One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie read by Hugh Fraser

Death at the dentist’s…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

The thing is – if Hercule Poirot ever threatens to visit you, make an excuse and then flee to the other side of the world because no one is safe around that man! In this book he visits his dentist, Mr Morley, for a routine check-up. By the end of the morning, Mr Morley is dead. Later, one of his patients is found dead and another has gone missing. Let’s hope Poirot didn’t have a doctor’s appointment that afternoon!

At first, Inspector Japp thinks Mr Morley, who was found shot dead with a gun beside him, has been murdered, but when one of his patients dies later that day of an overdose of the Procaine used to numb his mouth, it’s assumed Mr Morley made a mistake and then in a fit of remorse killed himself. So the police investigation stops, but Poirot isn’t convinced and continues with his own investigation.

There had been quite a collection of notable patients at Mr Morley’s surgery that day. Mr Amberiotis is a Greek gentleman with a dubious reputation. Mr Barnes is retired from the Secret Services. Miss Sainsbury Seale has a chequered past, having been an actress in her youth and then having shockingly married a Hindu in India (well, it was shocking in 1940 when the book was written), before deserting him and returning home to England. Mr Blunt is a banker and pillar of the Establishment – the kind of man who is seen as giving stability to the country at a time when other European countries are falling into the hands of various flavours of dictatorships. There are also a couple of young men there – one the boyfriend of Mr Morley’s secretary, and the other the would-be boyfriend of Mr Blunt’s niece. Poirot begins by talking to each of these people about what they remember of that morning.

This one has a nicely convoluted plot which touches on some of the anxieties of a country facing war. Christie never gets overly political but she often works current concerns into her stories and it gives an interesting insight into the time of writing. Here, there’s a clear divide between the deep conservatism of the old guard in Britain, fighting to keep the old systems of politics and finance in place, and the younger people, some of whom have been affected by the socialist and revolutionary fervour churning through large parts of the world. While Christie appears to be firmly on the side of the old guard, she intriguingly recognises through her characters that this may be age related and that things may change whatever the Establishment does. She also neatly addresses the question of how far ethics may be bent in pursuance of a noble aim.

But of course that’s all just a side dish – the main course is a beautifully plotted murder mystery in which all the clues are given to make it possible to solve, if only the reader’s little grey cells operated as efficiently as Poirot’s. This reader’s didn’t. It was so long ago since I last read this one I couldn’t remember the solution, and found I was baffled all over again. Not only are the clues sprinkled throughout, but towards the end Poirot lists all the important ones in his thoughts – and yet still I couldn’t work it out. But when Poirot explains it all in one of his typical denouements, it all fits together perfectly and undoubtedly falls into the fair play category.

Agatha Christie

It’s a very thoughtful denouement, this one, where Poirot considers the future and finds it worrying – I suspect it would have resonated strongly with the concerns of the readers of the time. And frankly, given the current political situation around the world, it resonates just as strongly again now. As always, I get annoyed at how dismissive people sometimes are about the Golden Age writers in general and Christie in particular – they knew how to entertain but the best of them also reflected their society back to itself, just as the best crime writers continue to do today.

I listened to the Audible audiobook read by Hugh Fraser, who gives another excellent narration. I’ve mentioned in the past how good he is at bringing out the humour in some of Christie’s books. In this one, he does just as good a job of bringing out the slightly darker, more pensive tone of certain parts of the book. These audiobooks are a great way to freshen the books up for old fans – I’m thoroughly enjoying listening to them and look forward to revisiting the Christie/Fraser partnership again soon.

Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

52 thoughts on “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie read by Hugh Fraser

  1. Oooh I LOVE this one! And read by the delightful Hugh, no doubt it is even more enjoyable. It annoys me when people dismiss the Golden Age novels as being a bit twee and shallow, Christie especially is incredibly clever and producing multi-faceted stories that go far beyond a simple murder mystery. But anyway, I’m preaching to the converted and in the midst of the locked-door mystery anthology so my feelings on this genre are perfectly obvious!! 😀

    • It’s a goodie! I’m loving rediscovering some of the ones I haven’t read for a long time, especially with having such a rotten memory – I regularly can’t remember whodunit. And our dear friend Hugh makes them extra special, although I’m deserting him in favour of Joan Hickson for the next on my list. Her plotting is fantastic. When I read them in my youth I was much less critical than I am now – i.e. I just read things and didn’t really think about why I did or didn’t like them. But after years of picking books apart for reviews, I’m so impressed by her skill now – every bit is relevant and all loose ends and red herrings make sense and get tidied away. Superb!

  2. Classic Christie! Isn’t it funny how often she drew on nursery rhymes for inspiration. Modern readers probably don’t know how the rhymes progress and don’t spot the references to the story. It’s all a bit lost on us now, although her readers would been completely familiar with them. I find it frustrating that the next line is just at edge of my memory but I need google to reveal the truth: “Three four, knock at the door…”

    • It’s a good one! As I’ve been re-reading, or listening rather, I’ve realised she actually never assumes people will know the rhymes. In this one she starts it by printing the whole rhyme, and then each chapter heading is the next couplet, so you can really see how brilliantly she’s worked the plot to match the rhyme. Just as she did in And Then There Were None. I’m more impressed by her plotting with every one I read…

  3. I finally read The High Mountains of Portugal (on your recommendation, thank you) and a character in that book says that no one ever remembers who the murderer is in an Agatha Christie story, although the reader remembers everything else.

