I Try to Solve An Agatha Christie Mystery: Murder in Mesopotamia (Hercule Poirot)

MurderInMesopotamiaOkay, 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.


My detective set-up includes hot cocoa, detective notebook, and (not pictured) little grey cells!

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!


My Theory / My Detective Big Reveal:

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I Try to Solve an Agatha Christie Mystery: Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot)

CardsOnTheTableWhat a mind puzzle this one is! Even before the story begins, Agatha Christie sets us up. In her foreword, she tells us there are only four suspects, and “any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime. The twist is,

They are four widely divergent types, the motive that drives each one of them to crime is peculiar to that person, and each one would employ a different method. The deduction must, therefore, be entirely psychological, but it is none the less interesting for that, because when all is said and done it is the mind of the murderer that is of supreme interest.

The premise is simple: Mr Shaitana hosts a dinner party where he hosts four murderers (Dr Roberts, Mrs Lorrimer, Major Despard, and Miss Meredith) and four detectives (Hercule Poirot, Superintendent Battle, Colonel Race, and Ariadne Oliver). Before the end of the evening, Mr Shaitana is killed. Which of the four murderers did it?

(I should note that the four suspects are only alleged murderers. None have been convicted, and in fact, their appeal to Mr Shaitana is that while he believes all four are guilty, none of them have ever actually been accused of the crime.)


Starting my adventure with hot chocolate and a brand new chapter in my detective notebook

As part of my project to solve Agatha Christie mysteries, Cards on the Table is structured perfectly for the task. Each of the four suspects is interviewed in turn, and all four detectives openly discuss their clues and theories with each other. Even the chapters make it easy to keep up: each chapter is titled with the name of the suspect currently being interviewed or the name of a side character giving a new clue. In fact, a major challenge for this project was knowing where to stop before I locked in my final guess.

I accidentally read a fairly pivotal late-chapter reveal that made me rethink my main suspect and motive, but at least Poirot was right there acting as confused as I was. As I write this, I’ve stopped reading, because something else was revealed, and I realize I’m in the end zone. So far, Poirot’s responses seem to be aligned with mine, so that gives me hope that perhaps I’m on the right track. All to say, I’m ready to lock in my answer, and will share my thinking below the SPOILERS tag.


Bahhhh foiled again! At least I was close? 

Okay, Dame Agatha, well-played. I had all the cards, but ultimately, I read them wrong. 

For anyone keeping track, the score is currently Literary Treats 1, Agatha Christie 2. So I’m on the board, at least, and honestly, this was a lot of fun! I enjoyed the methodical way this case unfolded, and the tricky mind games I kept trying to untangle. 


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I Try to Solve An Agatha Christie Mystery: At Bertram’s Hotel (Miss Marple)

AtBertramsHotelI know better now, I said. The Queen of Crime will not best me twice, I said. Besides, I said, look at those yummy tea cakes on the cover! How hard can solving this mystery be?

Very hard, it turns out. Very hard indeed. I’d thought The Moving Finger simple at first; I was even confident for much of the book that I knew who the baddie was and why. It was only later in the book that I realized my theories were no longer holding up, and my chances of solving that mystery may be rather slimmer than I’d initially thought. (You can read my entire pride-before-the-fall journey with that Marple mystery here.)

At Bertram’s Hotel had my head spinning from the get-go. There was a gorgeous Edwardian-style hotel where everything feels genteel yet an undercurrent warns that things aren’t quite as they seem. There are a number of personalities staying at this hotel, some of whom have rather intriguing connections to each other. There’s a team from Scotland Yard investigating a series of highly sophisticated robberies where respectable persons seem to be involved until an ironclad alibi reveals them innocent. And there’s Miss Marple, enjoying a fortnight’s vacation in a nostalgic childhood fave, unable to shake the uneasy feeling that something’s off somehow and that she must intervene in some way, but she isn’t quite sure how.


Fuelling up with coffee and optimism as I turn to a brand new chapter in my detective notebook!

This mystery is Agatha Christie at her very best, full to the brim of complex psychologies, shrouded intentions, and a little old lady taking everything in whilst knitting in a corner. At around the 80% mark, all I could think was that this mystery was super convoluted. There are many clues that I think are clearing things up, but I also felt more confused than ever. In fact, the only salve to my ego is that Miss Marple seemed as in the dark as I was; she had her ‘feelings,’ but I don’t think she’s figured stuff out yet? (Yes, I know, it’s very likely she already knew it all at that point, but let me have this bit of consuelo de bobo for my ego, okay?)

I kept reading in the hopes of finding more clues to help clarify things, and then at the 87% mark, Chief Inspector Davy calls Miss Marple back to London and I’m like, “Aughhhh all right, the big reveal is coming, which means I gotta figure out my guess now.” (Spoilers after the “Read More” tag / boldface SPOILERS tag, where I explain my guess and what the reveal actually was.)


So…did I solve it? Have I outwitted the Queen of Crime?

Oh my god, I did. Not perfectly, of course, I would give myself maybe 75% of a win? I guessed the villain/s and the crimes, but I didn’t completely figure out the details of who did what, and what their motives were. But I guessed the Big Bad! I guessed part of the motive! And I guessed a couple of key elements in one character’s disappearance and another character’s death.


Seriously, when trying to solve a Christie, a 75% win is A WIN. As in, if I were the detective on this case, I would’ve made the right arrest. My detective team and the lawyers would’ve had to clear up the details and pieces of evidence before the court case, but I WOULD’VE MADE THE RIGHT ARREST!

Okay, I’m SUPER giddy and proud of myself right now. OH MY GOD!!!

Hair flip, detective notebook at the ready, bring on the next case, Dame Agatha!


My Theory / My Detective Big Reveal:

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