Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

 Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

Elderly patriarch Simeon Lee invites his sons, Alfred, George, David, and Harry to gather at Gorston Hall, the family estate, for Christmas. Surprised, as they're far from being a close family, they and their wives discuss the pros and cons and decide, reluctantly, to accept. Upon arrival more surprises await, in the person of a family member no one knew existed, and then a visit from Stephen Farr, the son of Simeon's long-time business partner, who arrives unannounced to meet the man of whom his father had so often spoken.

Once gathered, Simeon, an invalid confined to his room, orders his sons to attend him and with a smug smile tells them he plans to change his will the next day, but doesn't say what the changes will be. After brutishly letting them all know how little he thinks of them, he dismisses them to a sullen dinner and an evening of what-if's and maybes...until a blood-curdling scream is heard from upstairs and they find his dead body, his room trashed in an apparently violent altercation.

Enter Poirot, who is spending a quiet Christmas Eve at the home of Chief Constable Johnson. When the call about Lee's murder comes through, Poirot accompanies Johnson to Gorston and the investigation begins. Through a series of interviews with the family and staff several motives for murder come to light, with a few red herrings slipped in to throw the reader off the scent.

The final scene is a gathering of everyone in the household, where Poirot reveals the true identies of some who are not who they claimed to be, makes a case against each one of them, and finally reveals the name of the murderer.

Looking back at it now I can see clues I missed that might have made me suspect the killer, but as it was I remained oblivious till the very end. I haven't read many of these books and I have to say I find Poirot irritating at times, but I like the way he thinks and I do enjoy being surprised at the end.

My book club chose this for our Christmas book, only to find it wasn't Christmassy at all other than taking place over that week. Even so, it was a pretty good detective story and fans of the genre will enjoy it.


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