Appointment With Death is a Hercule Poirot mystery. Therefore it follows that there is going to be a lot of work for your little grey cells. Agatha Christie will make you think, perhaps subconsciously, as she lays out the plot and tells us the minutest traits of the characters. Set in Jerusalem, this is what I call her ‘location’ books, such as Triangle at Rhodes, Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express etc.
Poirot is on vacation in Jerusalem when he hears the words ‘You see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?’ He brushes them off as a joke, only to find himself deeply ensconced into another mystery.
There is the usual motley crew of hotel guests. Prominent is a large American family with a grumpy matriarch. The Boyntons appear harried, especially to Dr.Gerard, an eminent psychiatrist. The old woman has some kind of hold over the others and looks pure evil. Sarah King, another doctor, calls her malevolent. There is a married son, a younger son and two daughters. Cope is an American who knew Nadine, the daughter in law. It appears that the old lady was once the warden of a prison and she keeps all her family firmly under her thumb, so much that even the grown men feel guilty when they talk to a woman without her permission.
Sarah King finds herself intrigued by these family dynamics and befriends one of the daughters. The old lady forbids anyone to talk to Sarah King which only fuels her curiosity. The guests in the hotel embark on a tour that takes them across the desert to places like Petra and Amman. As they make camp, they come upon the Boynton family who is doing the same tour. The next day, Mrs. Boynton is found dead in her chair.
Since Mrs. Boynton was old, her death seems natural but there are suspicious circumstances. A syringe is found near the tents, the doctor’s stock of poison is depleted and there is a pin prick on the victim’s skin. Hercule Poirot is visiting with his old friend, a colonel, and is naturally involved. His investigation goes into the past of almost every person involved. This is so necessary to understand the psychology of the killer, and the motive. Poirot arrogantly declares that he will have the case solved in 24 hours. The rest of the book is pure joy for any Hercule Poirot fan.
Appointment with Death seems lesser known but is a true masterpiece delivered by Agatha Christie, our Author of the Month.