Read Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie Free Online
Book Title: Hercule Poirot's Christmas|
The author of the book: Agatha Christie
Edition: Crime Club
Date of issue: 1973
ISBN 13: 9780002313094
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 390 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.6
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Hercule Poirot's Christmas is a detective novel, written in 1938 by the so-called "Queen of Crime", Agatha Christie. It is the 20th book in the canon of 45 featuring the diminutive Belgian detective whom she invented. If you tend to lose track as to which Poirot novels you have read, it may be helpful to note that Hercule Poirot's Christmas was published in the USA a year later, under the title "Murder for Christmas", and again underwent a change of title in 1947; a paperback version then being entitled "A Holiday for Murder".
Agatha Christie was well into her stride by now, and this is a fairly typical mystery for her, of the locked room variety. In the introduction she states that she had been asked to write "a good violent murder with lots of blood", since her readers at that time felt that the murders in her novels were getting too refined and abstract. There is certainly a lot of blood in this one, although the story itself is still more of a jigsaw puzzle (to use an analogy made by one of the characters) than anything else, and the copious amount of blood (view spoiler)[proves to be a bit of a red herring. (hide spoiler)]
It also feels ... a little tired. There is no life to Hercule Poirot himself - no depth, or even lively characterisation. In the early novels, which feature his good friend Captain Hastings, there is a dynamism about such a chalk and cheese relationship. We watch gleefully as Poirot uses Hastings as his sounding board, and frequently - inadvertently - as his straight man. In these Poirot speaks English only in a rudimentary fashion, and does not appear to care how his intellectual arrogance appears to strangers. We constantly see his gaffes smoothed over by the genial Hastings. By the time of Hercule Poirot's Christmas though, Poirot comes across merely as a mouthpiece for certain theories or ideas, or as one critic at the time put it, as a "colourless expert".
The story is set in a country house, the home of the elderly Simeon Lee, a multi-millionaire who has amassed his fortune by means of a ruthless business empire. Hated by nearly all the members of his family for his selfishness and cruelty, this eccentric patriarch has unexpectedly invited each of them to a family gathering at his home for Christmas. Most of the family have not been on good terms with each other for many years. They are therefore both uneasy about Simeon Lee's motives, and also suspicious of their fellow guests.
We are introduced to each of the three sons and their wives in turn. There are Alfred and Lydia Lee, George and Magdalen Lee, and David and Hilda Lee. All six are poles apart in terms of what they want out of life, and most have a history of spiteful or petty attitudes. All they seem to have in common is what they see as their unfair treatment by their father. They are then all equally shocked by the invitation of a fourth son, Harry. We gather that Harry is in disgrace, and had been banished from the family for some time. Another surprise for everybody is the arrival of Simeon's granddaughter, Pilar Estravados, whom nobody has ever met before.
It is quite clear that Simeon Lee relishes the prospect of playing a sadistic game with his family's emotions, and that any idea of reconciliation could not be further from his mind. The guests keep arriving. Tresillian the butler (a doddery character with a welcome smattering of humour) is confused by a further unexpected guest. Stephen Farr, the son of Simeon Lee's former partner in the diamond mines, turns up on the doorstep. By the middle of the book we see that every single character is uneasily walking on tiptoe round the others, and apparently in dread of whatever Simeon Lee has up his sleeve.
We see here some of Agatha Christie's favourite themes. There is a family who are all at loggerheads with each other, trapped together in a mansion for a short but finite space of time. There are heightened emotions very near the surface: jealousy, resentment, ambition and avarice, all held by a group of suspects many of whom are keen to conceal their past. The whole is well set up for the murder, which occurs halfway through the book, our favourite detective only entering at that point. We are aware of several questions. Who killed the victim? How were they killed inside a locked room? (view spoiler)[Was the murder connected with the theft of the diamonds? And what is the significance of the "small bit of rubber and a small object made of wood"? (hide spoiler)]
Hercule Poirot then proceeds to prove point by point that each of the family had not only a good motive for killing the victim, but also ample opportunity. There is confrontation, and a surprise denouement where the murderer proves to be the person least suspected, followed by a closing scene, where the reader is told what happens to each of the characters. It's all a bit ... ho hum.
