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One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Agatha Christie

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Author: Agatha Christie / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      07.04.2009 00:41
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      Worth reading.

      The biannual dentist appointment which Poirot had made for himself was a feared but routine occurence. Mr Morley, the dentist, was as professional as he'd always been, careful, dexterous and adept at spotting the slightest problem. It was, one would think, a very routine day for everyone in the surgery. Yet, within a few hours of Poirot leaving him, Mr Morley was found dead in his surgery, shot at close quarters. After an initial suspicion directed at a powerful magnate from Greece, one Amberiotis who had also had a dentist appointment that day with Mr Morley, the next assumption - on the part of the police at least - was that of suicide, when Amberiotis was found dead due to an overdose injected into his gums. The case, therefore, seemed to be straightforward, a clear occurrence of Mr Morley being unable to cope with the fact he had unwittingly killed another man. Yet Poirot was not convinced. It seemed to him that perhaps another person was the target for murder, that there were possibly far more complicated matters involved concerning important political figures, activitists and dangerous plots and when a further appointee of Morleys went missing the situation became even more tangled. As Poirot was to remark, he could not believe the evidence of his own eyes, that being the small matter of a single large buckle on a woman's shoe. As one of the characters was to remark to him, detective cases were surely not like those of Sherlock Holmes, yet ironically in typical Holmes fashion it was to be a small scrap of material evidence noted by Poirot that was to prove a pivotal point of the case.

      "One Two Buckle My Shoe" is one of the most interesting of Christie's novels, not so much for the plot which runs, for the most part, in a fairly pedestrianised way, but more for the way the novel raises questions about the morality of murder and the establishment of someone's guilt or innocence. In one way, therefore, it is similar to "Appointment with Death" which also examined the role of ethics within a detective story, yet the focus has changed slightly with "One Two Buckle My Shoe." In this story Poirot's - and possibly the reader's - moral integrity is tempted with the realisation that the person who becomes the chief suspect at one point is a highly unpleasant person. As Poirot thinks to himself, the accused is someone the world would be better off without and thus we can see his (Poirot's) dilemma when he is given a very strong opportunity not to help the accused. It is, therefore, testament to the detective's character that his sense of duty prevails and he insists that the person is honest with him, in order that Poirot may help him. Moreeover, the aspect of whether it can ever be right to murder, if the killer genuinely believes that they are acting for the right reasons, is also examined.

      As well as the examination of ethical dilemmas, another significant element within this novel is the influence of Poirot's ideals upon his investigation of the case. As been been stated before, we are aware of his decision to continue with discovering the realities of the situation despite the possibility of allowing an unsavoury character to be declared guilty presenting itself. Moreover, the detective makes the decision to examine the shooting of Morley not because others consider Morley to be significant, to have had an important position, but because, to Poirot, everybody has the right to life unless they remove that life from another person. Morley did not deserve to die and, as a consequence, his death is not insignificant, should not be discarded and is as deserving of having the perpetrator found and convicted as any other. Poirot's personal beliefs, which have seen him frequently continue with a case even when told not to do so are highly evident within this story. He refuses to accept what others tell him until he has scrutinised the information for himself. He refuses to accept the murderer's eventual protestations that they were acting for a greater good as the killer barely shows any remorse the deaths they have caused. Moreover the desire to find the truth of the murders is not through a wish for financial gain but to see Mr Morley's death and those of the other characters killed, brought to justice.

      Throughout "One Two Buckle My Shoe" Christie has once more presented us with a myriad of personalities with the result that the characters are varied and interesting. As with so many of her other works there are similarities between the people within this narrative and those of her other writings. Geraldine Morley, for example, bears a striking resemblance in terms of her personality with Caroline Sheppard in "The Murder of Roger Acroyd", the exception being that the former character lacks the inquisitive nature of the latter. Furthermore, Howard Raikes might be compared to Mr Ferguson in "Death on the Nile" and the nondescript Mr Barnes reminds the reader of that other purveyor of information to Poirot, Mr Goby. Yet with all her characters Christie has ensured that each one in "One Two Buckle my Shoe" retains enough unique identity to stop them becoming too familiar. Few of the characters can be described as one dimensional, we discover aspects of the more prominent personalities at least as the novel progresses. Jane Olivera, for example, initially appears rather rude yet a more sympathetic element to her is revealed later on. The description of Mabelle Sainsbury Seale appears to become less clear cut as more aspects are revealed about her and indeed it is her personality which is to be a significant factor in discovering the murderer's identity. Christie has not restricted herself to a particular socio-economic or familial group within this work and although there are common elements linking almost every person, this is not made evident straight away. Instead the seemingly impossible task of discovering how and why anyone of a group of strangers might have murdered a dentist and later other people is the core focus of the novel. It is for this reason, perhaps, that the case is not solved within a matter of days as with - for example "Murder on the Orient Express" or "Appointment with Death" but instead takes several weeks.

      When considering Poirot's investigation of the murders it is interesting to note that in this narrative he is depandant significantly upon the work done by Inspector Japp and other members of the police force. This is not to say that Poirot is not the one who solely discovers the murderer's identity, because of course he is, but rather that without the efforts undertaken by Japp and other police members vital evidence including the discovery of one body would not be uncovered. The partnership between Poirot and Japp is thus further cemented. As the motive for Morley's death is integral to the murders of the other victims then one solution can not be revealed without full awareness of the facts of the other killings. In this way, therefore, we are reminded once more of "The Murder of Roger Acroyd" whereby the death of one character can only be solved with the discovery of the murderer of another personality.

      Whilst the majority of "One Two Buckle My Shoe" merits its being read, there are some elements which are regrettably weak. Ironically the motive for the murders is one such aspect. It appears so close to being contrived, especially when considering that of Mr Morley's, that it may be wondered whether Christie had the idea of the killer first and then desperately sought to come up with a plausible motive. This is not to state that it is completely ludicrous, but the reasons behind the killing are such that it may be speculated whether murder was really necessary. However, it is also possible that the killer believed so strongly in their need to do the murders that they thus justified their actions.

      To conclude, "One Two Buckle My Shoe" attracts our interest not because of the mechanics of the case, but rather because of the debates it raises within it. The ethical dilemmas faced, the concept of good and evil never being truly separate but rather blurring into one another and the awareness by Poirot that the truth should be paramount are all significant elements within the narrative. For these reasons Christie captures our attention and ensures a indepth and thought provoking novel.

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