Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Appointment with Death #ReadChristie23

Title: Appointment with Death
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, hardcover, 1965 (originally published in 1937 or 1938)
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Petra (modern day Jordan)
Description: It all begins with the great Poirot closing a hotel window as he hears:
“You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?”

The question floated out in the still night air, seemed to hang there a moment and then drift away down into the darkness towards the Dead Sea.

Hercule Poirot paused a minute with his hand on the window catch.

Frowning, he shut it decisively, thereby excluding any injurious night air!
Poirot dismisses what he heard but thinks he would know the voice again. Soon he encounters the Boynton family, a gorgon-like mother with four adult children and a daughter-in-law, traveling from America. They seem unhappily in thrall to her, not permitted to make friends or talk to the other guests at the hotel, although one in particular, Sarah King, who has just completed her medical degree, is interested in Raymond Boynton and his sister Carol, both about her age. The Boyntons and another group of tourists that includes Sarah travel to Petra, a famous archaeological site in Jordan's southwestern desert dating to around 300 B.C. When Mrs. Boynton dies, no one regrets her passing but Hercule Poirot, who has now recognized the voice he overheard at the hotel, is called in to find the murderer, focusing on the family who hated her and whose alibis are suspicious.

My Impression: Agatha Christie was extremely aware of evil and in this book she creates a Shelob-like victim who has terrorized her three adult stepchildren and her own child, a fey teenager. Sarah tries to befriend Raymond and Carol, and they try to reciprocate before Mrs. Boynton mesmerizes them into compliance.
“Freedom?” Carol stared at her. “None of us have ever been free. We never will be.”

“Nonsense!” said Sarah clearly.

Carol leaned forward and touched her arm.

“Listen. I must make you understand! Before her marriage my mother – she’s my stepmother really – was a wardress in prison. My father was the Governor and he married her. Well, it’s been like that ever since. She’s gone on being a wardress – to us. That’s why our life is just – being in prison!”

Her head jerked around again.

“They’ve missed me. I – I must go.”
Christie observes that Sarah, a decisive young woman who recently broke up with a doctor who was equally strong-minded, is attracted to Raymond because he needs to be rescued. Mrs. Boynton is just as determined to keep her children away from Sarah.
Sarah encounters the Boyntons at the famous
temple in Petra, the Haram-esh-Sharif
Christie visited the Middle East with her second (and better) husband, archeologist Max Mallowan but only a handful of her books are set outside Britain. Appointment with Death followed her more famous, Death on the Nile (1937). Poirot just happens to be traveling in Jordan and is carrying a letter of introduction from Colonel Race to the local authority so is asked to help solve Mrs. Boynton’s murder. He is able to do so by interviewing all who were present, contrasting their stories, and then explaining it all dramatically to a worried audience.

Appointment with Death is the September book for Read Christie 2023 and my twenty-fifth book for Carol’s Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge.
Source: Library

(Temple photo copyright to Jordan Times)


Jerri said...

Nice review of an interesting Christie novel. I tend to think of her books as mostly set in England, but then when I start listing non-English locations, come up with quite a few. This novel and Death on the Nile, of course, plus Man in the Brown Suit, Murder on the Orient Express, A Caribbean Mystery, the one set in Ancient Egypt, They came to Baghdad, The Blue Train, Death in the Clouds, to name a few off the top of my head, set all or in part outside of the UK. Add in short stories and the list grows quickly. Oh yes, Destination Unknown and Murder in Mesopotamia. Does the very first bit on Cat Among the Pigeons count?

CLM said...

The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Baghdad are my two favorites! However, I think my image of Christie is a village with Miss Marple. Poirot seems to travel more - he was in Cornwall in the last one I read.

Cat Among the Pigeons is one I haven't reread for a very long time! I need to check if I have a copy.