Lord Edgware Dies (1933) – Agatha Christie

Title:Lord Edgware Dies
Author:Agatha Christie
Publisher/s:Fontana (1987); William Collins Sons & Co (1933)
Date Published:1933
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐

In a murder mystery that will involve the famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, Lord Edgware Dies is narrated by Poirot’s trusted friend Captain Hastings who is every bit the polar opposite of the man with the ‘egg shaped head’. It is through Hastings’ eyes that the reader will be taken through the very glamorous and decadent worlds of the English aristocracy and the American world of show business and stage acting. The novel was originally titled Thirteen at Dinner and is a classic example of a plot that takes the reader through a string of clues, only to start right back at the beginning again.

Jane Wilkinson is very unhappy in her marriage to Lord Edgware. Her wish is to remarry, and she has her sights set on the Duke of Merton. She is an American actress and has just recently attended the performance of a British entertainer, Carlotta Adams who specializes in impersonating fellow actors, among them Wilkinson herself. After the performance she meets up up with Hercule Poirot who was also in attendance, and begs him to speak to her husband and agree to a divorce. This is not Poirot’s usual line of work but he complies and meets Lord Edgware who is surprisingly agreeable, if a little odd. The next day Edgware’s dead body is found in his library – stabbed in the base of the neck.

In steps Inspector Japp whose methods of investigation are nothing like Poirot’s and he is convinced this simple case points towards the incorrigible wife who had previously threatened to murder her husband if he refused to end their marriage. This seems to satisfy Hastings, however Poirot is not convinced and it is only when Carlotta Adams is also found dead in her bed from a suspected overdose of a sleeping draught known as Veronal, that the plot no longer appears as simple as it was for Japp and Hastings. Of course Poirot knew this all along – as he always does.

The investigation leads Japp and Poirot to those closest to Lord Edgware and who would most likely benefit from his death. His nephew Ronald Marsh needs money, and would likely inherit from his uncle, and Georgina Marsh his daughter has made no secret of her dislike for her father. Carlotta Adams herself, before her untimely demise, was the perfect suspect whose jealousy of Jane seemed a plausible reason to frame Lady Edgware, and yet she has died leaving behind a string of clues that are baffling our trio of investigators. Among the clues is a gold box with ruby-encrusted initials filled with the very drug that Carlotta died from and in her bag a pair of Pince-nez that are not Carlotta’s. Known for her performances that often involved multiple wigs and disguises, and her friendship with the owner of a hat shop, Carlotta’s death seems oddly instigated , adding ever more intrigue to Edgware’s death.

Christie’s plot is a slow burn with multiple red herrings flung around in the form of a suspiciously torn letter, the mysterious disappearance of Edgware’s butler not long after his death, a strange phone-call to Jane Wilkinson and the constant presence of the American actor Bryan Martin who is a little too interested in Jane’s welfare. Unlike a lot of Christie’s work, Lord Edgware Dies uses most if not all of Christie’s own mystery tropes and themes to bring the novel to a satisfactory conclusion. Using Hastings as the main point-of-view was also a stroke of genius as it gave the reader a brilliant angle at which to truly grasp the genius (and might I say the arrogance) of Hercule Poirot and his seemingly effortless crime-solving. Another inspired mystery from the Queen of Crime!

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