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Late vintage Christie.
on 10 May 2003
At the age of 79, when this book was published, Agatha Christie was not quite capable of producing the tighly-plotted, ingenious puzzle fiction that poured from her pen when she was 39. When one is the world's most published author of all time, however, and when one is still able to hold a pen, the pressure to keep producing yet another 'Christie for Christmas' cannot be discounted. It was to be several years before Agatha Christie's daughter said, 'Now, that is enough, Mum'. This is clearly an elderly author at work here, cunningly presenting characters who are mainly elderly themselves, who can get away lines like, 'You know what young people are like nowadays,' and who tend to end sentences with 'and that sort of thing'. Nevertheless, she provides much of the fun and challenge that you expect in her mystery novels, whatever their date of publication.
Her popular creations Hercule Poirot and Ariadne Oliver get yet another airing here, as they investigate the drowning in an apple-bobbing tub of a thirteen-year-old girl at a children's Hallowe'en party, a girl who not long before had boasted that she had once witnessed a murder. Exploring the possibility that the girl were telling the truth, Poirot probes several local deaths and disappearances. Amongst vague and gossipy eldery characters, and unbelievably articulate and poetic adolescents, Poirot makes his way with waxed moustache and patent leather shoes to a solution to the mystery.
Agatha Christie repeats many of the tricks she tried in her earlier books. You will find echoes of children's nursery rhymes here and a crime that occurs in a familiar domestic setting. You'll also find an especially lyrical few pages in praise of gardens, mid-way through the novel. Agatha Christie, a garden enthusiast herself, never wrote anything better than these few pages.
So expect late vintage Christie here. You may not like the attempt at a nail-biting finish, but you can still respect the author's way of setting up a baffling mystery