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AGATHA CHRISTIE. Cards on the Table (1936).

08 Sep

Four murderers, four detectives, one victim. There, in brief, is the neat, stylized pattern around which Christie weaves yet another beguiling mystery for Hercule Poirot to solve. The victim, Mr. Shaitana (the name means Satan), invites to dinner four seemingly ordinary Brits, each of whom he believes to be guilty of an undetected, unpunished homicide. CardsTable.jpgAlso invited are a quartet of sleuths, including Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, Colonel Race of the Secret Service, and the mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (she acts, in effect, as Christie’s doppelgänger), along with Poirot, he of the little gray cells. After dinner, the suspected killers retire to Shaitana’s curio-crammed living room, where they play a few rubbers of contract bridge. One of them, during a turn as “dummy,” stabs the host with an exotic dagger from the victim’s own collection. The four detectives, who had spent the evening in another room, then set about investigating the recent movements and the past exploits of the four suspects. An understanding of bridge and its rules figures in Poirot’s deductive process, but any sharp-eyed reader can glean the clues that matter most in his solution. In fact, what initially appears to be a contrived formal puzzle turns out to be a thoughtful study of varied human types. More than in most Christie novels, psychology is everything here, and bridge is merely the table (so to speak) on which the cards of character reveal themselves.

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3 Comments

Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Golden Age, Novel, Puzzle

 

3 responses to “AGATHA CHRISTIE. Cards on the Table (1936).

  1. Cavershamragu

    September 15, 2014 at 4:56 AM

    I read this one as a lad, before I had any idea how to play bridge (I am only a beginner even now) and found this one rather dull – but I think i should re-read it because the weight of opinion definitely seems to be against me on this one – and it has been about 30 years frankly …

     
  2. Martin Edwards

    October 25, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    I’ve always liked this one, despite my total ignorance about bridge .(S.S. Murder by Q.Patrick is another bridge mystery which I’ve enjoyed.) The way Christie shifts suspicion from one person to another seems to me to be very skilful.

     
  3. Mike

    October 27, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    Thanks, Martin. It’s an honor to have you comment here.(The same goes for you, Sergio.) I have a near-complete ignorance of bridge, and even a slight aversion to it. (When I was a boy, my parents played it constantly and yelled at each other about it frequently.) So I put off reading “Cards” for many years. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that a knowledge of the game was a nice-to-have thing and not a need-to-have thing. The book—and the bridge-related but not bridge-dependent psychological clues—stand up very well on their own.

     

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