Okay, first of all, Hastings is an *idiot*. I don’t think I quite realized that in the other books I’ve read with him in them. He’s supposedly modeled after Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories, an audience surrogate character, but Watson gets an unfair rap about his bumbling—a side effect of his characterization on film rather than evidence in the canon—whereas Hastings is genuinely a boob, and one that doesn’t realize the extent of his boobitude.
In this one, not only does he get everything wrong, hide evidence from Poirot, and bumble about mucking things up, but he also “falls in love” with a woman he has spoken with for approximately one hour total. (He doesn’t even know her real name before he tells her he loves her, and he’s fantastically sexist in his views of her, and most of the women in this book, something I think Christie did on purpose, and which only enhances his incompetence in my mind.) Poirot honestly seems to keep him around solely for amusement.
My new feelings towards Hastings are the main product of my reading this, but also noteworthy is that this case is a bit more complicated than most Poirot cases (at least the ones I’ve read so far). It seems simple—a man living in France requests Poirot’s help, but when he gets there, the man is already dead, and Poirot feels obliged to solve his murder. It’s labyrinthine in its plot, and in the solution to the mystery. You really have to pay attention. I dropped the ball a couple of times before I really realized how complicated it was, and had to go to Wikipedia to clarify some things before I could keep listening.
Pretty good one, though, otherwise, and as always Hugh Fraser is a great Christie narrator. Not quite as good as Dan Stevens, but good nonetheless.
[3.5 stars rounded up]