Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

Cat Among the Pigeons Cat Among the Pigeons, published in 1959, is one of Agatha Christie’s later Poirot mysteries and combines a girls’ school setting with the story of a revolution in Ramat, a fictional country in the Middle East. I still have a lot of reading to do before I’ll have finished all of the Poirot books, but this is one that I’ve particularly enjoyed.

Most of the action takes place at Meadowbank School, an exclusive girls-only school in England which is still run by its two founders, Miss Bulstrode and Miss Chadwick, but first we visit Ramat, where Prince Ali Yusuf is preparing to escape the uprising in his country. In an attempt to keep some of his fortune safe, the Prince gives some valuable jewels to his pilot and asks him to smuggle them out of the country. The pilot’s sister and young niece, Jennifer, have been visiting Ramat but are due to return to England the next day, so he hides the jewels in their luggage without telling them what he has done.

Back in England, Jennifer begins attending Meadowbank School, one of several new girls to join the school that term. There are also some new teachers, a new secretary and a new gardener. When a murder takes place at the school a few weeks later, it seems that whoever committed the crime may have been trying to find the missing jewels. Is there someone at Meadowbank who shouldn’t be there? In other words, is there a ‘cat among the pigeons’?

Well, I was completely fooled by this one! While I found it very easy to guess the hiding place of the jewels, I did not guess who the murderer was until the truth was revealed. The most annoying thing was that I did originally suspect the right person but was thrown off the scent halfway through the book and decided I must have been wrong. After that, I think I suspected almost everybody!

As I was reading I kept wondering when Hercule Poirot himself was going to enter the story and I was surprised to find that he doesn’t actually make his first appearance until the final third of the book. By the time he arrives on the scene the mystery has already been partially solved and while he does unravel the rest of the clues and identify the murderer, I’m not sure Poirot’s involvement really added anything to the story.

Although the mystery was a good one that kept me guessing, the reason I enjoyed this book so much was the setting rather than the plot. Like many British children I grew up reading Enid Blyton books and still have very fond memories of them. I loved her two school series, St Clare’s and Malory Towers, and in Cat Among the Pigeons Agatha Christie captures the same sort of atmosphere. The school setting, the focus on the lives of the girls and their teachers, and the very late appearance of Poirot, gives this book a slightly different feel from the others I’ve read.

Have you read this one? Which is your favourite Poirot mystery?

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22 thoughts on “Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie”

  1. I love Christie so much, and I can’t remember this one at all – though I am always happy to re-read her. I have a copy of this somewhere I may have to dig it out.

  2. It’s such a long time since I read this that I’m like Ali – I just can’t remember much about it! It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite Poirot, though I *am* fond of The ABC Murders and One Two Buckle My Shoe.

  3. I’ve been on an Agatha Christie kick this year, but I haven’t read any of her Poirot mysteries yet. I might start with this one just because of the girls’ school setting. It sounds like fun. Christie rocks!

  4. I read this years ago, I barely remember it, but now you have tempted me to re-read. it’s hard to pick a favourite Christie, or even a favourite Poirot, but The ABC Murders and Five Little Pigs are the first books that come into my head, and both I could happily read over and over again.

  5. This was also a great episode in the Poirot series with David Suchet. I have to say that my favourite remains ‘Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ which was part of my reading in grade 7, and my first murder mystery. I’ve been hooked ever since.

    1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a great book. My only problem with it was that I spoiled it for myself by guessing who the murderer was very early in the book! I still enjoyed it, though.

    1. I was surprised too, especially as I’d had a suspicion earlier on (not for any particular reason, just a guess) then allowed myself to be tricked by some red herrings!

  6. I’ve read this one and liked it very much. I liked the exotic feel that the Rawat angle gave to the plot, and the whole school atmosphere. And that main girl? she was awesome

  7. I read all of Christie’s books when I was in my teens and really ought to revisit them now because I enjoyed them so much then. I wonder if this is one of those that she wrote when she was beginning to get a little tired of Poirot and that is why he makes such a late entry?

    1. Yes, you’re probably right. This book didn’t really feel like a ‘Poirot novel’ and would probably have worked just as well as a stand-alone.

    1. I actually haven’t read Murder on the Orient Express yet, despite it being one of her most famous books, though I know the story from the film. I’ll look forward to reading the book eventually.

  8. It was the same reason as you I liked this novel – the school setting! I do love books set in schools! It is a good Poirot book despite him only appearing towards the end. However, it is one of the adaptations that was very good on TV.

    Not sure if I have a favourite Christie novel. So many out there to choose from.

    1. Yes, it’s hard to choose a favourite. I’ve enjoyed most of the Poirot books I’ve read but this one was a bit different because of the setting. I wish there were more books for adults set in schools!

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