A minister falls over dead at a cocktail party, apparently poisoned. However, there is no poison in his glass. The host is determined to discover what happened, but everyone dismisses the idea that a kind and innocent minister would be the victim of murder. Even Poirot finds it unlikely, and proclaims a verdict of natural causes. But a second act unfolds which changes everything.
Agatha Christie is such a genius! I had no clue about who the murderer was. I was completely surprised! And yet, it all fit together perfectly. In retrospect, it all made sense and every little detail of the plot came together for a satisfying ending.
There were so many red herrings all over the place, and each one seemed probable. It could have been a half dozen different people, because they all had suspicious behavior and something to hide. It was so interesting how the plot unfolded, and there was blackmail and treachery and romance and friendship.
My only complaint is that Poirot is actually in very few scenes. We mostly follow the host of the party, Sir Charles Cartwright, as he recruits other party guests to join in his amateur investigations. They go around questioning people and compiling information. Eventually, they begin reporting back to Poirot, who sorts through the red herrings and makes the final revelation.
I was intrigued by the intricate relationships between the party guests, and how those relationships changed throughout the story. Some people barely knew each other, but instinctively disliked one another. Some people sat back and analyzed everyone else, imagining themselves above it all and safe in their own mental or moral superiority. Some people were just clueless and charming. It was fascinating to see how they interacted and judged each other, but no one could see as clearly as Poirot. He penetrated into the very heart of each person, and sifted their motives and abilities.
The writing is so brilliant! Christie paints a picture and puts the reader right into the scene with just a few concise and powerful words. The book isn’t that long, but the story is full and rich.