Published in 1940, this is one of Poirot’s most intriguing cases. Elinor Carlisle stands accused of the murder of Mary Gerrard and the first part of this book looks at her looking back at the events which led her there. It begins with Elinor receiving an anonymous letter, warning her that someone has been trying to take her place in her Aunt Laura’s affections. Her aunt is an invalid, having had a stroke, and is cared for at her house by two nurses and Dr Peter Lord. Mary Gerrard is the daughter of servants, but Elinor’s aunt has always taken an interest in the girl and paid for her education and the young girl acts almost as a companion to the older woman in return.
Elinor comes across as a slightly cold and controlled young woman, but she is passionately in love with Roddy Welman, who she has known since they were young children and who are both related to Aunt Laura. The couple plan to marry and expect that Aunt Laura will leave one or the other of them the house and money in her will. However, Elinor’s future is suddenly changed forever, when Roddy falls head over heels in love with Mary. Before long, Aunt Laura has died and her lack of a will means that Elinor inherits. However, when Mary is poisoned, Elinor’s is accused of killing her out of jealousy.
This is an unusual Poirot novel, in that there is a possible miscarriage of justice, which is something hardly ever suggested in an Agatha Christie book. The evidence all seems to point to Elinor as the murderer, but Poirot is never wrong – as he himself assures us - and he promises to get to the truth. With interesting characters, a complex plot and some great courtroom scenes, this is a wonderful mystery. It is said most murders happen because of love or money and this has greed, jealousy and repressed emotions in abundance.