The reason I became an avid reader of Hercule Poirot books as a kid is twofold. One, I love a good murder mystery. Two, David Suchet is amazing and watching The ABC Murders on TV made me a fan for life.
It’s only as I’ve gotten older and read more about Agatha Christie herself that I’ve gotten to understand the gradual change in the Poirot novels as the series progresses. With her growing resentment and boredom at having to write endless material starring the moustachioed Belgian, Christie became very comfortable with changing the formula of the earlier works and playing with the readers expectations. I suspect a lot of the time she did it to keep herself entertained. The first dozen or so novels would typically end with Poirot revealing the killer to be a jealous lover, an inheritance seeking nephew or the resentful butler. Over time, Christie really worked in just about every possible twist she could think of when it came to the identity of the killer. The police officer did it. The narrator did it. Everyone did it. You don’t find out who did it. Nobody did it because it wasn’t a murder.
She would also begin to experiment with the format and tone of the series. The light hearted frivolity of the earlier books made way for darker stories involving drugs and depression. The lovable sidekicks, Captain Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp were cast aside as Poirot went solo and for a brief stint, worked alongside a kooky author named Ariadne Oliver.
Cat Among The Pigeons is probably one of the lesser known Poirot adventures and its for good reason. The twist in this particular book is that Poirot doesn’t even appear in the damn thing for about two hundred pages. Instead the story begins with riots breaking out in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Ramat where an Arab prince and his expatriate pilot attempt to smuggle out a suitcase full of diamonds. The two never make it out of the country alive and the diamonds are lost in transit.
Years later, the story settles in the Meadowbank School For Girls. A body is discovered in the school gymnasium and everyone is a suspect. Is it one of the students? Is it the co-founder of the school who is patiently waiting for her chance to be headmistress? Is it the shifty new gardener? Don’t ask Poirot. He only turns up after a second body is found.
Cat Among The Pigeons isn’t a bad book per se. It’s just not at all what I wanted when I decided to go back to reading an Agatha Christie novel on a whim. I definitely didn’t get my Poirot fix so after finishing this book, I picked up Lord Edgware Dies. It’s got a dead body, it’s got Poirot, it’s got Hastings and it’s got Japp. Now I’m good to go.
A Public Service Announcement To Poirot Fans: Don’t forget to keep a lookout for the final few episodes of David Suchet’s Hercule Poirot films. He finished filming the last five films in July of this year. This includes Curtain and we all know what happens then.
Now that I think about it, I might watch the other four episodes and leave that one unwatched.