Daily Archives: April 23, 2012

Vintage Mysteries – Was it Bob the Dog?

Review – Poirot Loses a Client by Agatha Christie

A keeper? Probably

The case began in mystery. Getting a letter on a morning in late June from an elderly lady with a problem was a normal part of Hercule Poirot’s life. But getting a letter that had been written in the middle of April, over two months earlier? Now, that was strange. That needed an explanation. And finding the explanation called for the talents of Hercule Poirot.

An ordinary detective might have settled for simply asking Miss Arundell why she waited so long to send the letter. But Poirot gets a chance to exercise his little gray cells – because Miss Arundell is dead. Falling down the stairs a few days before writing to him didn’t kill her, and besides, everyone insists that she must have slipped on the ball that Bob the Dog keeps leaving at the top of the stairs. No, no, she died weeks later, and that was perfectly natural too, just more of the liver disease she’d had for years. Everyone in town tells Poirot so when he starts to investigate (together with his friend Hastings, the less intelligent version of Dr. Watson).

What wasn’t natural was her will. Nothing mattered more to Miss Arundell than family, even though she disliked, distrusted, and disapproved of all her relatives. But soon after her fall, she made a new will – and this time, instead of dividing her property evenly among her nephew and her two nieces, she left everything to her annoying hired companion, Miss Lawson. And once she had made the new will, a few days after a seance during which Miss Lawson and her friends the Miss Tripps tell Poirot they saw a luminous mist forming around Miss Arundell’s head, she died.

Miss Lawson is shocked – shocked – by how rich she has become. Theresa Arundell, the pretty, dissipated niece, thinks it’s a real shame she won’t have any of the money to help her fiance Dr. Donaldson with his experiments. Her brother Charles feels sure he can coax some of the cash out of Miss Lawson’s hands and into his wallet. And Bella Tanios, the other niece? Who knows what she thinks? She’s wrapped up in her children, and she seems unwilling to say much of anything in front of her husband, shockingly foreign Dr. Tanios. (He’s Greek! The horror!) Is she afraid of him?

It’s all so perfectly normal. Life goes on; Miss Arundell is dead and can’t act for herself. But Hercule Poirot can act and will act, to prove that her death was deliberate murder, by a calculating killer who’s planning to kill again.

And Bob? Bob the Dog ends up (officially) belonging to Poirot, but he’s found his real soul mate in Hastings. Wuff.

Agatha Christie never writes great literature, but some of her stories are a lot more entertaining than others. I liked this one in spite of the 30’s quasi-racism against Dr. Tanios the Suspiciously Foreign Greek – maybe because the characters who went on and on about how undesirable he was  could very well have been showing their own prejudices instead of speaking for Christie. Meanwhile, the story had a nicely snarled plot and characters who were a little more complex than most of her paper doll people.

And, of course, if you got sick of the mystery you could always join Hastings in playing ball with Bob. Wuff.