Richard Abernethie, head of the large rambling and more importantly rich Abernethie family is dead, and the remnants of the family gather together in the family’s large country mansion house for his funeral. The person who makes the most impact at the funeral is Richard’s youngest sister, Cora, whom the rest of the family have not seen for years, who in her very own way of making inappropriate remarks, comments that “But he was murdered wasn’t he?”
Richard’s death which up until that point hadn’t been considered suspect is closely analysed by the members of the family and especially by the family’s solicitor Mr Entwhistle, whose suspicions are substantially increased when only a day after the funeral Cora herself is murdered in a frenzied hatchet attack.
The obvious motive is money and with Cora’s share of Richard’s will now being split amongst the other family members, Mr Entwhistle begins to make enquiries as to everyone’s whereabouts on the day of Cora’s murder. When he feels he has taken things as far as they can go he calls in a favour of an old friend, a certain M. Hercule Poirot.
The novel is very typically Christie with the various members of the family all having their own little secrets as to their real whereabouts and motives. Poirot poses as the head of a foreign charity planning to buy the house for refugees and thereby gains access to their movements.
It’s always quite hard to say when a Christie novel is set, as she very rarely mentions dates. Published in 1953 the book takes great care to mention how times are changing for the Abernethie family, they must sell the house knowing it will probably be bought by a company for redevelopment, much is made of the problems of securing “good staff these days” and poor M. Poirot, very much a celebrity in his day is now unheard of by the younger members of the family.
But these are all interesting and entertaining subjects to read of in a Christie book, along with her very un-PC writing about foreigners and the mental state of Cora, it is for these very outdated attitudes that make the books still so much fun to read. The actual hinge of the plot and crime is, as in many of her books, quite farcical and could never happen in real life (surely) but is still intriguing and lots of fun to read.