Mrs Oliver is organising a Murder Hunt at the Nasse House summer fête. She has a feeling that something is not quite right and calls Hercule Poirot down to investigate. He finds nothing amiss until the victim of the game is murdered in the same way as Mrs Oliver’s story and another person has disappeared.
This is one of Christie’s best hooks and I was very excited to read it first time round and remember being quite disappointed but on re-reading I’m not sure why. It’s not great but it’s not bad.
There is a nice episode where Inspector Bland proves that murder could be done in front of hundreds of onlookers with no suspicion raised.
The pleasure and hilarity of the summer fête is in sharp contrast to a callous killer, and sadly it is not just they who are guilty of a terrible crime. After the unusual setting for last month’s Hickory Dickory Dock, this is a welcome return to a traditional Christie scene.
Recurring character development
Has moved since “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” as his telephone number is now Trafalgar 8137.
Takes his tea with very little milk and four lumps of sugar. Opts to have a creamcake rather than sandwiches.
Never risks going out in the evening air with an uncovered head.
Is a friend of the Eliots, who are known to Mrs Masterman.
Met Inspector Bland fifteen years ago when the policeman was a sergeant in an unrecorded case.
Enjoys doing jigsaws.
Bases her book “The Woman in the Wood” on the outline of the Murder Hunt.
Signs of the Times
Sir George owns a large Humber saloon. Thomas Humber (1841-1910) designed bicycles and his name was given to a limited company that also started to manufacture cars. By 1960 they had an annual production of over 200,000 but the business was undercapitalised and was sold to the Chrysler Corporation in 1967.
There is a Youth Hostel near to Nasse House. The British Youth Hostels Association was formed in 1930 but shortly split into separate associations for England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. By the end of 1931 there were 60 hostels, with a flat charge of one shilling per night. In the book guests may only stay for up to two nights.
Captain Warburton says that he will go and talk to the people responsible for the tea tent “like a Dutch uncle”. This means in a harsh or admonitory manner; the opposite of the avuncular manner expected of an uncle. During the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century, “Dutch” was added as a pejorative prefix to a number of words to change the meaning e.g. Dutch courage (bravery induced by alcohol), Dutch wife (prostitute) and even Dutch nightingale (frog).
The Spenser quote “Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas…” is from Book One of “The Faerie Queene” (1590).
Poirot wins a large Kewpie doll at the hoop-la. He thinks it is horrible and gives it to a young girl. Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) created these baby cupid characters for a comic strip in 1909 and started making them as paper dolls. In 1912 they started to be made from bisque in Germany. Poirot was right – they are hideous.
One of the Tucker boys is doing his National Service. The National Service Act 1948 required all young men aged 17-21 to serve for 18 months in the Armed Forces and then remain on the reserve list for 4 years. Calls ups ended at the end of 1960 with the last men serving leaving in 1963.
Lady Stubbs is described as being “dressed up like a mannequin of Jacques Fath or Christian Dior”. Fath (1912-54) and Dior (1905-57) along with Pierre Balmain (1914-82) are considered the three dominant influences on post-WWII fashion, although if I’m anything to go by only Dior has remained in the public consciousness.