  4. Hugh Fraser is great, isn’t he, FictionFan? I’m glad you heard his narration. And the story is a good ‘un. I especially like the way Christie lays such a neat trap for the unsuspecting reader. This, to me, is one of those stories where she plays completely fair, as you point out, but she still surprises. That takes such a deft hand.

    • He really is – I’m loving these narrations. And the Joan Hickson ones for the Miss Marple books. Yes, I think the misdirection in this one is particularly well done, and her plotting is brilliant. I laughed when Poirot listed all the clues and yet I still couldn’t get it! But when all was revealed, I felt she’d given me every possible chance – so clever.

    • I’m coming to the conclusion every one I read is a favourite! I seem to have re-read the same ones over and over, but some, like this one, I haven’t read in years, so it feels beautifully fresh. Hurrah for my rotten memory! 😉

  5. I like when authors make references to the political issues at the time but don’t make it the forefront conflict. I find we learn so much more that way, because we see how it fits into people’s daily lives, and it’s easier to imagine ourselves in the same situation…

    • Yes, I do too. I don’t like to be bashed over the head with politics or told what to think, but I love when a book really reflects the political and social concerns of the time they were written. As you say, it gives a real insight into how people lived and thought…

  6. How did I miss this one?? Now I’ve got to get my hands on a copy! I think most of us can relate to the fear of being in a dentist’s chair. It takes true genius to weave that emotion with the fear of war prevalent at the time of its writing. Brilliant, as always, Dame Agatha!

    • So many great Christie books – it’s easy to miss a few! Although I’ve read them all (I think), with some of them it was so long ago that I’ve pretty much forgotten everything about them, so it feels like reading them for the first time again. Haha! She’s very funny about Poirot’s fear of the dentist… 😀

    • I completely agree – her plotting is brilliant, and I never end up feeling as if she cheated. In this one, Poirot actually lists all the clues just before the end, and I still couldn’t work it out!

    • I read my way through all the Christie books in my teens and early twenties and have re-read many of them several times since. But a few, like this one, it’s so long since I read them it feels like reading them for the first time again – great fun! I hope you enjoy your journey through the Poirots, but don’t forget the Miss Marples too!

  7. This is one of the Agatha Christie novels I have re-read since I started blogging and I really enjoyed how without overshadowing the story she weaves the present discontent between the new and old guard into her story. I was particularly fond of the doorman at the dentist’s house who was so keen on American mystery novels! Great review of a fiendishly difficult puzzle, although I agree it definitely falls into the ‘fair play’ category.

    • Ha, yes I liked the doorman too – he reminded me a bit of young Albert in the early Tommy and Tuppence books. I’ve actually been surprised as I’ve been re-reading at how much she does actually say about soicety in some of her books. I’d kinda forgotten that. No wonder her books have survived when so many other have been forgotten!

  8. Ah, I *quite* enjoyed this one when I read it a while back (‘The Patriotic Murders’ on our side of pond… why, WHY do book titles haphazardly get changed between the UK and the US?!). Anyway, the twisty mystery was done so well, and the undertones to the story were just so incredibly thoughtful. I thought she did such an amazing job wrestling with the question as to whether or not some lives are more valuable than other lives. This is definitely one of my favorite Poirot stories.

    • Goodness, I think The Patriotic Murders is a terrible title! And since she went to so much effort to make the plotting match the rhyme it seems so pointless to change it too. Yes, I thought this was a particularly thoughtful one too, which I suppose isn’t too surprising since she must have been writing it just as Britain went to war. But as you say she does tackle some pretty big ethical questions and what I liked was that on the whole she leaves it up to the reader to decide on the answers. What a writer she was!

      • And in a way, ‘The Patriotic Murders’ is a bit of a spoiler. In most cases, I’ve found the British title to be the best, and don’t really understand the reasoning behind changing. Ah well.

        But yes, Christie is genuinely brilliant and intriguing. Her autobiography was a fantastic read, so I sincerely hope you’ve gotten around to that one as well!

        • I always think it should be up to the author what the book is called. Truthfully, I usually find the American titles take away any subtlety and “dumb it down” and I can’t imagine why since the Americans are just as sophisticated readers as the Brits.

          Hmm… I’m not a huge fan of author biographies or autobiographies. I prefer not to know too much about them since it tends to affect how I feel about the books. The exception is Dickens, but then he’s the exception to everything!

          • Even though I don’t usually want to know much about my favorite authors, either, Christie’s book is just such a gentle and rambling memoir that sort of meanders through her life without a lot of fuss or drama. It probably helps that I more or less agree with the majority of her thoughts on life. 😀

  9. I really need to pick up more Christie, I’ve seen so many adaptations of her work, as in pretty much every David Suchet Poirot adaptation but I don’t think I’ve ever actually picked up a book, I’ve got some Audible credits so maybe I’ll pick one up!

    • I love most of the adaptations, but I still love the books more – she can be such a witty writer and her plotting is quite often more complicated than the adaptations show – sometimes they cut out a few characters to keep the thing manageable. If you do go for an audiobook I hope you enjoy it. Both Hugh Fraser and Joan Hickson do a great job with them. 🙂

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