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4.4 out of 5 stars43
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 11 February 2009
Sad Cypress is one of Christie's books which stand out in my memory, and that now and then I fancy reading again. The twist at the end, which is surprising and quite prosaic, the magic of the Christie atmosphere, in between style and tension is there, and the implied importance of heredity and class are almost Victorian!

But the most interesting feature as far as I'm concerned is in the character of Elinore Carlisle. Her skilfully repressed passion and devotion echo a side of the British character that often goes untold, and very possibly hints to the passionate side of Agatha Christie herself, who wrote romantic novels under the name of Mary Westmacott, and loved her first husband Archie Christie so intensely as to actually lose her mind temporarily when he left her for another woman (she experienced a brief "fugue" where she lost her memory and signed into a hotel with the name of her husband's new flame).

As for plot, narration does feel somewhat disjointed as the story is narrated in retrospective, and in parts through letters, but it really does work, and the ending doesn't disappoint.
Poirot joins the story quite late, which makes for a change.

Elinor Carlisle remains one of my favourite Christie women.
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on 8 April 2011
With a beautiful title taken from Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night', 'Sad Cypress' is one of my favourite Agatha Christie books, and also one of the best to feature Poirot. It doesn't have the sheer audacity of, say, 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd', but as one of her more emotionally engaging books it's at least up there with 'Five Little Pigs' (another underrated story), or the beautiful 'A Murder is Announced'.

As the book opens, the main character Elinor Carlisle is on trial for her life. The courtroom setting doesn't really mean much one way or the other, it's merely Christie experimenting with a new kind of plot framing device. No, it is the mystery of Elinor's personality and her true motivations which keep the reader guessing continually throughout the book, and hungry to learn who really killed the poisoning victim, Mary Gerrard.

Agatha Christie is usually ignored by literary critics or dismissed as 'genre fiction', but she was actually a master at portraying a wide range of psychological types, and that (along with her cunning solutions) is probably the reason that she's still the bestselling novelist of all time. Although her psychological types can occasionally be a little unbelievable as flesh and blood characters, that certainly isn't the case here - 'Sad Cypress' contains some of her most memorable and vivid figures. It will definitely stick in your head for some time after you have read it.
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VINE VOICEon 10 April 2007
This book is cited as a favourite perhaps more than any other by hardcore Christie fans, and with good reason. It's outstanding in the Christie catalogue. Beautifully written (for this type of book anyway!) and the most emotionally engaging and affecting of all her work, it's an absolute gem.
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on 6 June 2012
Christies novels vary, for me, in how well they've stood the test of time. Also, though the crime is always convoluted, sometimes things go just a little bit too far! I think Sad Cypress is a winner judged on both these criteria and I'm surprised it's not more famous than it is. There's real atmosphere and tension and the characters are more vividly drawn than in some other Poirot adventures (Dead Man's Folly, for example). Elinore Carlisle is one of Christie's better characters I think. Her repressed passion and unrequited love lead her to the edge of madness and make her actions seem believable when they're actually quite odd. I liked the narration style, which includes excerpts from letters, and felt this kept me 'on my toes' looking for clues. The ending is particularly mature and thoughtful for Christie, who often ends novels as if she ran out of ink. Poirot is a joy, as ever - the main reason for reading any of these novels.
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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.
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on 22 June 2014
To me detective fiction can roughly be divided into the 'Golden Age' and the 'Modern'.
Golden Age novels manage on the whole to give the impression of being comfortably bloodless (even if the victim was beaten to death with a blunt instrument) and were mostly created around amateur detectives; I enjoy them, but must concede that the plots are of a necessity more or less unbelievable. Modern detective novels are in general gritty, bloody and (frequently) depressing but the element of the detection process itself, being mostly police-based, gives the impression of being quite realistic even when the crimes themselves are not.

In 'Sad Cypress' Agatha Christie managed to create a detective novel that was relatively believable (taken in the context of the period it was set in) and was peopled with an attractive and convincing cast of characters.

I think it is definitely one of her best and - if you like this type of detective fiction, which I do - then I can safely recommend it.
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on 28 April 2012
I'm reading through all the Poirot in order of publication, and it was a pleasure to get away from the attempts to extend the formula using exotic locations or the extreme fancies of psychology in the 1930s. Christie obviously enjoyed writing this book and there is a lot of her in it. In characteristic fashion, it tells the tale of an English family in decline - not quite Old Money, but certainly nouveau riche of the early Victorian era. The last surviving member of the direct line is dying and the story evolves around the expectations of the more remote members of the family. While not the genuine upper crust, such people were the backbone of British social life throughout the 19th and half of the 20th centuries. Christie was on the lower fringes of this group and very familiar with their behaviour and values. The tale weaves murder and romance into a complex network of relationships, only introducing Poirot when much of the plot is done and dusted. Nonetheless, he is sorely needed since the heir to the family fortune is destined for the hangman, and deservedly so!

Back on familiar territory, Christie manipulates events and her characters with great assurance, providing a highly-believable, entertaining and compassionate story that carries sufficient surprises to hold one's interest. Some reviewers complain that they dislike all the characters. I would say that characters in old novels (this is now nearly 80 years old), must be first understood in context before professing liking or dislike.
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on 25 October 2007
This is a great Christie book and it stands out because she takes a different approach to it and one of the main aspects of it is proving Elinor Carlisle is innocent, aswell as finding out who the real murderer is. This is a really great book despite it having one or two flaws which I will discuss later on in the review.

When Elinor Carlisles aunt dies, it is no surprise to anybody because she was already ill in hospital, but when the death is looked into in more detail it was discovered to be a suspicious murder. Then Mary Gerrard is mudered too and everybody suspects Elinor because she had a strong motive jealousy. Elinor is arrested and sent on trial, but Hercule Poirot is soon put on to the case of proving her innocence and suddenly a few overlooked clues become noticed and there is less of a case against her.

This is a good book, made even better by the fact that there is a section entirely devoted to a courtroom scene ( which I really enjoyed reading about ), but there is one problem, the only reason I didn't suspect the murderer is because it was too obvious and it wasn't like Christie tried to make it too obvious but I was just very unamazed by the actual conclusion.

This is a great book and I highly reccomend it, especially if you are tired of th eusual whodunnit and want something different.
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on 1 March 2016
This is the first book I have read concerning the detective powers of Hercule Poirot. Obviously I have seen many times his skills on television, and again, as in so many books, it becomes a game of marrying up David Suchet from TV to Poirot in the written form.
Agatha Christie is quite a revolutionary writer. This book produced in 1940 talks about the controversy of euthanasia, and 70 years on it is still controversial, and no obvious answer seems to be evolving. There is a sting in the tail of this particular concerning the ending, as you would expect from a celebrated crime novelist as Agatha Christie.
This is a good and enjoyable read, though at times it does read like a Victorian novel-all about pride-correctness-role in society-and appropriate behaviour and manners..
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on 20 January 2016
I have a repro of the first edition of this book. The quality of the typesetting was a revelation. Agatha Christie used unusual but very evocative punctuation, especially in conversation: italics, ellipses and em dashes. I delighted to say that all these features have made it to the Kindle edition. Here's an example: (You will have imagine the first word italicised ans well as the second 'dear' because of the restrictions Amazon imposes on reviewer's text)

Felt… ? A little blur—a slight sense of shock… Roddy’s face—his dear, dear face with its long nose, sensitive mouth… Roddy!

If you want to learn about punctuation to convey the subtleties of conversation and thought processes, this is the book you need.
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