Okay, this is a very, very good book. I started reading it late one Saturday evening, and had to tear myself away about a third of the way in because it was getting close to midnight and I wanted to sleep, but also, I COULDN’T PUT THE BOOK DOWN!
The premise is delightfully spooky: archaeologist Dr Leidner hires a nurse to care for his wife while she accompanied his team on a dig in Mesopotamia. Mrs Leidner has been having a tough time — she’s been hearing odd noises like scratching on the walls, and seeing stuff like, once, a creepy face at her window. The whole thing was making her extra jumpy, and Dr Leidner hoped Nurse Leatheran — who is also our narrator — can help with her nerves.
My Kindle copy had highlights galore, and the notes in my detective notebook were filled with clusters of exclamation points. Here’s a reveal! There’s a reveal! And oh my god, I can’t believe this was just revealed!!! There was a chapter where Mrs Leidner was telling Nurse Leatheran about some experiences she’d had, and I was gasping as if I were watching things unfold in a theatre. The simple phrase “I have arrived” made me jump. Seriously: a chill ran down my spine, and I clutched my poor cat for comfort. Nurse Leatheran had a much more rational response to the incident, and a matter-of-fact explanation for it. Which only goes to show me that in the world of Poirot, I’m more likely to be the ‘hysterical’ woman in need of a nurse than the level-headed nurse herself.
Ironically, despite the title of the novel, the murder itself took me by surprise. Partly because, shortly before it occurred, a revelation turned suspicion on a particular character. So when the murder happened and definitely proved that character innocent, I was thrown aback. But also, and this is yet another sign of Christie’s genius, the scene right before the murder was calm and low-key. Characters went off to their daily tasks, Nurse Leatheran settled in with a good book about a nursing home… and honestly, the scene lulled me into a false sense of security. So when Nurse Leatheran realized two hours had passed, and then a murder is discovered, it took a moment for my brain to catch up. So, well done, Dame Agatha, for pulling me in so masterfully!
Among all the Agatha Christie mysteries I’ve tried to solve so far, this one feels the most cinematic. In fact, when the characters call Hercule Poirot in for help at the 33% mark, I even cheered out loud. Because, the hero has arrived, and the story is about to ramp all the way up to full throttle. Poirot, as always, lays out the facts and possible theories with admirable precision, and by the 44% mark, I was ready to lock my prime suspect in as the murderer. I’d found them suspicious from the start, and further clues only seemed to confirm my suspicions. Of course, this being Agatha Christie, the level of my confidence is often in direct opposition to the level of my accuracy, and I knew many more things had yet to be revealed.
…Okay, I’m 81% in, a second murder has occurred, a character has disappeared, and Hercule Poirot has requested for all suspects to be gathered together. It’s time for me to make my final deductions. I make my bold proclamation and explain my rationale after the spoiler tag, and we shall see how my little grey cells stood up to this task!
Ok, hats off to you, Dame Agatha. No, I did not solve this mystery, but to be honest, I don’t even mind. Because the actual reveal blew my mind. I yelled “WHAT???” when Poirot made his accusation. I had my hand to my mouth as he explained the means the murder was committed. And I legit gasped out loud when I learned the motive. My poor cat had been cuddling with me as I read, and she shot me a look and inched away as I read these pages.
Bravo, Dame Agatha. Brilliant work!