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It it 16 years after the murder of talented painter Amyas Crale and the case seems to have long been solved with the perpetrator being none other than his wife Caroline. It was discovered that the cause of death was poisoning, the substance being coniine extracted from poison hemlock.
Meredith Blake, a friend of the Crale's was at the time very interested in botany and pharmaceuticals and Caroline admitted to stealing a bottle of the lethal substance, but she claimed that it was for her to commit suicide with. The poison ended up, however, in a glass of beer that Amyas later drank - it was Caroline who bought him both the bottle and the glass.
Caroline seems to have a sure motive for murder; her husband was about to leave her for his latest mistress; young and attractive model Elsa Greer. Throughout their marriage Amyas was unfaithful but had never shown any signs of wanting to leave Caroline, could she have killed her husband to stop him from leaving her? After being convicted of murder Caroline is sent to her death but she leaves a letter for her young daughter Carla claiming her innocence.
Carla remembers her mother as someone who would never lie or try to hide the truth and this alone is enough for her to believe that it was not Caroline who murdered her father; desperate for the truth, Carla decides to consult the famous belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
Poirot digs deeper in to the past and comes up with five suspects. Elsa Greer; Meredith Blake; Meredith's brother Phillp Blake; the governess Cecilia Williams and lastly; Angela Warren, Caroline's much younger half sister. After interviewing the suspects it becomes apparent that no one has an obvious motive yet Phillip's hostility towards Caroline makes Poirot suspect that something deeper lies beneath. Meredith on the other hand is wholly sympathetic towards her and shows a distinct feeling of mistrust towards his brother. Elsa seems to be completely devoid of any emotion other than an intense hatred towards Caroline and Cecilia too believes that Mrs Crale is guilty. Angela believes her sister to be innocent but can Poirot find the real culprit after all this time?
Poirot then asks all five suspects to write up their account of what happened that fateful day, this establishes the events leading up to Amyas's death. It is found out that there is a degree of evidence incriminating Angela and also that Cecilia saw Caroline frantically wiping any fingerprints off the bottle of beer. Poirot discovers that Amyas and Angela didn't get on to put it politely and there had been a conversation between him and Caroline supposedly about him "seeing to her packing" for Angela's return to school. Caroline and her husband are later heard by Elsa arguing, Amyas shouts that he will divorce his wife and Caroline is heard saying in disgust "you and your women."
The more Poirot investigates the more he discovers about his suspects, it seems that Phillip had been besotted with Caroline and her rejection had turned his love into bitter hatred. Meredith too had had a long affection for her but had later become attached to Elsa Greer. It seems that Angela had an opportunity to steal the poison and she was also seen fiddling with the bottle of beer on the day of the murder, her motive is her anger towards Amyas.
To Caroline it appeared that her younger sister was guilty and she wanted to protect her, many years ago she had thrown a paperweight at Angela in a fit of rage that left her sister permanently disfigured. Still feeling intense guilt Caroline thought that by taking the blame for Angela's crime she could then earn redemption for what she did. Caroline's wiping of the beer bottle actually proves her innocence as it shows she believed that the poison was in the bottle rather than the glass, the fact that she wiped the bottle with bare hands shows that she could only have been removing someone else's fingerprints and not her own.
Angela was not the culprit and all the evidence against her is explained when she remembers that she stole Valerian from Meredith's laboratory in order to play a prank on Amyas. But if Caroline and Angela aren't the murderers then who is? You'll have to read the book to find out!
My thoughts on this book is that it is another of Agatha Christie's finest that will keep you eager to read on right until the end. As with all of her books the plot is deep with red herrings here and there, it is certainly not a book that you can easily guess who did it, or at least not in my opinion. I love how it is always the person who you'd least expect and the one who seemingly has the least motive! If you're a fan of chrime or Christie then I recommend you read this book!