It’s been a while since I last read an Agatha Christie novel and I haven’t read anything festive this year. So, I decided to combine both in one go. I haven’t read Hercule Poirot’s Christmas for a while but I did watch the TV adaptation last year. It seemed like the best kind of book to pick up just before Christmas. At a time when there is so much going on and there’s always some distraction. I was planning to read each part on the designated day but that didn’t work out. In the end, I just smashed through it on Boxing Day. It was exactly what I needed.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is far from a lighthearted tale of warmth and giving. As you would expect from the Queen of Crime, it is a time for murder and family intrigue. There’s nothing like a bit of murder to warm the cockles and bring a bit of excitement to the festive season. Especially when the victim is a miserable old man who enjoys playing mind games with his children. Simeon Lee is a frail man who spends all of his days in his room. He is cared for by his eldest son and daughter-in-law. Lee is an unpleasant man and has successfully driven most of his children away. Until, unexpectedly, he brings them all together for Christmas. Unfortunately, there can be no grand reunion because Simeon is found murdered in a locked room on Christmas Eve. With so few suspects in the house, who could possibly have done the deed?
Thankfully for everyone, Hercule Poirot, the great Belgian detective, is spending the Christmas period nearby. He agrees to help the police with their investigations and sets about assisting in their interviews. He meets all of the major players and gets a good sense of the period before the murder. We meet Simeon’s sons: Alfred and his wife Lydia; George and his wife Magdalen; David and his wife Hilda; and Harry, the prodigal son. Along with the staff, the final houseguests are Simeon’s Spanish granddaughter, Pilar, and the son of his old business partner, Stephen Farr. Of course, not everyone is being truthful and it is up to Poirot to separate fact from fiction. With several people lying about who they are or where they were, how long will it be before the truth comes out?
I can never really decide how much I like this book. I think it’s quite an easy read and I think the murder itself is definitely memorable. I just don’t think it’s the most satisfactory ending. Is it shocking? Yes but it’s also quite chaotic at times. There are just too many layers of deception and too many very similar reveals. Considering there is such a small cast of characters, you’d think it would be hard to repeat so many ideas but that’s exactly what happens. It’s not just the constant quotations that had me thinking about Shakespeare when I read this. It was all just a little too coincidental. It requires quite a dramatic suspension of disbelief to accept that everything happened so perfectly.
Still, there is plenty to enjoy about this book and the characters are certainly a strength as always. I wouldn’t say that Hercule is at his best in this book and lacks some of the characteristics that make him so great. However, his investigation is as thorough as ever. Perhaps too thorough if that’s possible? This is one of Agatha’s grisliest murders but the drama quickly dissipates in favour of lots of talking. It means the pace does slow quite a bit after the opening and makes the repetitive nature of the novel more apparent. Overall, this isn’t my favourite Poirot outing but I think it’s a pretty decent festive offering. Definitely not the most memorable reveal but it’s a classic Christie whodunnit.