-in-law (all of whom are hard up for cash), she falls down the stairs.  She's not seriously injured, but the incident frightens her enough to rewrite her will and to ask M. Poirot for help.  Unfortunately, her letter to Poirot stays in her writing desk for two months, and is mailed only after her death from a liver complaint.  Miss Arundell's companion, Miss Lawson, inherits the bulk of her employer's estate, but we never seriously suspect her of murder.   No, it's the victim's four relatives we suspect, and Christie uses a clever device to identify the true murder.  Other than that, we get pictures of village life, Captain Hastings being veddy English, Poirot being Poirot, and a brief look at the Bright Young Things Christie depicted so well.  Poirot Loses a Client is the sort of book that you want to read curled up with a hot drink (and perhaps a cat) on a grey, dreary day, but it's still enjoyable on a commuter train as the hottest summer on record begins to turn the dial from "unbearable" to merely "swelter."

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