The Daily Bongo

Cards on the Table

by Agatha Christie

Cover of Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie Cards on the Table is one of the earlier Agatha Christie novels (published in 1936) featuring Hercule Poirot. It also features the first appearance of Ariadne Oliver. The victim, Mr. Shaitana, is a weaselly sort of person. He gets joy out of finding things out about people and collecting them. When Shaitana meets with Poirot, Shaitana mentions that he has a "collection" of people who have committed murder and gotten away with it. Shaitana invites Poirot to a dinner party. When Poirot arrives at the party, he finds mystery writer, Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Battle from Scotland Yard, and Colonel Race, connected with British intelligence in some undisclosed way. In addition to our four crime solvers, we have four other guests, young Anne Meredith, dashing Major John Despard, Doctor Roberts, and Mrs. Lorrimer. Shaitana throws out hints throughout dinner about undiscovered murders, then he splits the guests into two groups. The detectives play bridge in one room while the murder suspects play in another. At the end of the evening, Shaitana is found stabbed through the heart with a long, sharp, skinny dagger while sitting in a chair by the fire in the room with the murders. It's the classic locked room mystery. Only the four were in the room, and one of them must be the murderer. The question the detectives have is who did it then, and perhaps got away with it in the past? All four take a hand at detecting, and in the end, the finger of blame swings from one to the other before finally settling on the real murderer.

I love Agatha Christie, and her works from the late 1930s and 1940s are her best in my opinion. Cards on the Table is an entertaining mystery. The only problem that I had with the mystery is that bridge plays a huge role in solving the mystery. Knowing who was the dummy, meaning who was the person who was walking around, and what was being played at those particular times helped Poirot with the solution. The bridge score cards were included in the front of the book that I read. I know nothing about bridge, but I could gather enough from Poirot's explanations to get some idea of what was going on. Of course, with that said, I admit that I picked the wrong person as the murderer. It turns out that my choice was a pretty nasty piece of work, but wasn't the murderer of Mr. Shaitana. After the murderer was revealed, I could see that the hints were there. I just missed them, or rather misinterpreted them.

I enjoyed seeing the four detectives too. Ariadne Oliver is supposed to be Christie's image of herself. Mrs. Oliver has issues with her Finn detective. She berates him and wonders why in the world she ever decided to have a Finn as the detective. I love the voice of Christie that comes out. As she says, it's a story, who cares if she has the right flowers in season or if she makes some other similar minor mistake. As long as it doesn't affect the story, who cares. Mrs. Oliver also admits to reusing murder ideas, and if the story is running too short for the prerequisite word count, Mrs. Oliver just throws in some more murders. In this book, one of the earlier murders occurs when a woman accidentally drinks hat dye instead of medicine. The same technique was used in Murder Is Easy. Also, it was good to see Colonel Race and Superintendent Battle in action. Sometimes I think of them as the same man, so it's nice to know that both appear together in this novel. I admit that Hercule Poirot isn't one of my favorites. Yes, I tolerate him because he is in a good number of Christie's mysteries. I prefer Miss Marple.

Spoiler alert! Reading this paragraph might give some clues to the murderer. The four suspects were interesting characters. I found myself liking and admiring Mrs. Lorrimer and Major Despard at the start. I was hoping for romance for Major Despard, and when it came down to Anne Meredith and her housemate, Rhoda Dawes, I was rooting for Rhoda. She was the more outgoing of the two and a definite adventure seeker. Christie never lets the reader down. You know that when there are young people involved that they will find some happiness together.

I really enjoyed Cards on the Table. It wasn't my all time favorite Christie, but it was an enjoyable, quick read. Get your cuppa tea and scones ready, sit in a comfy chair, and let your little grey cells take a romp.

April 2, 2012