I’ve decided to finally go back to my youth and reread some of the classics (well at least ones that fall into genres I actually like). This Hercule Poirot mystery was written much later in Christie’s career and it’s fairly clear that Poirot wasn’t even needed for this mystery. I actually wondered if he was only added to keep publishers/fans happy.
In fact, this mystery was actually investigated by a friend of Poirot, Colin Lamb who seemed to be secret service (how many times Lamb appeared in other books I don’t remember, it’s been about 30 years since I’ve read these. I read Christie in Middle School) and Detective Hardcastle. Poirot only pops up a couple times in the novel (and not until well after 100 pages in), as an old man who thinks he can solve the mystery just based on what Lamb relates to him (which naturally and rather unsatisfyingly does).
The story is told in alternating points of view, mostly Hardcastle (third person) and Colin’s (first person) and occasionally the neighbors of the crime scene. Younger readers would probably have no idea what half the jobs in this book even are (it was written in the 60’s) but Sheila Webb, a young stenographer was called out to a house to take dictation (many people working in her office take dictation on books). It was an odd request since Sheila was asked for by name but she had never been to Miss Pebmarsh’s house.
Upon arrival, she finds a dead man on the floor and the room is stuffed with clocks of all types including one with the word Rosemary on it. All the clocks are set an hour ahead. Sheila runs out screaming right into the arms of Colin, involving him and therefore Poirot in the case. It’s all the police can do to identify the dead man, a Mr Curry who appears to be an insurance sales man but neither his name nor the company is real. Miss Pebmarsh is a blind teacher who doesn’t know the man nor had she called in Miss Webb. The neighbors claim to know nothing.
However, another girl at Sheila’s office ends up dead after trying to contact the police and it looks like Sheila might be involved. This doesn’t sit well with Colin who is inexplicable head over heels in love with her (that part of the storyline felt overly romantic and not that realistic to me but I’m not much of a romantic I’m afraid.). Colin enlists Poirot’s assistance but the old Belgium detective finds fault with the way the neighbors were interviewed and sends Colin back to do better.
It’s not a bad mystery but the ending is a bit out of nowhere. I’ve definitely read better Poirot mysteries but on the upside, it’s not very long and it’s a Christie mystery and they are usually entertaining. I would, however, like to go back and read ones that were more in her prime.