Murder in Mesopotamia is the 14th Hercule Poirot mystery and has been on my Agatha Christie TBR for a while. I was intrigued by the fact it was inspired by the time that Agatha spent on dig sites with her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan CBE, a prominent British archaeologist.
Opening sentence: The events chronicled in this narrative took place some four years ago.
How handy Poirot popped by…
Ancient Mesopotamia is modern day Iraq and this story takes place near Baghdad, where the wife of an archaeologist is murdered in mysterious circumstances. As luck would have it, Hercule Poirot, one of the world’s greatest detectives, just happened to be passing through the area so could pop down to the dig site to take a look and interview all the witnesses / suspects.
A new, entertaining narrator
Murder in Mesopotamia had a different tone to it thanks to a new narrator. Usually one of Poirot’s police colleagues, this time we get events from the point of view of Amy Leatheran, a nurse assigned to look after Louise Leidner, the woman who is murdered.
But that wasn’t the way Hercule Poirot did things. I saw perfectly well that he meant to make a song and dance of it.
Amy has a young, straight-to-the-point, often sarcastic voice and brings a fresh feel to a Poirot story, so for that reason, I did like it. She did, however, have some rather dated and somewhat racist views but whether this was the ignorance of the character or the fact it was written in 1936 is unclear.
This murder mystery utilises the locked room approach as Poirot establishes that Louise’s murderer has to have been in the compound the dig team was living in, so the suspect is one of the main characters. Poirot drills right down to the crux and his speciality, the psychological element:
I am convinced, mademoiselle, that the key to this enigma lies in a complete understanding of Mrs Leidner’s character.
A solid and satisfying addition to my Agatha catalogue, what struck me was how she absolutely immerses us in the world of the archaeological dig, which was a fascinating new setting for me. I know she has a few books like this, but Murder in Mesopotamia is the first I’ve read.
Agatha had such an fascinating life (I read a great fictionalised version of it earlier this year, The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont if you want to find out more!) and its so interesting to see how it influences her work.
- Get your copy of Murder in Mesopotamia here;
- First published in 1936. This edition by Harper 2001;
- 264 pages;
- My rating: