Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

“You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?”

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Poirot is on a little holiday in Egypt, and his poor unsuspecting fellow travellers have no idea that this means one of them, at least, will surely be murdered before the trip is over. As he closes his hotel window one evening, he overhears two unidentified characters talking in another room. “You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?” Poirot smilingly dismisses it – they’re probably discussing a play, he thinks, or a mystery novel.

After this great start, Poirot recedes into the background for a bit, while the reader is introduced to all the other characters. The main group is the Boynton family, a strange and nervy bunch ruled over by their manipulative and sadistic matriarch, Mrs Boynton – one of Christie’s greatest creations, in my opinion. Her step-children are all grown up in the physical sense, but have never managed to cut loose from her control. Lennox, the eldest, is married to Nadine, the least affected by Mrs Boynton since she wasn’t brainwashed in childhood as the others were. Then there are the two younger step-children, Carol and Raymond, who are desperate for freedom but caught like moths in a flame, unable to work out how to escape. But the most troubled member of the family is the youngest, Ginevra, Mrs Boynton’s own child, now on the brink of womanhood and driven to the edge of madness by her mother’s evil games.

There are others on the trip too, who will all find themselves involved with the Boyntons in one way or another. Sarah King provides the main perspective, though in the third person. Newly qualified as a doctor, she is concerned about what she sees happening to the younger Boyntons. There’s also a French psychologist on the trip, Dr Gerrard, and it’s through the conversations of the two doctors that Christie lays out the psychology of Mrs Boynton for the readers. Add in an elderly spinster who’s abroad for the first time, an American who’s in love with Nadine, a British lady politician who does a good line in bullying on her own account, and the Arab servants, and there’s a plentiful supply of suspects and witnesses for Poirot to interview when the inevitable happens…

Agatha Christie

A bit like with Dickens, my favourite Christie tends to be the one I’ve just read, and this is no exception. For the Egyptian setting, which Christie paints in shades of exotic menace; for the great plot, one of her best; for the psychologically diverse and well drawn group of characters; and most of all for the brooding, malignant presence of Mrs Boynton, a bloated, poisonous spider at the centre of her web, this is a top-rank novel from the pen of the High Queen of Crime.

Much of the first half of the novel is taken up with Christie allowing each character their turn in the spotlight, and the opportunity to say or do something that will look deeply suspicious later on. I’ve read it so often that, of course, I spot all the clues now as they happen but, for me, this contains the best delivered crucial clue in all the detective fiction I’ve read. It’s hidden in plain sight – it’s right there, and yet I defy you to see it. And if that’s not enough, just before the denouement Poirot lays out every clue in a list for the local British dignitary, Colonel Carbury. Fair play taken to its extreme, and yet the case is still utterly baffling until Poirot brilliantly solves it, at which point it’s completely satisfying.

Hugh Fraser

I listened to Hugh Fraser’s narration, which is excellent as always. He doesn’t “act” the characters, except for Poirot, so no falsely high voices for the women and so on, but he subtly differentiates between them so it’s always clear who’s speaking, and he gives them American or English accents as appropriate. For his version of Poirot, Fraser reproduces a very close approximation to David Suchet’s Poirot accent, giving the narration a wonderful familiarity for fans of the TV adaptations.

Fabulous stuff – I’m having so much fun listening to the audiobooks of all these favourite Christies. It’s a great way to make even the ones I know inside out feel fresh again. And for new readers, what a treat! Highly recommended.

Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

44 thoughts on “Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

  1. That is such a great clue, isn’t it, FictionFan? And I do like the way Christie uses Petra as a backdrop for the story; I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere. And those little touches – like the use of Shakespeare – just add even more. It’s a fascinating psychological study, too. And I’m glad you got the chance to listen to Hugh Fraser’s narration; he is fantastic.

    • I think you only really see how well she does the clues when you’re re-reading her books, and can see how well she hides them. I love the Petra setting – a great backdrop for the brooding evil of Mrs Boynton! Altogether one of her best (though there are loads of those)…

  2. Loved Hugh Fraser’s character in the TV adaptation of the Poirot mysteries. He was so good at leading you down the garden path, following the red herring, and coming to the wrong conclusion for all the right ( and usually gallant, and usually having to do with a beautiful, if ultimately nefarious, woman) reasons. How apt that captain (?) Hastings, Poirot’s biggest fan and most loyal sidekick, should narrate these stories!

    • Me too! He’s so endearingly innocent, and loyal. Kinda like a handsome human form of a big, soft puppy! I always miss him when he’s not in one of the Poirot books, so having Hugh Fraser read the books makes me feel as if he’s there even when he isn’t. Joan Hickson narrated some of the Miss Marple books too, and I love them just as much. 😀

  3. This is one of my favorite Christie books too! I need to listen to it as I don’t think I’ve actually done that. Mrs. Boynton – what a great character – evil deluxe. Always reminded me as well of a giant spider. I’ve heard other books narrated by Hugh Fraser and agree he does a marvelous job. And, as you know, I love revisiting old favorites through audio. Putting this one on my list for summer.

