As much as I loved the ending, I came away thinking this should have been much better than it was.
Aside from a few standalone works, the most famous being And Then There Were None (still my favorite of hers), Agatha Christie is mostly known for her two famous detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. I imagine she probably got bored of writing for them (I almost certainly know this was true of Poirot) so on this one, she decided to venture out on her own.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This one could have really used Poirot.
The central character is what made this book difficult for me. In love with one of the family members whose patriarch/patron has just been died under suspicious circumstances, he is enlisted by his father, a run-of-the-mill detective, to try and help figure out what happened. This would be fine if Agatha Christie’s goal were to use his relationship to the woman and her family to build suspense. But she can’t seem to decide if she wants to do that, or to use him as an ancillary detective for the police. The result is he winds up being an excuse for long-winded exposition. He’s less a fully realized character, a problem for someone whose perspective provides the narrative, and more an excuse for things to happen around him.
Which sucks because the ideas behind this book are good ones. The family definitely has issues; the house provides a looming menace to the proceedings. The pieces are there. And would have been perfectly placed if Poirot or Miss Marple or even an anonymous third party detective was involved, rather than the character provided.
Reading this felt like watching a play unfold behind a glass barrier where you can barely hear what’s going on. It was good and is probably graded unfairly. A 3-star Agatha Christie is better than most 4-star books. But putting it on a curve, this is less than her best work.