I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas! Mine hasn’t been great, unfortunately. My grandfather, who is eighty-five, fell and broke his shoulder last week and has been in hospital over Christmas. Because of his age and poor general health, the doctors haven’t been able to say whether he will make a full recovery or when he might be able to go home. My grandmother, who also has health problems, can’t be left on her own so we are all helping out with taking care of her until we know what long-term arrangements will need to be made. As you can probably imagine, it’s been quite a stressful time and not conducive to writing good book reviews, so this is just a short post to record some thoughts on a recent Christmas-themed read.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is a classic locked-room murder mystery which begins with an elderly millionaire, Simeon Lee, inviting various members of his family to spend Christmas with him at his home, Gorston Hall. The family are surprised and suspicious – they are not all on speaking terms and as they begin to gather at Simeon’s house tensions are running high. When the old man is found dead in a pool of blood in his locked bedroom on Christmas Eve, there is no shortage of suspects.
Who could the killer be? Could it be one of Simeon’s sons – the money-obsessed George, maybe, or Harry, who has been estranged from the rest of the family for many years – or one of their wives? What about Pilar Estravados, Simeon’s granddaughter, newly arrived from Spain? Or Stephen Farr, son of Simeon’s former business partner, who has come unexpectedly from South Africa? Hercule Poirot is called in to investigate and as he begins to piece together what happened on the night of the murder, some family secrets are brought to light.
This is not very high on my list of favourite Agatha Christie novels, but I did enjoy it. As usual, I failed to solve the mystery before Poirot did and although there were a few times when I thought I’d figured it out, I never even came close to being correct! Despite the title, it’s not a particularly Christmassy book (Christmas Day passes almost without mention) but I found it fun, entertaining and quick to read, which is just what I was in the mood for. I was reminded of Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer, which is also set at Christmas and has a similar storyline.
With plenty of other unread Christie novels still to look forward to, I’m sure I’ll be reading more Poirot in 2016.