This Miss Marple novel has many Christie tropes that I usually find very entertaining, among them a bickering family where everyone has a motive to bump off the detestable patriarch in charge, and murders that follow a nursery rhyme. On the whole though, the book just wasn’t as satisfying as some of its parts.
This solid Poirot mystery has the prettiest title of all Christie novels, which I didn’t realise was borrowed from an equally beautiful passage from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
It seems that, without really intending to, I’m reviewing Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence series in a reverse chronological order, with our pair of intrepid married sleuths getting younger and younger. This novel, set in the early years of World War II, sees T&T in their late forties. While their grown-up children are actively involved in the war, Tommy and Tuppence feel useless and mighty frustrated about the fact that their government considers them too old and unfit for work. Things change however when Tommy gets a visit from a secret agent, asking him to go down to a sleepy seaside hotel in order to uncover a dangerous network of fifth columnists.
I vaguely remembered reading this Tommy & Tuppence novel many years ago and not being very impressed with it, but after suffering through Postern of Fate (the undisputed low point of my Christie re-readathon) I was probably inclined to view just about any other book in a favourable light. This is not to say that it lacks real merits; while rather uneven and hardly one of Christie’s most elegantly executed mysteries, there’s a strong sense of cosy-yet-sinister atmosphere about the novel that I failed to appreciate first time around.
You know you’re reading the worst Christie novel ever when you start wishing you were reading The Big Four or Passenger to Frankfurt instead, which I previously regarded as her absolute worst mysteries. It was hard to imagine that any other book of hers could usurp the top spot on the rubbish heap, but this messy, confused and terminally dull novel managed it.