#60 – Cat Among the Pigeons

A revolution in the Middle East. A small fortune in diamonds has disappeared. And violent death comes to an exclusive girls’ boarding school.

A number of interested parties, including a department of the British Secret Service, want to find the jewels, and have an idea that they have come to Meadowbank School, but despite their best efforts, can’t find them. Hercule Poirot is unexpectedly brought into the case and it is he who has to find the ruthless cat hiding among the innocent pigeons.

I’d only read this once before and had remembered nothing of it and I don’t think I would have found the killer apart from having seen their name when playing Christie based Sporcle games. Their identity is hidden by a clever device which I don’t think is used enough and deserves to be in a better book.

There are just too many people: Colonel Pikeaway (secret service chief, possibly not his real rank and name, Mr Robinson (international fixer, definitely not his real name), Ronnie/Adam (undercover agent), and then the local police, Poirot himself, not to mention the staff and pupils at the school.

Thinking about it now, it would be a much better book if the secret service had no knowledge of the jewels and that strange things started happening at the school, with Miss Marple brought in by a member of staff or a pupil who happened to be a great-niece. Then the school environment could be properly explored and utilised.

Recurring Character Development

At some point since the ABC Murders he has moved to 228 Whitehouse Mansions.

Met Inspector Kelsey when he was a sergeant working for Chief Inspector Warrender. He also knows Colonel Pikeaway and is aware of Mr Robinson. Knows the Préfet de Police in Geneva.

Signs of the Times

In the café in Ramat, two men are playing tric trac, an alternative name for backgammon.

The Sutcliffes returned from Ramat on the Eastern Queen. There was a boat of this name at the time but it operated between Japan and Australia.

Jennifer loses her mother’s best Jacqmar scarf overboard. Jacqmar was a firm formed in the 1930s by Joseph “Jack” and Mary Lyons who sold fine silk to French fashion houses and realised they could use the offcuts to make scarfs as a sideline.

Inspector Kelsey finds a French copy of Candide “with – er – illustrations. An expensive book”. Miss Bulstrode considers Voltaire’s work of 1759 to be harmless, although she does confiscate some forms of pornography.

Mention is made of Marshall and Snelgrove’s which I guessed was a fictional version of Marks and Spencer’s but there actually was a department store of that name on London’s Oxford Street with branches opened around the country. They merged with Debenhams and were eventually rebranded.

Princess Shaista likes the tennis dress worn by American champion Ruth Allen. There was no such player in that era.

Julia says that Miss Vansittart acts like Miss Bulstrode, and whilst it’s a good copy “it’s rather like Joyce Grenfell or someone doing an imitation”. Grenfell (1910-1979) was a multi-talented performer who included impersonations amongst her repertoire.

References to previous works

Poirot is brought into the case by someone who knows someone was who was involved in Mrs McGinty’s Dead.




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