“No seaside town in the south of England is, I think, as attractive as St. Loo.”
Detective: Hercule Poirot
Length: 270 pages
Setting: St. Loo(e), Cornwall
Poirot and Captain Hastings are taking a restful vacation at the seaside resort of St. Loo on the Cornish coast. Poirot is, once again, retired from his detective business and is determined not to return to it, however he cannot resist a young lady in trouble, a lady who has just been shot at, although she suspected the bullet was only a bee buzzing by her ear. Vowing to get to the root of the mystery and with his faithful sidekick, Captain Hastings to assist, Poirot gathers the numerous and puzzling clues:
- Why would anyone want to kill Magdala “Nick” Buckley as she has no fortune to speak of and her only possession is the somewhat dilapidated End House, which will pass to her lawyer cousin, Charles Vyse?
- What precipitates the lazy, sleepy behaviour of Nick’s good friend Frederica “Freddy” Rice? Why is she not more concerned about the threats to her friend?
- What about Nick’s maid, Ellen? Why does she reference a secret hidey-hole that Nick says is not there and why does her behaviour at times appear odd?
- George Challenger, an English naval commander, is in love with Nick but for Poirot that does not remove him from the suspect list.
- The Australian couple, Mr. and Mrs. Croft who are tenants of Nick’s and the latter an invalid, appear friendly and helpful but why did they urge Nick to write a will and, in spite of saying they posted it, the will has now disappeared?
- And where does Michael Seton, the lately deceased world aviator fit in?
With an unexpected murder, the case becomes even more puzzling and one wonders if Poirot’s little grey cells will be up to the task. Will the murderer be caught or will his devious cleverness prevail?
I was somewhat disappointed that I remembered who the murderer was from watching the TV series, as this novel was quite cleverly constructed. Yet in spite of the brilliant final outcome and the vacation-style setting, the book left me curiously flat. Perhaps the stumbling block was the characters who were more pawns on a chessboard and never truly did come to life. I was also hoping for more descriptions of the Cornwall coast however that also appeared to be sacrificed for plot. Yet these are only my personal minor quibbles and this mystery is definitely not my least favourite so far.
I’ll leave you with a fun quote from the book, as it illustrates Poirot’s character so clearly:
“Really, my friend! But I will not sit back and say ‘le bon Dieu has arranged everything. I will not interfere.’ Because I am convinced that le bon Dieu created Hercule Poirot for the express purpose of interfering. It is my métier.”
⇐ The Sittaford Mystery The Thirteen Problems ⇒