I’m getting back into the swing of things with Agatha Christie now. I’m back to reading at least one book a month, which is what I’d planned out for the year. Of course, restricting myself to what I can read has made it difficult to keep this up, so I’ve not read as much Christie this year as I’d have wanted. Still, I’ve managed to read quite a few in recent months, which has got me back on track. It’s always a pleasure to fit another Agatha story into my monthly reads, so hopefully, I’ll manage another before the end of November.
“Mrs. McGinty’s dead.”
“How did she die?”
“Down on one knee…just like I.”
Although, in reality, Mrs McGinty was killed by her lodger so he could get his hands on the money she’d hidden under her floorboards. Or, at least, that is what most people believe. Hercule Poirot has other ideas. The detective is visited by Superintendent Spence who tells the Belgian that he believes that James Bentley, the accused, is innocent of the murder. Poirot agrees to investigate and goes to stay in the village of Broadhinny to find out more about the victim. He makes no effort to hide his motives and the residents of the village are suspicious of him. Can he use his little grey cells to find out exactly what happened to Mrs McGinty?
Of course, it’s not a spoiler to reveal that he can. It’s Hercule Poirot after all. The problem is, it’s not the kind of mystery that is particularly difficult to solve for the reader. It’s not that it isn’t an entertaining Christie novel but it’s not her most surprising. Of course, she does her best to cover her tracks. There are plenty of red herrings and complex plots to tie yourself up in but, in my opinion, it just tries too hard. The more she tries to hide the truth, the more obvious it becomes. Although, I do think there are some fun moments in this book and it’s definitely not her worst novel.
After all, I approve of any Agatha Christie that features our favourite Christie stand-in Ariadne Oliver. Mrs Oliver plays a key role in the story and aids Poirot in his investigation. She is also on top form and has some brilliant one-liners. She really does elevate this novel above its rather pedestrian premise. Especially as Christie spends a lot of time focusing on her hatred of Poirot in this story. I love her playfully critical descriptions of his vanity and demeanour but they do rather take the focus away from the main narrative.
It’s not that Mrs McGinty’s Dead doesn’t have the same brilliance in terms of writing as her other novels. Christie is still a master of character and human behaviour. The characters we meet here all seems to make sense and could be plucked from real life. As with a few of Christie’s murder mysteries, this one does suffer from pace slightly. It takes a while for things to pick up and the investigation doesn’t feel quite as organic as Poirot’s novels usually do. Again, it’s not the worst out there but there is something disappointing about this one. Well-worth a read but not one that you’ll be dying to revisit time and tie again.