”Lord Edgware Dies’ is a Poirot novel that I had a lot of fun with. It’s accomplished, clever, mischievous and seems to me to be ahead of its’ time.
The plot kept me guessing (wrongly most of the time) and was very clever (well, cleverer than me anyway). It was also quite action-packed with more than one death and a slightly frenetic pace at times. About a quarter of the way through I was sure I had the whole thing figured out. I was utterly wrong of course. I found myself suddenly less critical of the hapless Hastings than usual as I realised that Madame Christie had been leading me by the nose since the first page and I had followed along as if I were the one choosing the path.
In my defence, there was a very rich suspect pool, most of whom on only slightly more likeable than the ‘got-what-he-deserved’ murder victim, Lord Edgware.
The relationship between Hastings and Poirot is beautifully choreographed in this book. Hasting plays Watson to Poirot’s Holmes. Poirot displayed more passion and more humour than usual. This time he was more than a gnomic all-will-be-revealed-in-good-time plot device. He was engaged with the people around him and even his habitual baiting of Hastings was done with what seemed like real affection.
I liked the fact that we saw Poirot in a social setting with all the soon-to-be-suspects before anyone was killed. The mission he was given before Lord Edgware’s death changed his relationship to all the players and powered some of the passion that he brought to solving the case.
There was quite a lot of humour as the story went along. Small observations of the oddities of the English Class system at the time and some playfulness from Poirot who, at one point, shares a children’s riddle with Hastings and then enacts it by summoning a superfluous person to the big reveal.
There were a few things about the book that felt ahead of its time or, at least, made me reconsider what I thought I knew about England in the 1930s. There was the casual acknowledgement of Lord Edgware’s kinks. These were well known and while not seen as mainstream, not seen as surprising in the English aristocracy either. Then there was the one-woman-show on the West End. This has become popular again recently and I was fascinated to see that it was a way for a woman to break through as an entertainer back then. The thing that seemed most ahead of its time was the depiction of the sociopathy of the killer. The final chapter is a letter from the killer to Poirot which made Hannibal Lecter seem like a wannabe. I could easily imagine it as a soliloquy to camera in the TV adaptation. It had a strong shudder factor.
I listened to the audiobook version which was delivered by Hugh Fraser with his usual flair. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.