Performed by Hugh Fraser
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Released on Audible November 2006
Category: Murder, Mystery, Classic Crime, Audiobook, Review
Mrs. McGinty is dead and everyone suspects James Bentley, her slightly shifty lodger, but Superintendent Spence is suspicious enough to ask for Hercule Poirot’s assistance. Soon, the seemingly simple situation turns into a complex web of lies and hidden identities.
I couldn’t resist this when it came up on Audible. One of my favourite Agatha Christie stories, despite the lack of Captain Hastings, but compensated by a superb narration and comic timing from Hugh Fraser. There’s chances of a few more finding their way into my Audible library.
Mrs McGinty is dead. The question is by whose hand. Who would want to harm the local charwoman who, although she kept herself to herself, was somewhat of a busy body. Superintendent Spence is concerned the man now facing the death penalty may not be the true culprit. James Bentley was Mrs McGinty’s lodger, the only suspect and all the evidence pointed towards him. Due to retire in six months and already with a new case to investigate, Spence didn’t want to be responsible for an innocent man, if that’s what he was, going to the gallows. He asked for Hercule Poirot’s help. Only too happy to be of service, with too much leisure time breeding boredom in his own retirement, Poirot agrees.
So, once again Hercule Poirot is on the case, taking himself off to the village of Broadhinny where Mrs McGinty lived, to begin his investigation.
‘I don’t know what you’ll go there as,’ continued Spence doubtfully as he eyed Poirot. ‘You might be some kind of an opera singer. Voice broken down. Got to rest. That might do.’
‘I shall go,’ said Hercule Poirot, speaking with accents of royal blood, ‘as myself.’
Spence received this pronouncement with pursed lips. ‘D’you think that’s advisable?’
The best aspects of this story are the characters, their interactions and the humour. The plot is almost secondary. Agatha Christie seemed to be having fun at Poirot’s expense with this book. He is not a lover of the country, yet he finds himself in a small village, staying in a less than salubrious guest house run by the scatty Maureen Summerhayes. The food is dreadful, the house cold and draughty and the comfort nothing like he is used to.
Hercule Poirot closed his eyes in agony. ‘If I suffer, I suffer,’ he said. ‘It has to be.’
The cast of colourful and eccentric characters is quite large and includes the fabulously hilarious Ariadne Oliver, also in the village to consult with a playwright who is adapting one of her books for the stage, while bemoaning her own depiction of the main character. She and Poirot meet on the road as Mrs Oliver is driving into the village in a car that’s quite a tight fit.
Murmuring in an explanatory voice, “Stiff after the long drive,” Mrs. Oliver suddenly arrived out on the road, rather in the manner of a volcanic eruption.