Peril at End House


Agatha Christie


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

January 26, 2013

eril at End House was written in 1932, yet it still reads like a modern novel. The story takes place on the southern English coast in between the wars. Though today the book would be a historical/mystery, when Agatha Christie wrote it, Peril at End House was a contemporary novel.

The star of the book is the famous Hercule Poirot, the detective who can solve the most baffling of cases. The story is related in the first person by Captain Hastings, who is a Poirot's friend. Hasting plays the role of Dr Watson while Poirot fills the role of Sherlock Holmes. The characterizations are quite similar - Hastings and Watson are proper, loyal English gents who are continuously amazed by the cunning sleuthing powers displayed by their genius partners. The formula worked well for Conan Doyle, and here it works for Agatha Christie.

The novel begins with Poirot and Hastings on vacation on the southern coast. As they sit admiring the view, a stunning young woman, Nick Buckley, ambles by and sits at their table. Nick relates some amazing near-brushes with death recently - could they all be coincidence? Nick assumes that they are, because there is no reason for anyone to want her dead. But when Nick walks on with some friends, she accidentally leaves her wide-brimmed hat behind. Poirot picks up the hat and shows it to Hastings - Hastings does not notice that there is a bullet hole in the brim, but Poirot sees it and is sure that the near escapes where no accident. Clearly someone is trying to kill Nick Buckley, but why? Poirot is immediately on the case!

Poirot interviews all possible suspects. Is it the gardener at End House? (The big home that Nick lives in is a dilapidated mansion over looking the sea, but it is mortgaged to the hilt and so of no value to any one.) Could it be Ellen, the suspicious servant? Nick's good friend Freddie Rice, who says some curious things? Or George Challenger, the hearty good fellow who loves Nick (Captain Hastings trusts him completely!)? Her lawyer and cousin, the cold calculating Charles Vyse? What about that Australian couple who is renting the lodge, something about them doesn't seem right to Poirot.

To keep Nick safe, Poirot asks if there are any trusted friends that could stay with her and help keep the unknown assassin at bay. Nick telegrams to her cousin Maggie, who volunteers to come stay with Nick until Poirot can solve the case. But no sooner does Maggie enter the scene, she is mistaken for Nick and murdered! Poirot has failed and is beside himself with grief and frustration. What motivates this cunning killer?

In the end, there is a dramatic scene where Poirot gathers all the suspects together in a large room, and then he proceeds to explain all the clues and unmask the criminal. These scenes are cliches now, but they must have been a staple back when Christie was writing her novels. In my opinion, the crime and motive seem overly contrived. But the characters are fun, Poirot is a great detective, and the book is a quick read. Apparently there dozens more mysteries about Poirot, I am sure I will not read them all, but I would read another one.