Monday, December 23, 2019

Mystery Monday: Hercule Poirot's Christmas

Mystery Monday: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

The Christmas season can be a hectic and stressful time, so one of my favorite escapes is to read. Even if only for a few minutes each day, I try to carve out time to curl up with a book. Especially fun is delving into novels set during Christmas or New Year’s from classic authors, like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.

First published by the Collins Crime Club on December 19, 1938, in the UK, the book was published three months later in the United States under the title Murder for Christmas. Eight years later, Avon books issued the book under the title A Holiday for Murder. The novel is considered a “locked room mystery.”

A hit with most reviewers, the book seems quintessential Christie-a country house, a long list of possible suspects, and Poirot’s brilliant deductive skills. The plot involved the multi-millionaire Simeon Lee, who although frail in his old age, is reminiscent of Dickens’s Scrooge. Apparently, he’s so awful, there is an endless cadre of people who have reason to want him dead. In addition, the family has dysfunction down to an art and includes black sheep, unknown relatives, and surprise guests.

Lee invites his family for Christmas, most of whom would rather be anywhere else but with their father. Then he is overheard on the telephone indicating he wants to update his will after Christmas. After dinner, the sounds of crashing furniture and a hideous scream are heard by some of the family, who rush to the man’s room. The door is locked, and they have to break it down. Inside he is found dead, his throat slashed. Before the family can call the police, they are at the front door.

Questions abound, and Poirot sweeps in to solve the mystery.

The story was adapted to television as part of the David Suchet “Poirot” series and aired for the first time on December 25, 1994. Interestingly, the plot inspired writer/producer/director Rian Johnson to release Knives Out on November 27, 2019. This loose adaptation features a host of stars including Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, and Christopher Plummer.

What is your favorite Christmas mystery?

Emma O’Sullivan is one of the first female doctors to enlist after President Franklin Roosevelt signs the order allowing women in the Army and Navy medical corps. Within weeks, Emma is assigned to England to set up a convalescent hospital, and she leaves behind everything that is familiar. When the handsome widower of the requisitioned property claims she’s incompetent and tries to get her transferred, she must prove to her superiors she’s more than capable. But she’s soon drawn to the good-looking, grieving owner. Will she have to choose between her job and her heart?

Archibald “Archie” Heron is the last survivor of the Heron dynasty, his two older brothers having been lost at Dunkirk and Trondheim and his parents in the Blitz. After his wife is killed in a bombing raid while visiting Brighton, he begins to feel like a modern-day Job. To add insult to injury, the British government requisitions his country estate, Heron Hall, for the U.S. Army to use as a hospital. The last straw is when the hospital administrator turns out to be a fiery, ginger-haired American woman. She’s got to go. Or does she?

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