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[799] 13 At Dinner – Agatha Christie


“Hers was not a face to command instant attention or recognition. It was one of those mobile, sensitive faces that pre-eminently lend themselves to the act of mimicry.” (9)

A well-known, beautiful actress Jane Wilkinson approaches Hercule Poirot with an unusual request: to convince her husband, Lord Edgware, to divorce her. The actress shamelessly makes no secret about how her husband is in the way of her romantic dreams. She is in love with a Duke to whom she plans to marry. The next day Lord Edgware tells Poirot that he has already agreed to the divorce and had mailed a letter to inform Jane of his agreement. That very evening Lord Edgware is murdered. The police regards Jane the prime suspect based on evidence of two witnesses, Lord Edgware’s butler and secretary, who corroborate seeing her in the house on the night of the murder.

The best of the book is the investigation by Detective Japp as instructed by Hercule Poirot. Solving the mystery means looking at many different options. A plethora of seemingly unrelated evidence baffles them. Jane Wilkinson has the perfect alibi as corroborated by thirteen dinner guests in the party she attended. How could she be in two places at one time? Before the detective can pursue the many questions, another woman is found dead, a reputable American actress-impersonator Carlotta Adams.

Christie gives us a lot of clues—almost too many clues that the book risks of going too long with no resolution and no real breaks in the case. But the solution is obvious except one has to make sense of all the puzzle pieces. Characterization is supple and well done in this book, shining light on the period details (1930s) and women’s roles in society. Majority of the characters are women, and they all have to fend for themselves and improve their social status by marrying above them or having a life made on their own.

213 pp. Dell Books. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]


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