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"Appointment with Death" is one of Christie's more stronger novels, dealing with some difficult moral dilemmas which not only make her characters, but also the reader think, about their attitudes towards both the victim and the murderer. Set in and near Petra, in Jordan, during one of Poirot's holidays, both the detective and the reader are cast into a complicated scenario when the obnoxious and cruel Mrs Boynton is killed. As Poirot attempts to unravel the mystery the question which hardly needs to be asked is not "who did this", but rather "who did not have a motive for doing so?" With no sympathy for the murdered woman the wall of silence which so often descends over those whom Poirot questions is in full force, co-operation to find the murderer will be slight and apathy seems to prevail. Poirot has consistently proved himself equal to the task beforehand, yet on this instance will he be able to and, moreover, will he truly want to?
One of the most significant strengths within this novel is the way in which we are given a good insight into the psychology of Poirot's mind and what motivates him to investigates the crimes. By reading of the nature of Mrs Boynton and the events leading up to her death we find ourselves questioning the ethics of the situation. There is nothing positive about Mrs Boynton, she is someone who delights in controlling and mentally torturing other people, who has no concept of empathy or sympathy and seeks to acquire neither. The near total domination she wields over her grown up and nearly grown up children is testament to the force of her malignant nature and the negative and draining effect this wraughts from each and every one of them is clearly observed. Thus, when she is murdered, the psychological bonds she has inflicted upon so many people are shattered, they have a chance of literal and emotional liberation. We are, then, faced with the obvious question: why should the murderer be sought and convicted? If someone is so abhorrent, though we could not kill ourselves, should we not turn a blind eye to whoever has committed the deed?
It is up to Poirot, with his usual frankness, to explain both to those characters within the narrative who question him and to the reader, why he can not agree to such beliefs. For that investigator, the sanctity of human life is paramount, it is not up to others to determine whether someone deserves to be killed if that person has not been tried in a court of law. Justice must be seen to be working, Poirot may have sympathies with the murderer, but it is extremely rare that he will extend this emotion to assisting with their evasion. There are only two occasions in which he departs so strongly from his ethos as to either actively condone a murder or to allow the perpetrator(s) to escape prosecution and in at least one of them the difference from his normal manner is so striking that we wonder whether it was done purely for Christie's benefit. Poirot is not sanctimonious, but he has strong reasons for wishing the truth to be unveiled. As he points out, it is not just that the murderer be brought to justice, but that others may not go through life with suspicions attached to them as well.
Throughout "Appointment with Death" we are witness to a variety of personalities and are therefore able to see how different people react when particularly strong manipulation is imposed upon them and to what extent this continues even after the controller's demise. The strain felt by the members of the family are revealed especially clearly through the nervous actions of Ginevra Boynton and the wider implications of the actions of Mrs Boynton are indicated through the desperation felt by Nadine Boynton. Both the life and death of Mrs Boynton have influenced others significantly and whilst we can understand many have the wish to kill her, what is harder to fathom is who has the ability.
There is a sense, unfortunately, that when the solution is reached and Poirot manages to discover who the murderer is, that the end result is almost too simplistic, allowing for a near fairytale happy ending. Almost everyone is content, matters are tied up comfortably and it appears that Christie has attempted the perfect solution to the troublesome dilemma of the death of Mrs Boynton. A clear line is drawn under the events, as we close the book we get the sense that the metaphorical chapter has also ended for the characters within the novel. Neat, orderly and completely unrealistic. However, this is not a factual piece of work, it relies on imagination and ideal endings, so realism can be dismissed.
In conclusion, this is one of Christie's novels which is recommended reading, if only for the fact that it raises such strong questions.
A facsimile first edition hardback of the exotic Poirot book, based on Agatha Christie's own travels in the Middle-east with her archaeologist husband. Among the towering red cliffs of Petra, like some monstrous swollen Buddha, sat the corpse of Mrs Boynton. A tiny puncture mark on her wrist was the only sign of the fatal injection that had killed her. With only 24 hours available to solve the mystery, Hercule Poirot recalled a chance remark he'd overheard back in Jerusalem: 'You see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?' Mrs Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he'd ever met! To mark the 80th anniversary of Hercule Poirot's first appearance, and to celebrate his renewed fortunes as a primetime television star, this title in a collection of facsimile first editions is the perfect way to experience Agatha Christie. Reproducing the original typesetting and format of the first edition from the Christie family's own archive, this book sports the original cover which has been painstakingly restored to its original glory.