A young woman comes to consult Hercule Poirot because she might have committed a murder but on meeting him face to face decides that he is “too old” and leaves hurriedly without saying any more.
So he is feeling sorry for himself when crime writer Ariadne Oliver calls him to invite him to speak at the annual dinner of the Detective Authors’ Club. To cheer him up she invites him round for a hot chocolate and they discover that it was she who pointed the girl, Norma Restarick, in his direction.
Soon they find that she has disappeared, so they embark on a double quest to find her and a murder against a backdrop of Sixties London.
I thought I knew who the murderer was from a previous read and so when I spotted some of the clues I thought they were the red herrings being laid on a little bit thick. There are a lot of classic Christie elements and it was fun seeing Mrs Oliver try her hand at shadowing a suspect but overall the atmosphere was wrong and the killer could have achieved their aim in a much less risky fashion.
Recurring Character Development
Has changed his bakery of choice to a local Danish patisserie.
Has just seen his Magnum Opus, “an analysis of great writers of detective fiction”, through publication. This may have come out of the reading he was doing in “The Clocks”.
He reads “The Times” but only the births, deaths, and marriages and such articles as he finds of interest.
Doesn’t normally pick up hitchhikers.
Has changed her hairstyle and her wallpaper – the tropical birds are out and cherries are in.
Does not really like alcoholic drinks.
Has now written forty-three books.
Signs of the Times
Mrs Oliver thinks of a number of songs as she tries to recall Norma’s name. “Speak to me, Thora” is from the 1905 song “Thora” by Fred E. Weatherly and Stephen Adams. “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” or “The Gipsy Girl’s Dream” is an aria from the 1843 opera by Michael William Balfe and Alfred Bunn.
The cleaner of number 67 refers to David Baker as “one of these Mods by all accounts”. The mod subculture took its name from “modernists” as it began with those who liked modernist jazz in the late 1950s.
References to previous works
Although Poirot makes up his acquaintance with Sir Roderick, the stories he tells of WWII may have a basis in reality – he may have had some unofficial rôle in Intelligence. He mentions Colonel Race who he last met in “Death on the Nile” and Giraud, which may be a reference to his rival from “The Murder on the Links”.
Chief Inspector Neele appears in this book – could he be a promoted Inspector Neele who appeared alongside Miss Marple in “A Pocket Full of Rye”?
My faulty memory told me it was Frances/Mary and David who were working together so I was surprised when he wound up dead and so all the stuff that pointed at Andrew being a fake I dismissed as red herrings. The trick with using a fake painting to support an imposter’s claim is good but I’ve seen it before in a much earlier short story.
The main question is why the murderers were determined to frame Norma? The first murder was easily passed off as suicide and after that Frances could have killed David and then just disappeared back into her Mary persona which to me leaves much less to chance than drugging someone in the hope they will believe they killed someone.