I Try to Solve an Agatha Christie Mystery | A Caribbean Mystery (Miss Marple)

A challenge of reading Agatha Christie mysteries with the goal of attempting to solve them is that I have to be in a particular type of mood to give it a go. I started the Miss Marple classic A Caribbean Mystery about a month ago, and only managed to get into the mystery-solving stage today, not because the story wasn’t gripping. On the contrary, this is one of my favourite Marples, and certainly one that showcases her sharp wit, sly humour, and undercover brilliance to perfection. I was intrigued by the mystery, and eager to find out what twists and turns the Queen of Crime had in store.

Unfortunately for my curiosity, I knew that figuring out this mystery would require all of my little grey cells, and as it turns out, I am very rarely in the mood these days to exercise those little grey cells. This means that, for the last few weeks, I’ve been very happily devouring Baby-Sitters Club ebooks from the library, whilst poor Major Palgrave’s murder remained (at least to me) unsolved.

Fortunately for truth, justice, and all that jazz, my grey cells have finally reawakened, and today, I read my notes and re-read the earlier chapters, then read all the way to right before the big reveal and tried to cobble all the clues together. My verdict: I have no idea who killed the Major. Or rather, I have two suspects and a gut-feel third suspect, and true to the Queen of Crime’s twists and turns, none of them were on my suspect list early on. I have vague theories about what their motives could be, and random bits of information that I think support my claims. And a whole jumble of thoughts about how they all fit together.

The Setup:

Miss Marple is on holiday in the Caribbean politely pretending to listen as an old soldier, Major Palgrave, regales her with tales of his adventures. Then he tells her about a murder he heard about and, reaching into his wallet, asks if she wants to see a snapshot of a murderer. He’s about to show her the photo when he catches sight of something — or someone — behind her, and hurriedly changes the subject.

The next day, he’s found dead. Doctors chalk it up to high blood pressure, mostly because of a bottle of blood pressure pills at his bedside, but one of the hotel staff swears that bottle wasn’t there before his death. Whodunit?

Did I Succeed? (No Spoilers)

No, alas, I did not. I missed a key clue (that to Christie’s credit was mentioned more than once), and totally fixated on the wrong characters and plot elements.

Still, this is definitely one of my favourite Marple mysteries and overall Christie stories. Twisty, convoluted, and oh-so-much fun. This is a mystery and a cast of characters I’d very much love to see on the screen, so I’ll have to find out which of the Marple shows covered this!

My first wine-fuelled attempt at solving Agatha Christie… which may be why this case seems especially mysterious?


Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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. 


My Theory / My Detective Big Reveal:

Continue reading