6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 2007
This is an enjoyable book, and it is interesting to read about murders happening at a school. It is not perhaps quite as good as most of the other reviews have implied, it is certainly an enjoyable story, but there are better ones.
It is a new school year in an all girls school and things start off fairly typically, until the unpopular games mistress is found shot in the middle of the night. For most of the students, this seems an interesting thing to happen in a school, but when two more murders occur, and one of the students is abducted, everydoy has a sudden sense of fear and it stops being an exciting thing to happen in school and changes to something terrifying.
I found this novel highly enjoyable, but some of the other reviewers are implying that it is a masterpiece and in my opinion it is far from it. Unlike in some of Christie's masterpieces, there is little clever set up of subtle clues and there are barely any clues to use to guess the identity of the murderer and the only real way of finding out was something that one of the mothers saw on the first day of school. The identity of the murderer was a surprise to me.
Despite some of the flaws I have stated, this is still a great book and I reccomend it.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 6 December 2002
This was the first Agatha Chrisie story that I ever read, and although I have now read, listened and watched my way through almost the entire back catalogue, I have yet to find any that is quite as good as this one.
'Cat Among the Pigeons' strikes the right balance between Christie's two main pre-occupations: international intrigue and simple human nature. It is the convergence of two worlds, that of the exclusive, sedate English girls' school and revolution and espionnage in the Middle East.
As well as being a superb whodunnit, this book is also a heart-warming tale of human interaction. Characters are sensitively drawn and the plot, whist not exactly realistic, is not so removed from the realms of possibility as some others. And it is remarkable fast paced. You will not rest until the solution has been revealed.
The advantage of these unabridged HarperCollins audio productions is that you can listen to them on mass. They are perfect for a family evening in. Hugh Fraser is the ideal narrator, with a plethora of different voices to draw upon which competantly bring the tale to life.
In short, you will not regret buying this. It is possibly the best thing Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, ever wrote.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is one of my favorite books from Agatha Christie's later years. Her grip of story telling, plotting and planning is still strong. There is some humor in the narrative and amusement is provided by many of the characters.
Agatha Christie tries her hand at the girls' school setting here. Older reader will suspect that she was well-acquainted with similar settings chosen by A A Milne and Dorothy Sayers, and that she had been brought up on the once popular school girl annuals. Of course there needs to be a raison d'être behind the series of murders that occurs at the school and this is well narrated also.
I have mentioned the narration several times. It is an element that helps explain this writer's phenomenal popularity. She gets the timing right. Other writers in this genre produce more elegant prose but somehow fail in this regard.
At this time in her career, Agatha Christie was experimenting with narrative methods. She attempted the "quick scene change" method here, and brings it off with skill and flair. She also, at this time in her career, frequently milked the situation where something was briefly glimpsed in a mirror, or a familiar face briefly glimpsed at a great distance. Watch out for these occurrences as you turn the pages to reach Hercule Poirot's final revelation of just who is the cat among the pigeons.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
'Cat Among the Pigeons' features Hercule Poirot and was published in 1959. As with other of Christie's novels, Poirot does not appear until the final third of the book.
Prestigious Meadowbank School for Girls is having a parents' day at the beginning of the summer term when Mrs Upjohn, a parent, tells the headmistress, Miss Bulstrode, that she has recognized someone that she knew during her wartime intelligence service work. Miss Bulstrode does not take much notice, but before long a killer strikes.
Then we are taken back three months to Middle-Eastern country, Ramat, where a revolution is brewing. Prince Ali Yusuf tries to protect his wealth by giving valuable jewels to Bob Rawlinson, his pilot, to take out of the country. Rawlinson hides the jewels in some luggage, but is watched by a sinister woman through a peephole. Ali Yusuf and Bob Rawlinson are murdered and British Intelligence gets onto the trail of the jewels. Their attention focuses on Meadowbank School, where Prince Ali Yusuf's niece is a pupil. Then Miss Springer is shot dead...
The book shows all Agatha Christie's usual strengths - ingenious plotting and many surprises, shrewd characterisation, a small, enclosed community of suspects, and the inimitable Poirot. I never enjoy her books about international espionage as much as the others, though this one is less ludicrous than some of the others. In my opinion, she is best at writing about her own class and the secrets and motives of small English communities. This is a good book, but not as good as some of her others because of this. The most enjoyable part is her description of life at the very English, upper class school. I like her schoolgirl sleuth, too, with Poirot and his ego seeming a bit of an intrusion, taking the focus from her and onto his little grey cells!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Although this is not my favourite Poirot novel, it is certainly one of the better later ones. Written in 1959, it is almost as good as her earlier works and it certainly has a fun setting and a good cast of characters. Part thriller and part mystery, it concerns a revolution in a rich Middle Eastern country called Ramat. His Highness Prince Ali Yusuf entrusts some jewels to his friend Bob Rawlinson, who hides them in the luggage of his sister and niece, without their knowledge.
The action then moves on to the exclusive Meadowbank School, where his niece is a pupil, along with a cousin of Prince Ali, the Princess Shaista. With the whereabouts of the jewels unknown, more than one interested party is looking for them. Then the PT mistress is murdered in the new sports pavillion. Apparently, Christie used her own daughter's school as her model, but the enclosed environment works very well. There are a whole host of suspects, secrets and mysterious happenings, until one of the schoolgirls involves Poirot to solve the crimes. An unusual setting and an exciting plot make this a fun read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
For me this wasn't vintage Christie. Rather long-winded and tedious on detail. I'm a big Christie fan but I was relieved to finish this. It was an easy read but felt dated, though her observations on teenagers via Miss Bulstrode are still true today - I'm a schoolteacher so am on safe ground here!! I did find myself laughing aloud at some points. She has quite a rare wit. Not my favourite by any means - that is still Roger Ackroyd.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2015
As I reach the final stretch in my trawl through the Poirot back catalogue, I reached Cat Among the Pigeons, a fantastically different type of mystery set in a girls' boarding school yet with a fascinating series of exotic twists.
