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[795] The Clocks – Agatha Christie

1carered

The Clocks begins with a dramatic scene on 19 Wilbraham Crescent, home of a blind school teacher Miss Millicent Pebmarsh. On her floor lies a dead man, stabbed fatally—a respectable-looking elderly man. Nobody knows who he is (or so they say). As the mystery deepens, it seems whoever is behind the murder does not want the man identified. Apparently earlier in the day, a secretarial agency is rung up, a Miss Millicent Pebmarsh asks for a stenographer to be sent to the aforementioned address at 3pm. It’s particularly asked that a Miss Sheila Webb should be sent.

Miss Sheila Webb arrives for the appointment. To her utter shock, she discovers the corpse in the sitting room. She runs outside the house into the arms of a young man Colin Lamb, who delivers most of the narrative of the story. Miss Millicent Pebmarsh denies making the call to the secretary agency; it seems someone has deliberately arranged for the typist to be there at the Pebmarsh house. The profusion of clocks, four in all, that don’t belong to the blind woman, adds to the mystery.

As the gardens of several houses verge on to that of the crime scene, investigator interview all the neighbors, an array of interesting people who are not what they appear to be or that they reveal too much without knowing. Naturally they are all up on guard. But it’s unnatural that nobody has seen anything. There’s a bit of twist and turn, and the usual red herring. But The Clocks is a traditional whodunit in the sense that the simple truth is concealed with a careful and cunning use of words. An ordinary has been killed. Why? Here is someone, an ordinary, pleasant-looking man whose removal is necessary to someone. This is when Hercule Poirot’s bluff is called. He doesn’t appear on the crime scene but only lends his expertise to Lamb. He calls for meticulous examination of every suspect’s background, and encourages Colin Lamb to converse with them. To the keen reader, it is what people let slip that becomes the key to solving the crime.

246 pp. Pocket Books USA. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

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