Mrs. Boynton is a cruel, sadistic woman who takes great delight in the mental torture of her family. Their trip to the Middle East serves as even more torture, proof that her children cannot escape her clutches. When she is killed whilst visiting the archaeological site Petra, all of her family members fall under suspicion of her death and it is up to Poirot to find out the true culprit.
I’m continuing my re-read of many Agatha Christie mysteries. I had remembered enjoying this one greatly, and it still stands as a pretty decent one. I hadn’t really remembered ‘whodunnit’, either, which made it even better!
This one is not from Poirot’s perspective for much of the book – at the beginning it uses various voices to establish the history of the Boynton family and the cruelty of the matriarch. Never did anyone deserve to be killed so much in a Christie novel as this twisted human being, a fact that even Poirot seems to realize.
One thing I enjoyed about it was the location, at Petra in Jordan. Agatha Christie’s second husband, Max Mallowan, was an archaeologist in the Middle East, and she accompanied him on some of his digs. (He was also fifteen years younger than she was – good for you, young Dame Christie!) It’s always interesting to read a British mystery that doesn’t actually take place in Britain, and one in which very few principal characters are British. The Boyntons are all Americans, because of course no British woman could be so evil. As an American who has lived in Britain, I am always amused at Christie’s stereotypes. (Sadly, they are rather often true, even 60+ years later.)
As an aside, I’d also seen the ‘Poirot’ TV episode based on this book – very loose adaptation that messed everything up and was frankly, terrible. Mrs. Boynton wasn’t nearly as sadistic (the whole point in the book was that she was mentally abusive, not physically so), her kids weren’t nearly messed up enough, and the motive in the first place was really badly done and melodramatic. Additionally, they removed Nadine Boynton, who was one of the most interesting characters of all.
Stick to the book – it’s a solid few hours of interested reading, and everything makes far more sense. Even if you’ve seen the episode, don’t worry – you’ll probably still enjoy the book because things are quite different.