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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.
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on 9 January 1999
This book is wonderful, especially to read over the holidays, since it is set at Christmas. The characters are wonderfully developed, and I love how the key to solving the mystery was in the dialogue all along. I wish now that I had paid closer attention to the moustache that Poirot buys and the picture he has placed in his room. Double identity and a great plot twist at the end make this an enticing read.
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When most families get together for Christmas, they can end up wanting to kill each other. Most don't actually do it.

But when a family patriarch is a malevolent old lecher like Simeon Lee with vast quantities of money, it's no surprise when he ends up dead. Agatha Christie's "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" is a decidedly unsentimental little Yuletide murder mystery, full of snow-covered manorhouses, gruesome noises and plenty of people who have come for the holidays -- and aren't what they claim to be.

As the book opens, a young Spanish girl named Pilar and Stephan Farr from Africa encounter each other on a train, heading for the exact same house -- that of Simeon Lee. Oh yeah, and they both obviously have something to hide.

Turns out that old diamond mogul Simeon is gathering his adult children at his house, where the downtrodden Alfred and increasingly fed up Lydia live. Among the kids: stuffy MP George and his slinky wife Magdalene, globe-trotting "black sheep" Harry, and sensitive mama's boy David and his steadfast wife Hilda. Pilar and Stephen are welcomed with open arms, but Simeon starts playing mind games with his resentful offspring by revealing the intention of changing his will. That night, the house is roused by a gruesome howl -- and he's found with his throat cut in a locked room.

Due to the puzzling nature of the crime and the bizarre evidence, local superintendent Sugden calls in the famed detective Hercule Poirot -- especially since Lee has not only been killed, but his uncut diamonds have been stolen. With his little grey cells, Poirot begins unravelling all the family secrets and lies -- including some surprising facts about Pilar and Stephen. But since the murderer is close at hand, Poirot must solve the seemingly impossible crime before another Yuletide murder happens.

Apparently Agatha Christie wrote "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" for a funny reason -- her brother-in-law complained that her murders were all so clean and bloodless. Ladylike murders tended to be more Christie's forte. So this one is not only bloody, but downright gory -- Simeon gets his throat cut and the whole room is sprayed with blood. You can tell Christie had some fun writing about that, especially with the obligatory quote from the Scottish play: "who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?"

So even though "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" has everything a Christmas story should have, it's actually really lacking in festivity -- from the very first scene, we're treated to a Yuletide England that is dark, smoky, grimy and full of barely-hidden resentments and old wounds. Christie sprinkles the plot with plenty of suspense, bizarre clues that aren't easily figured out (especially a rubber scrap that Pilar picks off the floor), and a plethora of suspects who would have liked to see Simeon cold'n'dead, but who couldn't possibly have gotten inside to do it.

And while the investigation is pretty straightforward, it's strewn with some surprising revelations about a couple of the family members. Christie's writing and dialogue tend to be a bit choppy, with many short exclaimations. But her vivid descriptions (London girls are described as "smooth egg-shaped faced, scarlet-lipped") and tightly coiled plot keep the story chugging along, although the murderer is only moderately hard to figure out.

Hercule Poirot comes in when the book is already well underway, and in a way he almost takes a backseat to the other characters. The spawn of Simeon cross a wide range -- the scrappy bad-boy, the whiny mama's boy, the stuffy airbag and the downtrodden guy -- as do their wives, who range from a plain "nice woman" to a flaky sexpot with a rather shady sexual past. Pilar and Stephen are perhaps the most colorful and least resentful people in the cast -- and Simeon is a nasty, malevolent old tyrant.

"Hercule Poirot's Christmas" is thankfully devoid of sentimental reason-for-the-season dribbling -- it's all about wretchedly dysfunctional families, gruesome murder and the occasional popped balloon.
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on 12 January 2015
My second book in the Poirot series and also my second book by the author. I was a little worried about reading this one as I had seen the tv adaptation and knew the ending. Not the best introduction to a whodunit....

But I needn't have worried. As expected the writing was so good that it really didn't matter, and in a way helped, making me scour the text trying to see where the trail was left to lead me to the culprit.

Most people are familiar with the traditional Poirot novel and this is no exception. A number of family members descend upon a mansion at the request of multi-millionaire Simeon Lee for Christmas. Simeon is a cruel man and in the past has upset all of his children, but now, crippled and old he appears to want to make amends.

When the old man is murdered, seemingly there is no way the killer could have left the room after committing the deed. The police are baffled, but luckily Poirot is in the neighbourhood and puts his little grey cells to work.

Well worth a read, whether you are new to the novels or not.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 December 2006
Agatha Christie might be old-fashioned but I still think she's the best crime plotter ever! This is vintage Christie, set in a big mansion over Xmas with all the family gathered - and a murder committed that seems impossible... The suspects all have both motive and opportunity, but Poirot negotiates his way with usual aplomb amongst them, to uncover one of Christie's more 'imaginative' murder methods. Fabulous!
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on 1 October 2012
I was pondering, whilst reading `Hercule Poirot's Christmas', which quality must exist to make Dame Agatha's books - for all her weaknesses as an author - so readable. And I've come to the conclusion that that quality is probably `consistency'.

