Although generally regarded as typifying the cozy murder mystery writer in whose books there is either a murder in a locked room or a murder at a family reunion in a country house, Agatha Christie rarely tried her hand at either of these murder mystery genres. In “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas”, however, she combines both.
The family is the dysfunctional Lee family, summoned to pass Christmas together in the house of old Simeon Lee, the patriarch. During this stressful reunion, a commotion followed by a blood-curdling scream is heard from the room on the first floor occupied by old Simeon. When the locked door is forced open, the furniture is found upended, the safe rifled, and Simeon is found lying dead with his throat cut. The door key is in place, on the inside of the door.
Having depicted how the family members despise, hate, or resent each other up to this point, Agatha Christie next allows the investigations and theories to develop. Poirot is on hand, but she cleverly allows other police inspectors and investigators to do most of the work and make most of the mistakes.
The solution is one you will never forget, but also one that you will probably never arrive at before Poirot reveals all. Agatha Christie is wonderfully clever at laying out all the clues in an arrangement that directs the reader away from the vital ones.
Apart from a few lines of description, almost everything in the text is dialogue. To anyone in the world who has not yet read this 1940 mystery nothing more need be said. To those who are re-reading it, I suggest they notice how cleverly it is plotted and planned.