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At a resort at St Looe in Cornwall, Poirot is enjoying a holiday with his friend Hastings. Adamant that he has now retired at the pinnacle of his career Poirot refuses to entertain the idea that he will start working again. Until, that is, a chance encounter with a young woman and the discovery that she has had several near misses with death leads him to investigating the circumstances. Initially the aim is simply to discover who is behind the attempted murder, but at a fireworks party matters take a more serious turn. From then on Poirot must use all his wits to solve a murder that appears to be impossible to crack.
Throughout this novel Christie has provided the reader with an interesting and rather complicated narrative, that manages to hold our attention throughout the events. This is one of Poirot's more difficult cases and yet, as with all his mysteries, once it is solved the answer seems to absurdly simple that - if you haven't guessed it already - you wonder why you didn't. Illusion and twists feature prominently within the story, ensuring in this respect it can be compared to "They do it with Mirrors", though the link is only tenuous. A further comparison might also be made with "Lord Edgware dies" for reasons explained by the end of the novel.
The characters within the novel are well set out and present the reader with a good balance of personalities. Nick Buckley, the woman who Poirot tries to help, for example, is forthright and determined and her friend Frederica is revealed to be more complicated than the rather vague, shallow woman she initially appears to be. Within this tale there is more than one guilty party and, with his usual high abilities Poirot skillfully manages to unmask all of them. Like "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" the final piece of the puzzle is provided by a chance remark to Poirot by Hastings, leaving one to wonder that without this illumination whether Poirot would have had his second failure in 28 years.
As with "Death on the Nile" the murderer has to rely upon incredible timing and luck in order to pull off their crime and it is this which hinges the plot upon unbelievability. However, it also reveals the resourceful and daring of the killer and allows us to comprehend why Poirot should have found the case so difficult to begin with. This is a highly recommended novel which stands the test of time well and which can be read many times.