Saturday, February 05, 2011

Cards on the Table

Cards on the Table. Agatha Christie. 1937. Penguin. 224 pages.

"My dear Monsieur Poirot!" 

I loved this one. I just loved, loved, loved this one. In this Hercule Poirot mystery, we meet four sleuths and four criminals. They are brought together by a strange man who loves to collect things, Mr. Shaitana. He boasts one day that he'll be happy to exhibit for his friend, Hercule Poirot, his collection of murderers--men and women who have all gotten away with murder. He suggests an evening of entertainment. The guests (of sleuths) include Hercule Poirot, Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race, and Superintendent Battle. My favorite of the new characters is Ariadne Oliver, a mystery writer. The four (potential) criminals are Dr. Roberts, Mrs. Lorrimer, Miss Meredith, and Major Despard. Of course, Shaitana doesn't tell his guests his purpose, his plan. Only Poirot knows the reason behind the night's festivities. Two bridge games in two different rooms. Mr. Shaitana is enjoying a cozy night in front of the fire, until, he isn't! For he's murdered! The four guests say that no one entered the room. So it isn't hard to conclude that one of his guests murdered him. But who was it?

These four sleuths decide to work together to solve the crime. Each will interview the suspects. Each will go about it in their own way. (Each has their own method, their own philosophy, their own contacts.) It's fine to keep their own conclusions secret, but all the clues are supposed to be shared with one another. All their cards are to be on the table, so to speak. Readers get to see glimpses of each of these sleuths at work. Through dialogue, we get to know each sleuth, each criminal a little bit better. And I must say it makes for a compelling read! This one was impossible to put down!

I definitely consider this Hercule Poirot to be among my favorite and best. I really enjoyed so many things about it!

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"Ask Doctor Roberts if he'll be so good as to step this way."
"I should have kept him to the end," said Mrs. Oliver.
"In a book I mean," she added apologetically.
"Real life's a bit different," said Battle.
"I know," said Mrs. Oliver. "Badly constructed." (25)

"Man is an unoriginal animal," said Hercule Poirot.
"Women," said Mrs. Oliver, "are capable of infinite variation. I should never commit the same type of murder twice running."
"Don't you ever write the same plot twice running?" asked Battle.
"The Lotus Murder," murmured Poirot. "The Clue of the Candle Wax."
Mrs. Oliver turned on him, her eyes beaming appreciation.
"That's clever of you--that's really very clever of you. Because of course those two are exactly the same plot, but nobody else has seen it." (54)

"You are an extraordinary man, Monsieur Poirot."
"I am as the good God made me, Madame."
"We are all that, I suppose."
"Not all, Madame. Some of us have tried to improve on his pattern." (79-80)

"We all make mistakes, Monsieur Poirot."
"Some of us," said Poirot with a certain coldness possibly due to the pronoun the other had used, "make less than others."
Despard looked at him, smiled slightly and said:
"Don't you ever have a failure, Monsieur Poirot?"
"The last time was twenty-eight years ago," said Poirot with dignity. "And even then, there were circumstances--but no matter." (106)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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