Like a couple of earlier books, Poirot himself doesn't appear until some way through the narrative, yet in this instance that's not a disappointment at all. The new characters are all compelling and Christie paints a wonderful picture of the settings and lives that build towards an excellent conclusion. If anything I'd say (perhaps with some cynicism) that Poirot could have just been added to get his name on the cover, as the story could have worked just as well without him.
A great mystery from an absolutely fantastic author. Certainly one of her best.
on 4 May 2015
You don’t have to be an Agatha Christie aficionado to recognise that Cat Among the Pigeons isn’t exactly her masterful best – though if after picking this up you’re feeling cozened about the whole 'Queen of Crime' thing, you should really go back to her output between 1938 and 1940. It is, however, a perfectly serviceable later work that at least deserves kudos for trying to work in some of the international intrigue which Christie would have been more than aware wasn’t exactly her strongest suit. She could have sold 400 pages of All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy at this stage, so credit where it’s due for at least putting some effort in.
This is, quite unintentionally, the fourth corner in a quadrangle of school-based mysteries I’ve read recently, and quite by chance the one that reflects the various tones of the others most fully, tying in elements of Edmund Crispin, Helen McCloy and Josephine Tey. It’s quicker to its mystery than Tey, more focussed in its plotting that Cripsin and more artfully constructed than McCloy, but still falls down on a lack of the proper misdirection her best novels are predicated on and an absence of defining influence until long-delayed arrival of Poirot with 100 pages to go (Chrisite was rather fed up with him now, by all accounts).
The denouement allows more of the reflection on wickedness that seems to enter her purview further into her career, with elements of both cynicism and hope juxtaposed nicely (and possibly not in the manner anticipated), and what feels like a meta-admission of her failing authorly powers that I’m possibly imagining but nevertheless clutches at something in my chest after 15 years of reading her. The odd flash of hard-edged vehemence in her characters shows that there’s spite and life in the old fox yet, though, and she’s not quite ready to hand over to the up-and-comers. Take note: something good is coming, I can feel it...
on 14 January 2014
I'm glad I got round to reading this - Cat Among the Pigeons is a genuine Christie classic, one of the finest examples of her work that I've come across so far. Here, her writing is so engrossing that when Hercule Poirot appears around two thirds in to the story, you'd forgotten that you were expecting him - it's a nice surprise, but you almost feel as though his presence is unnecessary.
The novel is set at the prestigious Meadowbank girls school, though its roots are in Ramat and in the death of a Prince as he tried to escape from his country. Now, I went to a working class secondary school which mixed sexes and didn't cost a fortune per term - the setting of the story is as far away from that as my flat is from a palace. Still, Christie's depiction of the school is so vivid and complete that I felt like a teenage girl who was really there. A scary thought, I know.
Adam is an interesting character, too - the young gardener with a secret second personality. Don't worry, it doesn't take you long to discover it, and indeed he's one of the leading males in the novel, a novel that's notable for its strong leading female characters and forgettable, minor males. Don't let that put you off though, because that would be sexist. It would also be unnecessary - all of the characters are intriguing, and you'll be tangled in the usual web of suspicion and dark unrest.
Here, then, Christie is at her best - you can see why they call her the Queen of Crime, and this novel can stand up against the best of them. The A.B.C. Murders, And Then There Were None, you name it - this deserves the highest praise that I can give to it. I urge you to go out there and buy a copy at the earliest opportunity, it's a great little teaser of what was to come from the Queen.
on 18 May 2012
Agatha Christie had a rather strange, yet happy, upbringing. She was educated at home with, for example, a mother who didn't believe children should learn to read before they were eight. Christie demonstrated an early rebellious streak by teaching herself to read at the age of four! This lack of formal education likely explains her atrocious spelling and sometimes laughable grammatical lapses. Since her siblings were considerably older than her, Christie developed an extensive pretend world to compensate for the lack of peer companions. This included a highly detailed imaginary school. Clearly, this experience contributed to her later facility as a writer and this novel draws on her "school" experiences.
A succession of murders of staff at a very posh private school for girls provides the puzzle, against a backdrop of strife in the Middle East and more than half a million pounds worth of precious stones - gone missing! The description of the effect of this on the life of the school is brilliantly done, particularly if you are familiar with the works of Frank Richards and the early P. G. Wodehouse. Just to take one example, I once had the very great pleasure of being the dinner companion of a former headmistress of a similar school in Australia. Her tales of developing the school were remarkable - she was exactly as Christie had drawn Miss Bulstrode - the headmistress of the school in this novel! Such perception is rare amongst novelists, particularly those associated, shall we say, with the consumer end of the market. By any standards, this is a very good novel, with excellent characters, an evocative description of life at such a school, and some very moving moments - all done with great empathy and compassion. Purists might find the main puzzle less than fiendish but I, for one, failed totally to anticipate the final twist. Poirot appears almost as an afterthought, and solves the problem in quick time. Personally, I felt that the highly competent police and Secret Services would have got there in the end.
Some, rather snobbish, critics catalogue Christie with the dime-novelists. One suspects that they haven't read much of her enormous output; they certainly have not read this book. You should!