” It has happened. In spite of everything—in spite of my precautions, it has happened. ” (Ch.8, The Fatal Shawl, p.77)
Peril at End House is one of Christie’s cleverest books and yet not as known as, say, Murder on the Orient Express. It’s set in Cornwall, where Poirot is on holiday with the narrator, Captain Hastings, whose dry comment on the case to follow often balances the Belgian investigator’s self-satisfaction. While Poirot is happy to be in retirement, his ego is indeed still thriving.
Then he meets Nick Buckley who tells of her three “accident brushes with death.” When the small neat hole found on Nick’s bonnet is found to be made by a bullet, Poirot knows peril is very close at hand, even though she treats it all as a joke. Indeed it seems as though Poirot is right, and in spite of all his precautions, murder happens, right outside the Peril House. The alleged curse that the house is haunted and only evil can come out of it is more than alive. Nick’s cousin, Maggie, who was wearing Nick’s shawl, was shot.
Poirot sets off to investigate everyone’s motive—and he suspects everyone around Nick. There’s the housekeeper Ellen who seemed very surprised Maggie was the victim; the mysterious and affected Frederica; the cousin Charlie, who will inherit Peril House in the event of Nick’s death; the art collector Lazarus; and the old Australian couple who rented out the lodge house from Nick. The interesting thing about this mystery is that Poirot has been wrong, and his ego badly hurt. But quickly he redeems himself and discovers what he has overlooked.
Peril at End House has many twists and turns as usual with an Agatha Christie plot and everyone is not what they seem to be. Though money is the ulterior motive, identity plays a crucial role in this rather convoluted mystery. The whole atmosphere of the old derelict house is fantastic. The solution has crossed my mind, but not as a real option. It’s an overlooked but clever mystery, and rare that the actual murder doesn’t happen until about a third of the way.
226 pp. William Morrow. Trade Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]
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