Appointment with Death (1938) – Agatha Christie

Title: Appointment with Death
Author: Agatha Christie
Date Published: 1938
Publisher: Fontana
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

One evening in a hotel in Jerusalem, the Queen of Crime’s famed Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot overhears these words coming from a window outside his room:

“You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?”

These dark and gloriously deceptive words will unwittingly open the door to a mystery that will once again have the little man with the ‘egg-shaped head’ and the obsession with one’s ‘grey matter’ working against the clock to solve a murder.

Before any such crime is committed though the reader must first be introduced to a cast of characters that will have you rooting for some, and begging for others to be smacked over the head. Agatha Christie has always had a remarkable way with the human condition, and it is always with absolute pleasure that we indulge in the meeting of new, complex and well-rounded individuals that are all equally potentially guilty of some gruesome crime or other.

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In Appointment with Death we are introduced to Sarah King, a young British woman on holiday. She has an M.B in Medicine, and has just spent a rather enjoyable hour or so chatting to a young American man named Raymond Boynton. She is quite taken with him, and he seems quite taken with her until he arrives with his entire family to spend some time in the hotel lounge and completely ignores her. The Boynton family and their tyrannical matriarch Mrs. Boynton are a strange bunch. Controlled in every way by their mother, the children all exhibit nervous dispositions and are prohibited from socializing outside of their family unit. The family consists of Raymond and his sister Carol who are of similar ages, Lennox the eldest sibling and his wife Nadine, and finally the youngest child Ginevra ‘Jinny’ who is perhaps the most disturbed and nervous of them all.

Also staying in the hotel is the French doctor, Dr. Theodore Gerard, an old friend of Nadine Boynton’s the American Mr. Jefferson Cope, a Lady Westholme and a Miss Annabel Pierce both British.

When some of the guests including Miss King decide to go on an excursion to Petra for a few days where they will camp in the mountains, they are surprised when they arrive at the camp to find the entire Boynton family there. It is even more surprising that the wheelchair bound Mrs. Boynton should be there too sitting at the mouth of a cave like

“a distorted old Buddha”.

It seems initially quite surprising that the seemingly very introverted family would find themselves intimately socializing among strangers and in a very cloistered and isolated environment no less. However, true to Agatha form, the old lady is found dead in her chair one evening, and the most likely perpetrators seem to be her own family.

It is now up to Hercule Poirot, and a Colonel Carbury to solve this mystery.

Every time I pick up an Agatha Christie mystery I am always astounded by the progressive female characters that appear in a fictional medium that was so often male-dominated, and rather conservative in its thinking. Christie’s characters are not clichéd, nor are they ignorant of mental instability which is a matter very often too broadly dismissed or completely ignored. Her novels, though short, very often manage to portray a sense of layering in the people living inside her tightly-woven stories. Once again she manages to get it just right with this murder mystery set in a country steeped in history and a rich and ancient culture.

In case you want to catch up with my other Agatha Christie reviews:

Partners in Crime (1929) -Agatha Christie

Sparkling Cyanide (1945) – Agatha Christie

The Listerdale Mystery (1934) – Agatha Christie

The Pale Horse (1961) – Agatha Christie

The Big Four (1927) – Agatha Christie

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