23 December 2009

Hercule Poirot's Christmas

You know how everyone this time of year always jokes about killing their relatives? (Everyone does this, right? If not, my friends need counseling.) Well, some people are not joking about this. Case in point: Cantankerous millionaire Simeon Lee relishes terrorizing his estranged family over the holidays - he browbeats his sons, insults his daughters-in-law, and plays mind games with his relatives. Little wonder he turns up with his throat cut on Christmas Eve. Nobody is really sad to see the old man go, but who exactly is to blame? It is up to the eccentric, legendary Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to solve this mystery.

I adore Agatha Christie mysteries! It's been some time since I read one of Dame Agatha's novels and I needed something suitably festive, so Hercule Poirot's Christmas nicely fit each category. If you're not familiar with Agatha Christie books, I offer this disclaimer: Do not read these books expecting a realistic depiction of police investigations. If you want a precise description of forensics, you will have to go elsewhere, my friend. But if you're looking for an amusing, witty brainteaser, then Agatha fits the bill nicely. With that being said, I will proceed with my review.

I think Hercule Poirot's Christmas is one of Christie's better books. The crime is one of her more savage ones (though in typical Christie style, the murder is not portrayed graphically) and the mystery is first-rate. The identity of the killer will have you guessing to the very end. Even the some of the more technical aspects of Christie's murder mysteries may not be as specific as more modern novels, Christie's books work because she possesses an acute understanding of the human mind. Her characters are believable and that adds a touch of realism that many mystery writers who focus on dry technical detail often lack. Furthermore, although Christie relies on characters types over complex characterizations (such as the crotchety old man, the mild mannered Englishman, the doting wife, the roguish adventurer), Christie writes these characters so well, that the lack of deeper characters is not an issue. If you've read enough Agatha Christie novels, you start to recognize these character types, and they seem like old friends. I believe that Christie is at her best when she's portraying domestic life gone awry, and that's true for Hercule Poirot's Christmas as well. The dysfunctional dynamics of the Lee family are both authentic and darkly funny.

My only problem with this novel is the opening chapter (in which the novel's premise is set out) seemed a bit artificial to me. I know that Agatha was trying to introduce the family and their contentious history, but some of the dialogue seemed too staged to me. I found it hard to believe that these relatives would need to explain the background of the family to each other so extensively after twenty years of feuding. It's a small issue though and didn't lessen my enjoyment of the novel.

Need a fun-filled diversion this holiday season? Try Hercule Poirot's Christmas. This novel offers a engaging characters, first rate suspense, and a tantalizing mystery that is to die for. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

Next Time: I have been reading a collection of Tennessee Williams' plays and am a bit stumped on what to review next time. It will either be The Glass Menagerie or A Streetcar Named Desire, but I am not sure which. I love both plays, so this is a hard choice. I am leaning more toward The Glass Menagerie, because I enjoy the more subtle aspects of that play, but I find A Streetcar Named Desire more compelling. (Also, the latter was the ticket to stardom for my all-time favorite actor, Marlon Brando. Where would the world of film be without my boy Marlon?) I haven't decided yet, but I should have a review of one of these classic dramas up some time this weekend.


  1. Zellak, I'll read this book if you promise not to eat Toledo. Okay, you can have Toledo. But save Paris, okay?

  2. *ponders this* As to paraphrase Brando, this is an offer I can't refuse. But, erm, can I still eat Tokyo? (Please, please, please?) :D

    Thanks for following and commenting, Eric! I hope you enjoy Hercule Poirot's Christmas! (And I hope you have a Merry Christmas as well.) :)