If you had noticed, I have been expressing my disappointment over my recent readings of Agatha Christie’s. Be it The Caribbean Mystery or Lord Edgware Dies or Ordeal of Innocence, nothing could match the thrill of The Murder on the Orient Express or The Murder of Roger Acroyd. I felt there were just very few fantastic works of Agatha and the rest were just mediocre. But she proved yet again why she is the Queen of Crime with this book, “Appointment with Death”.
One of the greatest things about Agatha Christie’s works is her supporting characters. In “Appointment with Death”, our hero Hercule Poirot enters nearly after 100 pages. Hence, as a reader, you get enough time to understand the characters through your eyes, and not Poirot’s. Also, by the time Poirot enters after the crime is committed, you have a theory for yourself. You check your ideas along with Poirot. The questions in your mind are asked by Poirot and you get the needed answers. This book is one of a kind experience. One of Agatha Christie’s best.
The story happens in Jerusalem and the places around. We have a group of people touring together. Dr Sarah King, a young doctor and Dr Gerard, a French Pyschologist, get acquainted during the trip. They find the American family, Boyntons, very peculiar. The matriarch of the family, Mrs Boynton is a sadistic, dominating and insensitive woman. She keeps her kids around her all the time, not letting them enjoy the trip. She has a very tight hold over them. Her family includes Lennox (elder son) and his wife Nadia, Raymond (younger son), Carol (daughter) and Jinna (youngest daughter). The story actually begins with Poirot hearing Raymond and Carol plotting to kill their mother, but that’s more like a Prologue. Anyways, all the family members act very strangely. They are always nervous and don’t talk to anyone much. The doctor duo find them very interesting especially Dr Sarah who tries to talk to them but in vain. The party then moves to Petra. Mrs Boynton, out of nowhere, allows her kids to go out. But when they are back in the evening, they find Mrs Boynton dead in her chair. Poirot enters and declares he would solve the case in 24 hours. Every one of the family members and Dr Sarah King has spoken to Mrs Boynton when they returned to the camp. So who killed her? Did one of the family members decide to kill their mother to put an end to their caged life? Or is it an outsider?
Poirot’s questioning every character and framing a timeline was really professional and methodical. Very much Poirot. Poirot always believe in dramatic revelation at the end. Even if he knows something, he keeps it to himself. Surprisingly, in this case, he was forthcoming. He expressed his views and findings as he progressed with the investigation. The case also had nearly everyone at the suspicion radar, each one having a motive to kill Mrs Boynton. Also, the entire set up was so beautiful. Just like Death on the Nile, this book was visually very appealing.
Appointment with Death is definitely one of the best works of Agatha Christie. The book works very well not just because of Poirot’s brilliance, but also because of the sheer intelligent writing of the entire case. Recommended.