    • I love Mrs Boynton. Well, I mean, I hate her! And I love the plot of this one – she kinda has a ‘twist’ but unlike modern twists, she gives all the clues so the reader has every chance of getting there before Poirot. But I never do! I think you’ll enjoy a re-listen of this one – Hugh Fraser is such a joy to listen to… 😀

  4. Mrs B. is one of the great nasty characters of fiction – just reading the book provokes homicidal fury, so living under her sway would make it justifiable homicide! I’ll give the audio-book a try: I really like the Fraser narrations.

    • I know! And I think that’s why the plotting is so clever – trying to avoid spoilers, but it’s not nearly as obvious as it feels as if it’s going to be. The Fraser narrations are great – they’re bringing the books back to their original freshness for me! 😀

  5. Ooh I love this Christie novel. I always love those novels she set abroad. Agatha Christie always writes the atmosphere of the places she visitation with her husband and the Brits abroad so well.

    • I’ve always particularly loved the Egypt ones – for many years, my entire image of Egypt was based totally on Christie novels! And I always wanted to go for a cruise down the Nile, though preferably sometime when Poirot wasn’t there – that man seems to attract trouble! 😉

  6. I may switch my “current Agatha Christie read” to this one – I’ve been trying to get through some Miss Marple stories, but I’m just not finding them as indulgent as I hoped they would be. Or maybe I started my first reading of Agatha Christie too strongly with Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None…per your recommendation I’m going to dive into some Christie audiobooks, too.

    • I love the Miss Marple books because I love her as a character, but I always think the actual plots and detection element are better in the Poirot books, though I couldn’t exactly say why. Death on the Nile is also excellent, and have you tried The Moving Finger? It’s my favourite Miss Marple, and may be my favourite Christie altogether – though as you’ll have gathered I’m a bit of a fangirl… 😉

        • I hope you enjoy The Moving Finger! I love 4.50 from Paddington too, but it’s definitely got one of the weaker plots, so I can see why you’d find it dragging. The characters in The Moving Finger are more fun, I think, and the plot’s great. 😀

  7. I read this one a year or so ago, but the malicious Mrs. Boynton still sticks in my mind! What a delightful mystery, chock full of Agatha’s brilliant plotting and characterization! How I love starting my week off on such a high note!

    • I’ve always thought she’s the most truly evil character Christie created, and this is one of her best plots. Even though I know it too well to be surprised by it now, I still think it stands up really well to re-reading… 😀

    • I love this one as you’ll have gathered. Mrs Boynton is such a great evil character! I do envy you having plenty of them still to read for the first time. Sometimes with some of them I can’t remember whodunit, but I’ve read all my favourites so often, I no longer get the fun of being baffled… 😀

  8. This is such a great review, I haven’t read any Christie’s for years but I really think it’s time to start again. I find it very difficult fitting in any ‘fun’ reading around the challenges, which is something I wasn’t expecting – any advice?

    • Thank you! It had been a long time since I’d re-read them until I discovered some of the wonderful narrations of them, and I’ve been listening to one every couple of months since then – great stuff! Ha – I totally understand the challenge problem! The only advice I can offer is to plan ahead and make sure you fit in some fun. I always have a three-month plan on the go – I don’t always stick to it, but it does remind me that a constant diet of heavyweight books or new releases can get a bit overwhelming… 😉

      • Planning ahead – will do that! I just launched in not thinking at all and this year have got myself very bogged (should that be blogged?) down. Thank you and I love your reviews, always make me smile!

  9. Love your enthusiastic review of this one which has stuck in my mind despite my not having read it for years – the setting probably helps differentiate it from lots the others but now you mention it, it’s clearly one of my favourites too – until I read the next one 😉

    • I think the setting of this one is fantastic – when I read it as a young’un, I loved the idea of the Rose Red city of Petra. Haha – it’s great that one author has created so many ‘favourites’! I wonder which one will be my favourite next… 😀

  10. Oh I love the sound of this one! The Boynton family sounds great, and unfortunately Mrs. Boynton sounds all to familiar to me-luckily not a member of my own family, but familiar none the less haha

    • Hahaha – I’m so glad she’s not a member of your family! But that’s what I love about Christie – her characters are so recognisable. It makes her plots more credible and also makes it nicely murky as to whether the victims weren’t nastier than the murderers… 😉

  11. This one sounds so good, FF! It seems that my most favourite Christie is the one that you have most recently reviewed 😉 But really – this one does sound so good. I am mightily tempted…

    • Haha – they all sound good because they all ARE good! 😉 I love the ones set in Egypt and the Middle East – she always makes it feel terribly mysterious and exotic… 😀

  12. I thought Dan Stevens did such a great job narrating Murder on the Orient Express. I haven’t read any Christie novels since, but I do enjoy reading your reviews of them, much the same way I haven’t read Wodehouse but am always excited when you have. Your style of writing reminds me of old comic books that had DANGER! and EXCITEMENT! around every corner, so your reviews are fun to read as their own genre of “storytelling.”

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