I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie this year! This is what, the fifth book by her to appear on this list? But contributing to my reason for going back to her over and over are several strong points:
- Her books are widely available, and always easy to pick up (no hunting for rare copies!);
- They’re fast to read;
- They always have that perfect “strong upper lip” sense of British sensibility, even when the topic is murder;
- And finally, I still am absolutely terrible at guessing the murderer in the end.
Take this book, for instance. Once again, M. Hercule Poirot is dragged into a case that, although it starts off as a simple and puzzling series of thefts, soon escalates into murder. The suspects are a group of students and young professionals living together in a boarding house, and Poirot must dig through the web of tangled connections to figure out everyone’s real story.
One complaint, however minor, that I can make against some of Agatha Christie’s stories is that they would fare much better with a cast of characters at the beginning. Although it’s important for the reader to have a good list of suspects, the names and faces and quirks often seem to meld together – especially at the beginning of the tale.
In addition, in this story (which takes its name from the fact that this residence where the crimes occur is at 26 Hickory St) barely seems to feature Poirot at all, despite his involvement as the head detective! Instead, most of the questioning seems to come from Inspector Sharpe. And while the Inspector is perfectly adequate at his job, we see very little of his actual investigative work.
Overall, I’m not sure I’d dub this the strongest of Christie’s works, but it’s still an entertaining afternoon read.
Time to read: 3-4 hours, as is typical with Christie’s books.