Nick Buckley, owner of the titular End House, has been the subject of a number of near-fatal accidents and is then almost killed under the very eyes of the holidaying Hercule Poirot.
He is determined to protect her but then murder is done. Having failed once is he able to redeem himself by catching a clever and cold-blooded killer?
One of my earliest Poirot’s and probably my most often read, watched and listened to, and still one of my favourites.
I can’t say more as I haven’t yet figured out how to put more description in the top part of my posts because I feel anything I say (or don’t say) will reveal something. Next time I read a new book, I think I will try to write the first half of the review half-way through my reading as then I won’t know what may or may not be a spoiler!
Recurring character development
Is still retired and declines the Home Secretary’s request for help.
Asks Nick Buckley if she has read his books. Whether these are his own writings or Hastings publications is unclear.
Can identify that a bullet has been fired from a Mauser pistol.
Clings to the Continental breakfast and is distressed to see Hastings eating bacon and eggs.
Has not seen Inspector Japp since before “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”.
Has never disguised himself in the course of his investigations.
Has grown a moustache but it is not up to Poirot’s standards.
Has had malaria in the past and consequently has occasional bouts of fever.
Signs of the Times
Michael Seton is attempting a solo round-the-world flight. An American team using multiple planes had flown around the world in 1924, but it was not until 1933 that a solo trip in a single plane was accomplished by the American Wiley Post.
Hastings says that Michael Seton’s endeavours make him feel it is worth being an Englishman to which Poirot responds that it consoles for the defeats at Wimbledon. In 1932 when this book was published there hadn’t been British winners of the Singles since Arthur Gore in 1909 and Kitty Godfree in 1926. In 1934 there was a British double for Fred Perry and Dorothy Round.
Jim Lazarus asks when Nick Buckley is going to get her Moth. The Moths were a series of aeroplanes made by de Havilland in the 1920s and 30s but Moth was used in the UK to refer to any type of light aircraft.
He then says that she will be off to Australia like that girl, but has forgotten her name. This must be Amy Johnson who became the first aviatrix to fly from Britain to Australia in 1930.
The phrase “being in the Mrs. Harris-like position of ‘there ain’t no such person'” is used. This is a reference to Charles Dickens’ “Martin Chuzzlewit” where Mrs. Gamp tells stories of how she has helped Mrs. Harris over the years until her friend Betsey Prig realises that no such person exists.
References to previous works
Separately, Poirot and Mrs Croft mention “The Mystery of the Blue Train”, the previous book in the series.
Hastings tells Nick Buckley how Poirot solved “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”.
Poirot refers to his failure in the affair of the box of chocolates, which is recounted in “Poirot’s Early Cases”, a 1975 anthology.
Vintage Reading Challenge
A murder occurs during a firework display so fulfils “When – during a special event”.
The next one in our series of the killer was never even included in the list of suspects because it’s “The One Where the Intended Victim Did It”.
As I’ve said, this was an early read, so I was completely taken in, but the set-up is beautiful.
Nick Buckley doesn’t come to Poirot for help – she doesn’t even know who is – rather he has to persuade her that the danger is real and that she is in need of protection.
There is no motive – until Nick reveals her relationship with Michael Seton – and here again it is Poirot who makes the running by finding the love letter confirming that he has made a will (and a wonderful fair-play clue that is entirely truthful but which is read as the author intends) remembering that her name was really Magdala.
We are told by a number of her friends that Nick is a liar, but we disbelieve them, or perhaps feel that she is the girl who cried wolf. Until Poirot realises that her friends are right – Nick Buckley is a cunning sociopath who has lead him up the garden path.
And so he stages his play. He always said there was a J, and J duly appears, but then he reveals there is also a K, but that they are not just another J.
I am amazed at the intricacies of the plotting such as Nick’s appendicitis which causes the Crofts’ to forge a will, making them credible suspects, but which is also used as evidence against Nick because it isn’t mentioned in Seton’s letters. Having a character called Frederica/Freddie so that it can be discussed compared to Margaret/Maggie/Margot/Madge/Peggy.
At the end we see Poirot’s mercy (mentioned in a previous post) as he allows Nick to take the wrist-watch full of cocaine. In the book he reveals this after the police have left but in the David Suchet adaptation Japp is still present but unrealistically is not perturbed by this information.