This month’s challenge from agathachristie.com was to read a book set in a school with this 1959 Poirot novel the recommended choice. This was Christie’s 32nd novel to feature the Belgian detective although he does not make an appearance until (according to the e-book I was reading) 63% through and his role here is largely to recap all that has happened and solve everything that had so foxed the police during a showdown in a room full of suspects, so just what we would expect from Poirot really and little more.
This is perhaps the most melodramatic of the Christie books I have read to date. Largely set at Meadowbank, a prestigious girls school where missing diamonds are anticipated and murders occur. The portrayal of school life seems very superficial, the teaching staff are not strongly developed and the girls all rather Blyton-ish. It’s hard to get the sense of what Christie herself felt about the world she created, she doesn’t always seem to be on the side of women here and those not British are often dismissed. Because of these underlying attitudes this later novel has dated less well than many earlier ones. It comes across as slightly St Trinian’s without the spark of the Alastair Sim and George Cole characters.
There is a prelude in the nation of Ramat on the cusp of a revolution where diamonds are hastily smuggled out of the country. Various agencies are aware of this and are keeping an eye on Meadowbank as a result but one individual knows the exact location of the diamonds.
Without giving any plot away at least one of the loose ends Poirot ties up is fairly ludicrous which adds to the melodrama of the proceedings. There’s often a sense of a classy read to Christie’s novel but his feels a little, dare I say it, trashy. That in itself does give it its own charm. I’d put this at number 4 of the books I’ve read for the Challenge, slipping in between “The Hollow” and “Nemesis”. Incidentally, I’ve been keeping records of every book I have read since 1994 (well actually years before that but earlier records got lost in a move) and reading this book pushes Agatha Christie into the Top 3 of my most read authors jointly with Charles Dickens with only Peter Ackroyd and Christopher Fowler ahead of her and not once have I given her a five star rating. Perhaps next month’s choice will change that.
Cat Among The Pigeons was first published in 1959. I read a Harper Collins e-book edition from Borrowbox, which is part of my local library membership.