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==Synopsis of the book:==
With a revolution very much on the cards in the wealthy but unstable Middle Eastern Country of Ramat, the Prince Ali Yusif gives his closest friend Bob Lawrence the family jewels. They are worth more than three quarters of a million pounds and Bob is given instructions to send them somewhere safe. He decides to give them to his sister who is returning to England in a few days time, but as she is away so he hides the gems.
Two months later the summer term is just beginning at the popular and exclusive Girls School Meadowbank. There are a few new members of staff within the school plus Princess Shaistra who is Prince Ali's cousin. As a result of her being there an agent is put into the school as well to keep on eye on her, as word has got round that these jewels have been sent to England after the Prince's plane crashed and they were not found on him.
Then in the early hours of the morning a light is seen on in the new Sports Pavilion. Two teachers go and investigate and discover the body of the new games teacher Miss Stringer, shot at close range. Who would want to kill this woman? And why in the Sports Pavilion? As it only contains lockers and Sports equipment. Is this linked with the Jewels or the Princess?
==My thoughts on the novel:==
It was quite a surprise to me that I found this Hercule Poirot novel that I hadn't already read. I certainly have recently read better thrillers than this one and if I'm honest I would also say I do not think this is one of this author's better pieces of fiction. But I still did enjoy it, as I found it a relaxing and untaxing read, I think this book would be an ideal read for a holiday.
Once upon a time I would have described Agatha Christie books as my favourite especially the ones featuring Hercule Poirot but times and reading habits change. I had no idea what I would make of him after all this time, but I still found him a charming man with a style all his own. Maybe he didn't have the effect upon me he once did but he is still up there as one of the best fictional Detectives of all time.
One thing you can in my opinion always guarantee when you read an Agatha Christie novel is that it will be a very well thought out crime novel with lots of twists and turns to enjoy. For me her style was probably slightly ahead of her time and I think that is reflected in the popularity of her stories even today. Despite is being a very different world from the one she frequented and wrote about. I think quality and class always show and she had both in abundance in her writing.
As I was once a frequent reader of her novels I have grown to like and respect Poirot as I classic Detective with his 'Little Grey cells' always using common sense and logic. Indeed it was these books that I felt I could always relate to in no small part because of him rather than the Miss Marple ones, which I struggle even today to read.
But what I did feel and I suppose it should come as no surprise given this was written in 1959 was there was a dated feel to both Poirot and his methods and some aspects of the story. However I do not think we should in any way hold that against this book as it has aged well considering how much the world around us has changed.
Indeed this is one of Agatha Christie's later Poirot stories being number 33 in a total of 39. I would argue that by the time this story was published her reputation and style had long been admired and respected. As a result maybe of this her star Poirot plays a surprisingly small role in this story. The descriptions that I used to love about his appearance and unusual mannerisms were very limited. Which I thought was a bit odd but it did give you an opportunity to enjoy her other characters within the plot.
I found this book in my Library along with countless others by this author. When I picked it up and I did not recognise the story at all from the title. So I decided it would be a good idea to re-acquaint myself with this author's work. Especially as I have so much more knowledge of crime thrillers to compare and contrasts it with.
The summary on the back of the book, I thought was a little short. Although it did make the story sound interesting and encompassed the major themes of the book. I liked the concept of murder as this girl's school as it sounded different and worth exploring. I wanted to know more about this cat among the pigeons.
The book started much to my delight with a prologue. I think if these are a decent length and written effectively set the scene well for the reader. This one dealt with the Children returning to Meadowbank for the summer term and introduced many of the teaching staff. What I thought was good about this one and also very unusual was it was 18 pages long and from that point of view provided good information on the school and its teaching staff.
From here the book moved onto the first chapter, which dealt with what was happening in Ramat two months before. I thought had this all wrong in respect that this should have been the epilogue and the story followed in a chronological order. So that actual epilogue became the first chapter. This would have been more logical and made greater sense to me.
The story then returned to the school and gently and serenely moved towards murder. I always thought it was well thought out, well written as always but it never really gripped my imagination as I hoped it would. It was to slow and when the Police entered the fray I expected Hercule Poriot to be involved but he wasn't until much later.
For me I think a lot of my problem was I guessed at an early stage where the gems were hidden. So while everyone else was searching or killing for them, I felt a bit bored as I knew where they were, and to me it seemed quite obvious by the authors words exactly where they were.
Although to give the author credit she did incorporate other ideas into the story. This I found helped keep me interested in what was happening. Certainly the disappearance of one of the girls added a new dimension to the story and I started to wonder if I had misread the situation too. But even then Poriot still was not summoned, despite the Police making not headway into the investigation at all.
I did always enjoy the way this author has such a good ideas for her stories and particularly in this one I appreciated the way she incorporated the Children and their ideas as to what was happening in the school. Christie really knows how to get a scene and use words that really help her descriptions come to life.
Finally with just 100 pages of the book to go Hercule Poriot finally entered the story. I thought it was sad that he joined so late as I still enjoy reading all about him and thought even if he was not directly involved in the story he could still have been brought in as a bit of light relief. As soon as he became involved the whole emphasis of the book shifted so maybe it was good that he came in so late otherwise it might have been a very short story!!
For me probably because of the above, there was no real main character within the story. I think from this perspective it must be the first and only Poirot story where he is not the clear star. Although when he did enter the story I enjoyed his logic and the way he saw things so clearly, always using his brain to maximum effect.
For me quite unusually for a Christie thriller, I found a lot of her characters lacking real depth to make them stand out and stick in my mind. As a result I got particularly confused with the teaching staff and remembering who was who. At least I found the children had better personalities and all seemed different from each other.
This was still in many ways a classic Detective story. I think the author did try to embrace the changing times with her use of the international angle and the changing educational requirements. I found the conclusion to it as making crystal clear sense despite me wishing for not such a clear-cut solution, but I did find it an exciting conclusion.
I did miss the fact that there was no humour within the story, a concept many crime writers these days employ to varying degrees. Her style for Detective stories I think set the tone many years ago for others to follow and adapt to their own way of working. This style although quite predictable still works for me because she employs skilfully incorporated twists and turns into the plot. As a result of this you are never sure who the guilty party is until right of the story.
The books length was about right to tell very well thought out crime story. Although I would have liked the author's most celebrated Detective brought into the story much earlier. While the author used chapters effectively to break up her scenes and show a new direction when required. Although I thought naming the chapters was the wrong thing to do as it made it obvious what the main development was going to be within that chapter.
I must admit I did enjoy reading this crime thriller; it was almost like stepping back in time. Although I would say this was not one of Agatha Christie's finest moments and in many ways her work is dated, but still maintains that air of going back in time to when a Detective solved cases by finding and putting the clues together. It had all the classic ingredients for a great crime thriller and was written superbly and I think that alone makes it well worth a read. For me Christie is still the Queen of Crime.
Price: £5.49 (New at Amazon)
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers Ltd
About the author: www.agathachristie.com
Year of Publication: 1959
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
@CPTDANIELS April 2010