In another writer's work - say, for example, Raymond Chandler's - a scant description, a thin characterisation or a stretch of dialogue which bears virtually no resemblance to any conversation ever had between human beings, would immediately strike a duff note. He's such a strong writer, that a grand misjudgement of that kind would take the reader out of the book and shatter the illusion of his world. But because Christie makes these same mistakes again and again, they become part of her world. The reader enters a strange fantasy land, where no locale is anything more than vague, characters are little better than ill-developed stock types and everyone speaks in the most artificial manner ever put into print. And because Dame Agatha never corrects these mistakes, she manages to create her own world where all of this makes sense and is - because it is so consistent - actually convincing.

For example, the opening chapters of this book feature various husbands telling their life stories to their wives, even though it's perfectly clear that the wives already know their husband's life stories and are, indeed, chipping in with valuable pieces of information. Dame Agatha has decided that this is the best way to get vital plot points over to her reader, and as such we have character after character explaining things they each already know to each other, in a way which would raise eyebrows in the real world. And although the reader might sneer the first time he or she is confronted with these odd marital scenes, the fact that they happen again and again means that they just end up going along with it. The reader has left the real world and gone to Christie-land, where these types of conversation take place and a murder will happen soon to distract us from the thinness of the characters.

If I had to raise one grudge against this festive read, it's that it isn't very Christmassy. Indeed December the 25th manages to pass with scant mention of the occasion, and it's only on the 27th that two of the characters discover the decorations for what should have been a typical English Christmas. The story is thus: a cruel old millionaire invites his family to join him at Christmas, threatens to change his will and is promptly bumped off. Luckily Hercule Poirot is on hand to investigate. One has to admire the mechanics of it all, and the way in which Dame Agatha - for all her other flaws - manages to keep the central guessing game going right until the end.
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on 25 December 1998
I'll have to agree with the first reviewer of this novel. The title is a bit misleading. However, I do believe that Agatha meant it to be that way. I have studied literature for a while and know that the everything that is in the novel is meant for something. To all the people wanting to read this novel, here's a tip: Everything that is stated in the book, diaglogue, details, etc. are all key to solving the mystery. To all of us Agatha fans, it proves to be true. The characters are very well developed, much better than any other Agatha novel I've read to date. The plot is priceless, the identities confusing (deliciously so!), and the conclusion is a shocking. Agatha knows how to lead her readers on, and proves so with this tale of murder and mayhem around Christmas time. At the beginning of the conclusion, who think it's Suspect A, but then you lean towards Suspect B, and at the end, Poirot reveals in all grandness the killer, and you're sitting there kicking yourself saying, "Why didn't I think of that!" The pacing of the book is good and I read it in two days. The suspense builds and the storytelling is at it's finest. For those of you waiting for a plot summary, read the synopsis above. I won't reveal anything for it'll ruin the surprise of the novel. Though not one of her famous books, it's one her best, this one definitely deserves your money!
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on 10 July 1998
Although this book does not compare to Agatha Christie's more famous ones such as "Murder of Roger Ackroyd", "A.B.C. Murders" and "The Man in Brown Suit", however the plot in this book is definitely intriguing. The murder is quite an orthodox one. A tyrannical and wealthy old man is murdered whilst all his family had gathered for Christmas at his invitation. It appears to be a case of murder for monetary benefits by one of the family members. Almost all have a motive and a possible chance to kill the old man. Yet, the end is quite interesting. I found the story so exciting that I finished it in one go.
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on 5 February 2005
Hercule Poirot is spending Christmas in the country with his friend Colonel Johnson, Chief Constable of Middleshire, and suffering terribly from the lack of central heaintg ("Nothing like a wood fire", says Colonel Johnson, but Poirot disagrees). Disagreeable wealthy old tyrant Simeon Lee is bloodily murdered in mysterious circumstances, and Poirot is called in to investigate.
The house is full of Simeon Lee's put-upon sons and their put-upon wives, any one of whom might have had reason to do Simeon in, especially as he had just announced that he was about to change his will to include his beautiful young granddaughter Pilar, just arrived from Spain, whom none of the family had ever set eyes on before. The family are anxious to insist that the murder was an outside job, but Poirot is equally convinced that it was not.
This is one of the best Poirot mysteries, with lots of interesting characters, especially the delightfuly vivacious, high-spirited and unconventional Pilar, and a cunning murderer to unmask. A real Christmas treat.
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Hercule Poirot is spending Christmas with a Chief Constable when a murder takes place not far away. Naturally Poirot's expertise proves invaluable in solving the crime and bringing the murderer to justice. Simeon Lee is a particularly dislikeable corpse and anyone in the house - and many outside it - could have had the motive to do away with him. He has invited all his relatives to spend Christmas with him and then he plays one off against the other.

There are two strangers in the house - Stephen and Pilar - the son of Simeon's former business partner and his only grand daughter respectively. Are they really who they claim to be and what are their reasons for spending Christmas in a house full of strangers? Naturally the family suspect the strangers.

I became totally engrossed in this well written and well plotted story and had to keep reading until I found out who had committed the crime. The answer was not at all who I thought it was either though the clues were there if I had read them correctly.

I have yet to read a bad Agatha Christie crime novel - they are all of an excellent standard. Background, characters, plot are all first class.
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