Cat among the pigeons

As Bookhounders will have guessed by now, I'm a bit of a fan of Agatha Christie. I enjoy reading her whatever the book, but I do find her output quite variable. The straightforward detective stories, especially those from her earlier years, are virtually always excellent, even if occasionally you can spot the format peeking through the plot. The adventure / spy stories are nearly always not so good, though there are some exceptions such as They came to Baghdad, which has remained a firm favourite.

Cat among the pigeons is a rather strange read. Part mystery (Poirot makes an appearance), and part thriller, it's an odd book with a pretty ridiculous plot. Following a coup in an obscure Arab country, a series of murders takes place in an elite girls' school in rural England. As worried parents hastily remove their daughters, one of the brighter girls pays a visit to Hercule Poirot...

It's an odd tale of spies, wicked women, diamonds and ambition. There are twists and turns aplenty, and it's a fun enough read for a wet autumn day; but as a serious thriller it's pretty limp. With the exception of one or two characters, the characterisation is weak, the plot is unbelievable - no, let's be honest, daft, and the writing is fairly clumsy.

One thing though does make this novel interesting. It's a decent snapshot of society in the early '50s from changing attitudes to women, love and sex, and the end of the British Empire. And that alone does make for a fascinating read. For Christie at her best though, this isn't your book. Enjoyable, but with holes aplenty, not her greatest work.


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