Somehow, and I know I know it counts short stories, plays, and collection, this is the 25th Hercule Poirot novel and it’s only 1942. In a recent article I read, and thinking about her second Tommy and Tuppence novel N or M?, there’s a clear sense (outside of the text) that Christie was getting somewhat frustrated with Poirot by this time.
In this story, we have an old murder that was satisfactorily solved, according to the police and others. An artist was killed, his wife was implicated in his poisoning, and life went on. His daughter though approaches Poirot to open the cold case.
What stands out to me about this book (and in referencing the above outside the text stuff) is that this is one of the “nursery rhyme books” however remixed that title is. It’s also structured like Murder on the Orient Express with the chapter and sections corresponding very directly to the outlining of the case and the investigation, as opposed to the novel. This almost clinical style is successful and exciting for the Poirot cases, even when they’re a little stale like this one, because it gets right to the meat of things. At least is she’s not thrilled here, we get right to the heart of it.
“Poirot said placidly, “One does not, you know, employ merely the muscles. I do not need to bend and measure the footprints and pick up the cigarette ends and examine the bent blades of grass. It is enough for me to sit back in my chair and think. It is this – ” he tapped his egg-shaped head – “this, that functions!”