Hercule Poirot investigates a student hostel where a series of petty thefts and acts of vandalism are the clues to solving a more serious crime. The plot is quite reasonable and gets off to a strong start. An odd assortment of things—from valuable jewelry to light bulbs to useless trinkets—have gone missing. The housemother, sister of Poirot’s secretary, calls him to probe. But the suspicious detective has the impression that something more serious is taking place at the hostel after a girl has come forward to own up her crime. After Celia Watson confesses, the pilfering was to attract the attention of a young man who reads psychiatry, she is murdered.
The book involves double murder by poisoning. All the boarders in the hostel are self-centered. Educated as they seem, they have no common sense. While they are all viable suspects who have hidden secrets, some of them are built up to be plausible guilty and then apparently forgotten without being exonerated or completing their character arcs. They simply disappear from focus. The plot is difficult to discuss without a spoiler. The solution, after so many twists and turns, is satisfactory, but not ingenious in any way. This book is certainly not Christie’s best, suitable for her fans but not an eye-catcher for her novices.
237 pp. Harper Collins. Paper. [
Read/Skim/ Toss] [ Buy/Borrow]