This month’s theme at agathachristie.com was to read a book set on a form of transport. The recommended title was held until the start of the month and I just assumed it would be her most famous luxury train-set novel but no, they opted for her 12th Poirot written some 15 years after the Belgian detective was first introduced.
I’ve not been the greatest Poirot fan up to now, but having completed this and reflected, it is not only the best Poirot novel I have read but my favourite Christie I’ve read for the Challenge. The set-up is simple and yet the work seems more substantial and involving. It’s a classic locked-room mystery in many ways only this locked room is an air-liner, Promethus, making a crossing from Paris to Croydon. Poirot is one of the passengers but air-sickness makes him less observant and he doesn’t notice one of his fellow travellers being bumped off. With a weapon found by the side of his seat he becomes a suspect and has to clear his name as well as satisfying his hunger for crime-solving.
There’s the usual mish-mash of characters- a Countess, French archaeologists, a doctor, a dentist, a businessman and a hairdresser who paid for her flight from a winning Irish Sweepstake ticket. The plot moves on from the on-board incident, to the inquest and the French and British police’s handling of the crime both aided by Poirot.
The writing feels more vibrant, there’s humour and, admittedly, the odd cringe-worthy moment where Christie’s characters seem inappropriate for 2021 but all in all this seems the sort of book that would have enhanced Christie’s reputation as the leading crime writer back in the day. Next month (month 11 already!) the challenge is to read a book set after World War II, so there will be a bit of a chronological leap from this pre-war novel.
Death In The Clouds was originally published in 1935. I read a Harper Collins hardback edition.