The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) – Agatha Christie

Title: The Seven Dials Mystery
Author: Agatha Christie
Date published: 1929
Edition published: 1971
Publishers: William Collins, Son & Co/Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd
 Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

During a perfectly normal weekend spent at the rather grand Chimneys estate, owned by a Lord Caterham and being rented by Sir Oswald Coote and his wife Lady Coote, an unexpected death occurs in one of the bedrooms. Everyone residing and working in the house that weekend become suspects. Those staying in the house include the young man Jimmy Thesiger and his friends from the foreign office Bill Eversleigh and Ronny Devereux as well as Coote’s secretary, an old school friend of the young men Rupert ‘Pongo’ Bateman. Gerry Wade is the young man found dead in his bed next to a bottle of sleeping draught. Arranged on the mantle above his bed are seven alarm clocks that were not there the night before…

Gerry Wade made a habit of sleeping rather late and one morning his young friends decided that in order to stir things up a little they would purchase a total of eight alarm clocks and set them intermittently around Wade’s bedroom and all were to go off at designated times. The morning that Wade is found dead is the morning the alarms go off. The sleeping draught supports an overdose, but a letter Wade wrote the night before he died describes a man puzzled by his own sleepiness leading Jimmy, Bill and Ronny to suspect something more sinister happened to the young man. Determined to discover the truth they contact Wade’s step-sister Lorraine to aid in their investigations. In the meantime a known character of Christie’s, Superintendent Battle has put himself in charge of this case at Chimneys, a place he is no stranger to as he helped solve another murder there four years prior.

Not long after the tragedy Lord Caterham and his feisty daughter Eileen Brent, known mainly as ‘Bundle’ have returned to Chimneys. One day Bundle is driving along a country road when a young man sways into the front of her car and collapses in the road. Believing she’s hit the poor soul she rushes to his side only to discover that he has been shot, and the last words he utters before he dies are such: “Seven Dials” and the name “Jimmy Thesiger”. The young man shot is none other than Ronny Devereux. The plot seems to be thickening and Bundle is determined to find out what this Seven Dials business is, and who murdered Gerry Wade and Ronny Devereux.


And so begins a quest that reaches far beyond Chimneys and the murders of two young men. As Bundle, Jimmy, Superintendent Battle and the others become involved in their own separate investigations, the mystery of what exactly the Seven Dials really means becomes entangled in politics, possible international espionage, state secrets, stolen formulas for a coveted invention and an organisation that may or may not be in charge of all of it.

For all the right reasons The Mystery of the Seven Dials is very possibly one of my favorite of Christie’s to date. Even without the inclusion of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot or the English Miss Marple, it is not Superintendent Battle who steals the show as the lead, but rather the feisty and endearing Bundle Caterham. I was also particularly taken with Christie’s descriptions of a rather more sinister London despite the various links to high society and even European royalty. The underbelly brings forth a different dimension to the usual late night shootings, hidden passageways and characters going undercover that permeate Christie’s novels. In Seven Dials a refreshing spin is evident, though this is probably due to it being one of her earlier works. A remarkable adventure from the Queen of Crime with a delicious twist that will have you gasping.

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