A quotation from "Macbeth",
"Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"
appears as an epigram at the start of the novel. It is then used by one of the characters on discovering the corpse, and repeated several times more during the course of the novel. It is almost as if Agatha Christie has taken this a motif, and worked a plot - a procedural mystery using her regular pattern - around it. In this kind of detective novel, the interest lies almost entirely with the ability to accurately and logically deduce the answer from recorded facts, within a drama played out by characters we recognise as believeable human beings. The fewer elements of luck or coincidence employed the better. This mystery contains rather too many.
It has to be said though, that the actual device for the murder itself is ingenious - both devious and clever. The scene is dramatic, with the (view spoiler)[crashing of furniture, followed by a wailing and hideous scream, before the body is revealed to have its throat slit, and to be lying in a great pool of blood. One clue, a small triangle of rubber and a peg, also involves a double bluff, (hide spoiler)] so that the reader is unlikely to guess correctly. As one critic said,
"Agatha Christie once more abandonedly dangles the murderer before our eyes and successfully defies us to see him."
If read in tandem with the actual dates over Christmas, Hercule Poirot's Christmas is quite an undemanding and entertaining Christmas read. Interestingly, this novel has exactly the same premise as its immediate predecessor, "Appointment with Death", in that (view spoiler)[the victim - a parent - was a sadistic tyrant, whose nature led directly to their murder. (hide spoiler)] Agatha Christie was also to use this theme again in "Crooked House (1949) and "Ordeal by Innocence" (1958).
However I do feel that the Dame cheated somewhat. It is not merely that she broke one of the major rules of detective writing, in her choice of perpetrator. After all she had done that before (in a different way) quite brilliantly with her early novel "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd". But here she has (view spoiler)[no less than three characters, all of whom - quite independently - were not who they appeared to be. (hide spoiler)] Surely that is excessive and unbelievable.
"There is something here - some violence..." He stopped a minute, then went on: "Yes that is it - violence...And blood - an insistence on blood...There is - how shall I put it? - there is too much blood. Blood on the chairs, on the tables, on the carpet...The blood ritual? Sacrificial blood? Is that it?"
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Read information about the authorAgatha Christie also wrote romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, and was occasionally published under the name Agatha Christie Mallowan.
Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time. She wrote eighty crime novels and story collections, fourteen plays, and several other books. Her books have sold roughly four billion copies and have been translated into 45 languages. She is the creator of the two most enduring figures in crime literature-Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple-and author of The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the history of modern theatre.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three. The Millers had two other children: Margaret Frary Miller (1879–1950), called Madge, who was eleven years Agatha's senior, and Louis Montant Miller (1880–1929), called Monty, ten years older than Agatha.
During the First World War, she worked at a hospital as a nurse; later working at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison.
On Christmas Eve 1914 Agatha married Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks. They divorced in 1928, two years after Christie discovered her husband was having an affair.
Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, came out in 1920. During this marriage, Agatha published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.
In late 1926, Agatha's husband, Archie, revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On 8 December 1926 the couple quarreled, and Archie Christie left their house Styles in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of her novels. Despite a massive manhunt, she was not found for eleven days.
In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan (Sir Max from 1968) after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie's death in 1976. In 1977, Mallowan married his longtime associate, Barbara Parker.
Christie frequently used familiar settings for her stories. Christie's travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was born. Christie's 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie's room as a memorial to the author. The Greenway Estate in Devon, acquired by the couple as a summer residence in 1938, is now in the care of the National Trust.
Christie often stayed at Abney Hall in Cheshire, which was owned by her brother-in-law, James Watts. She based at least two of her stories on the hall: the short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, which is in the story collection of the same name, and the novel After the Funeral. "Abney became Agatha's greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all the servants and grandeur which have been woven into her plots.
During the Second World War, Christie worked in the pharmacy at University College Hospital of University College, London, where she acquired a knowledge of poisons that she put to good use in her post-war crime novels.
To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club. In the 1971 New Year Honours she was p
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