This edition published by HarperCollins 1998 (First published 1938) / 219 pages
Opening sentence: “Stephen pulled up the collar of his coat as he walked briskly along the platform.”
‘I feel like reading a book to get me in the Christmas mood’, I thought. ‘Yes, why not see what Poirot is up to over the festive season.’ It turns out, what he is up to is investigating one of the most gruesome murders of his career so far. So, not your usual mince pies and mulled wine… This is not – in fact – the book to put you in the jovial Christmas spirit, it is however another fantastic murder mystery from Ms. Christie.
Simeon Lee is feeling sentimental so wants all of his children – Harry, David, George and Alfred (plus their wives) – at his home for Christmas. He is a rich, old man and has had a fractured relationship with a few of his sons over the years, so seemingly wants to make amends at this festive time of goodwill. Along with the immediate family, there are two other guests: Pilar, Simeon’s long-lost granddaughter and Stephen, the son of an old friend.
Poirot just happens to be spending Christmas at his friend, Chief Inspector Johnsons’ house – near the Lees – when, on Christmas Eve, they receive a call from Superintendent Sugden to say Simeon Lee has been brutally murdered in an unfathomable way: “Do you mean to tell me, Superintendent, that this is one of those damned cases you get in detective stories where a man is killed in a locked room by some apparently supernatural agency?” Poirot must use all his little grey cells to deduce who killed Simeon and how they did it.
I’m sure many people can relate to the fact that due to Christmas’ nature of forcing family members together, this time of year does have a habit of causing little fractions to escalate, as Poirot puts it: ‘People who do not feel amiable are putting great pressure on themselves to appear amiable! There is at Christmas time a great deal of hypocrisy, honourable hypocrisy, hypocrisy undertaken pour le bon motif, c’est entendu, but nevertheless hypocrisy!’ It is this angle that makes this book work so well, so many of the family members have motive to kill Simeon, that you are left guessing right up until Poirot gathers them all in a room to do his famous reveal.
This was another brilliant read. Yes, the plot felt a tad familiar, but I think that is due to other books / TV shows using this original concept, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas was originally published in 1938 after all. Oh Agatha, will you ever disappoint? I’m hoping not. I’ve also decided to take my Agatha love a step further in 2019 and take part in the Maidens of Murder book club – you read one Agatha Christie novel per month and discuss it on the Maiden’s of Murder Instagram page. It’s great as I can’t commit to getting to an actual book club right now, but want the social element of discussing a book I’ve just read and I’ll be guaranteed to tick 12 more Agatha books off my list by the end of the year. Win / win.