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on 11 November 2014
A clever invention with interesting side issues.
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on 26 January 2017
This is a great addition to the Poirot series with the added enjoyment of seeing Poirot, Battle, Colonel Race and Ariadne Oliver work together in this mystery concerning the death of Shaitana - who looks like a mephistolian and incidentally his name is derived from shaytan, which in Arabic means devil- and there's only four suspects. What follows is red herrings and twists galore.
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on 6 August 2004
This is a very unusual Poirot novel in that it has an equal number of suspects and detectives (four in each case). Poirot is invited to dinner by an eccentric acquiantance, Mr Shaitana, who promises to introduce him to four murderers who have got away with their crimes. When Poirot arrives at Mr Shiatana's he finds three other detectives there, enigmatic Superintendant Battle, Colonel Race of the Secret Service, and Mrs Ariadne Oliver, an eccentric writer of detective fiction. The four murderers are elderly widow Mrs Lorrimer, bluff Doctor Roberts, dashing, adventurous Major Despard, and Anne Meredith, a young girl. The two parties, murderers and detectives, settle down to play bridge in separate rooms, and Mr Shiatana sits by the fire in the murderers' room. In the course of the evening he is murdered, but which of the four is responsible? The four detectives set out to solve the crime. As always in Christie's novels there are plenty of humorous touches, one of my favourites is where Superintendant Battle calls for one of the suspects: "I should have kept him to the end" said Mrs Oliver. "in a book, I mean," she added apologetically. "Real life's a bit different" said Battle. "I know" said Mrs Oliver "badly constructed." In the course of the book the detectives find out all the can about the suspects, and learn about the murders they commited earlier (one suspect turns out to be innocent of any murder). There are lots of exciting twists to the plot and you are kept guessing right up until the end. It is apparently possible to find out the identity of the murderer by studying the bridge scores reproduced in the book, if you understand bridge that is. I don't but it doesn't matter, this is an intriguing and clever mystery, definitely one of Mrs Christie's best.
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on 23 January 2008
This is an absolute treat for observant Agatha Christie fans as it features four of her superb creations namely Hercule Poirot , Supt Battle , Mrs Oliver and Colonel Race . It is so very clever how it is all solved on the basis of people's bridge playing patterns . Such a pity that the 2006 TV version was spiced up & that the liberties taken in that adaptation sadly stopped it being quite so good . As a novel its dark premise is not too overpowering as there is wry humour . Battle & Race were sadly missed from the TV version and this novel is easy to read while the red herrings keep the reader guessing up untill the end . Agatha Christie sets the scene very well indeed and this novel is a forgotton gem . A great way to make a coach or train journey pass more pleasently !
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on 2 June 2011
'Cards on the Table' is the second book I've read recently based around the game of bridge, and as a modern-day reader I found it useful to read up on the game to understand what was going on. When Poirot is invited to a dinner party, the host is murdered during after-dinner cards, and only four people could have done it. But all of them are murderers.

It's a good little adventure with a novel setting and a nice range of interesting characters. It introduces Ariadne Oliver, a writer of detective fiction, who serves as a comic element, poking fun at Christie herself and her contemporaries.

The plot moves at a good pace and is filled with twists and turns - the reader kept constantly guessing and updating their theories about whodunit. A wonderful short read that keeps the Poirot tradition going strong.
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VINE VOICEon 18 February 2014
This is a slightly differently constructed murder-mystery from many of Dame Agatha's stories, and although interesting and entertaining in parts, it ultimately feels rather contrived.
The plot involves the murder of Mr Shaitana, a showman/poseur who dresses like Mephistopheles and enjoys teasing and baiting his acquaintances for his own amusement in a manner that most would probably find obnoxious (I have a vision of Christopher Lee!). He invites four detectives, including Poirot, Superintendent Battle, Ariadne Oliver, and Colonel Race, to a dinner party together with four other guests that he informs Poirot have all committed an undetected murder. And they all accept the invitation, despite not really liking him! After dinner the two group separate and play the card game Bridge in separate rooms. During the Bridge games one of the four 'murders', fearing revelation, kills Shaitana with a stilletto dagger as he dozes in a chair. The detectives then set about trying a identify the culprit.
Poirot uses the Bridge scores and the observational abilities of the four suspects to make conclusions about their character, which is clever in parts, whilst all four detectives investigate the history of the suspects. Some say they find Ariadne Oliver a little annoying, but although I think she adds some welcome humour, one can't help thinking that as a literary self-caricature Dame Agatha is almost mocking her readership at times.
A strong point of the novel is that Poirot is present with his piquant observations, deductions and all his glorious character flaws from the start. Dame Agatha mis-directs the reader with the usual range of blind avenues and red-herrings.
However, overall the story has a very contrived feel to it. There seem some obvious plot difficulties, such as how did Mr Shaitana know what he says he knows, why would the 'guilty' guests accept such an invitation from him, and some strange behaviours and the use of coincidence is a bit of a stretch. At times it reads like a few welded together short stories. The ending stretches credibility too.
Overall, entertaining but in my opinion not one of the better Poirot novels
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In this classic mystery, Poirot is invited to a dinner party with a difference by the slightly unsavoury Mr Shaitana; a rich man addicted to parties and gossip. He wants Poirot to come to dinner to meet his exhibits - murderers who he claims have "got away with it." Although Poirot finds his hobby dangerous he agrees, leading to a dinner party with four sleuths (Poirot himself, Colonel Race, who works for the Secret Service, Superintendent Battle from Scotland Yard and our old friend the detective writer Ariadne Oliver) and four possible murderers (the cheerful Dr Roberts, the explorer Major Despard, serious bridge player Mrs Lorrimer and the young and nervous Miss Anne Meredith). After dinner the guests play bridge, while Mr Shaitana dozes by the fire and, during the evening, he is murdered.

