Title: Appointment with Death
Author: Agatha Christie
Date: 2001 (1938)
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Summary: Among the towering red cliffs of Petra, like some monstrous swollen Buddha, sat the corpse of Mrs Boynton. A tiny puncture mark on her wrist was the only sign of the fatal injection that had killed her. With only 24 hours available to solve the mystery, Hercule Poirot recalled a chance remark he’d overheard back in Jerusalem: ‘You see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?’ Mrs Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he’d ever met.
I’m back with another Poirot review, fresh from the disappointment with Death on the Nile. You may be glad to know that I actually really enjoyed this one!
Poirot is holidaying in Jerusalem when he overhears someone say ‘You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?’ Then, when the group goes on a trip to Petra, an elderly woman is then found dead. He proposes to solve the mystery within 24 hours, just by interviewing the suspects, and that makes this a quick, thrilling novel.
The victim, Mrs Boynton, and her family are introduced to the reader by Sarah King and Dr Gerard who discover that Mrs Boynton is domineering and sadistic. Her step-children – Raymond, Carol, and Lennox – and her daughter, Ginevra, are controlled by Mrs Boynton to the point where they’re unsure of themselves and their own desires. Unsurprisingly, they come to resent her. Sarah attempts to free the young Boyntons but when she fails, the elderly woman threatens her by saying ‘I’ve never forgotten anything – not an action, not a name, not a face’. Mrs Boynton’s domineering attitude is palpable, even from the pages of a novel, and there’s a strange sense of relief when she dies. Christie crafted the perfect toxic matriarch and unleashed her upon her readers.
Christie’s characters (especially her female characters) are usually my favourite aspect of her writing but that wasn’t the case for this one. I found many of them unusually annoying, especially Sarah King and Dr Gerard, and I think the only two characters that I felt invested in were Nadine Boynton and Ginevra Boynton. However, they were all very well-written and their relationships with one another were rather compelling.
What I did enjoy, however, was the actual mystery. It was clever enough and the outcome of the investigation was surprising yet logical. Christie leaves you plenty of clues, and plenty of red herrings, but it’s only at the end when everything comes together. I wouldn’t say it was her best mystery but I do like how the plot is constructed and the sense of urgency that Christie creates by having Poirot challenge himself to solve the mystery within 24 hours.
I also love the intertextual references that Christie slips in to the novel. Poirot retells the story of Cards on the Table to one of the other travellers and another traveller comments on the case of The A.B.C. Murders. These small references tie the Poirot novels together nicely and it’s always fun to notice them and think about the books you’ve read previously.
Would I recommend this book? I would! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I think it’s a clever little mystery with excellent writing.
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