This murder leads to our four sleuths pooling information in trying to discover who could have killed the host in full view of everybody and also looking into their backgrounds to see which of them, if any, were really guilty of murder. Christie was a keen bridge player and, although you may think this makes the book dry, she is careful to only use the card game as a small part of the story. The real fun is in the uncovering of secrets, as all the guests at the dinner party meet up and discuss what happened. Although Mrs Oliver uncovers some great clues, it is M. Poirot and his little grey cells that reign supreme and solves the mystery of what happened. First published in 1936, this is Christie at her best - which is better than any other crime writer there has ever been.
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on 4 January 2011
This story has an excellently and unusually constructed plot, well drawn and unusually complex characters and a brilliant surprise ending. Four people in a room, all suspected to be past murderers by their host, Mr Shaitana, are playing bridge while Shaitana is sitting in the same room in a chair by the fire. At the end of the evening, Shaitana is discovered dead in his chair, stabbed with an ornamental dagger on display in the room. No one has been in or out of the room. Which of the four players was the murderer?

Four crime investigators, including Hercule Poirot, Superintendent Battle, Colonel Race, a Secret Service agent, and Ariadne Oliver, a famous detective story writer, playing bridge in another room of the house, are on hand to investigate the murder.

The investigation is, unusually, almost entirely a psychological 'fit' between the four suspects and the nature of the crime that is committed. Poirot's end-of-story explanation of Shaitana's murder is right up to his usual superlative standard.

Cards On The Table is especially interesting to bridge players but those with no knowledge of the game are in no way disadvantaged from enjoying this story.

This is one of Christie's very best and unusual stories and I would recommend this to crime readers.
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Four of Agatha Christie's detectives combine to try and solve a murder at which they were present. The mysterious Mr Shaitana collects objects and people. He invites a select group to a Bridge party including Hercule Poirot, Mrs Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race and Superintendent Battle. There are also four people who their host believes have committed murders and escaped detection. Mr Shaitana is murdered during the strange gathering and the four sleuths - official and unofficial - are set to solve the crime.

Even though I know nothing about Bridge and there is a certain amount about the hands played and the scores I found the book entertaining reading. There is plenty if humour and a marvellous plot. I think Agatha Christie had fun writing this book and it works well. I loved the way the four detectives set about uncovering everything they can about their preferred suspect.

I think the novels in the various series can be read in any order and I am enjoying reading the novels as the fancy takes me. I have a particular liking for Superintendent Battle and I think it is a pity the author didn't write more novels featuring Battle as a main character. I also love Mrs Ariadne Oliver and wish there were more books which include her as a detective.
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on 1 July 2015
If you want to get into Agatha Christie, this probably isn't the best book to start with. Having been encouraged to read AC by my wife who is a fan, I picked up this book, expecting a lot from a world famous author. Unfortunately it failed to draw me into the world of AC and Poirot. By far the biggest bug-bear I have is, rather than the convoluted plot and 'experimental' structure (as decried in other reviews), was the way Christie ridiculously overused the word Mephistopheles to describe Shaitana. It was as if she couldn't think of any other word to describe him. I lost count of the amount of times she described him doing something in a 'Mephistopheles' way. Seemingly everything he did was such, walking, sitting, talking, eating, sleeping, I expect he even belched in a 'Mephistopheles' way. It was very unexpected to see this kind of basic error in writing make its way into print. One has to wonder if Christie's editor was on holiday the week she submitted the manuscript. I'm sure (and my wife assures me) that many of A C's books are splendid, but as a toe-dip, this book really turned me off.
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