Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Third Girl

Critics tend to pooh-pooh the later works of Agatha Christie, deeming many of them bloated, meandering and old fashioned.

Miss Lemon begs to differ with this pronouncement. She holds up for her readers Exhibit A: Third Girl, published in 1966 -- forty-six years after Mrs. Christie's debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Not only are the themes up-to-the-minute (at least for the 1960s), the pacing is sharp and the clues are deftly -- but not unfairly -- disguised.

The plot is this: A young woman, modishly dressed, with long, stringy hair and a faraway look in her eyes walks into Mr. Poirot's office and announces that she thinks she may have committed murder. But, maddeningly, she isn't sure.

Kidnapping, drug-taking, fine-art forgery and murder ensue, and all the while Poirot remains stubbornly at sea -- a most irritating state for the famed detective's little grey cells.

The novel takes its title from a shared-flat arrangement. The young woman unsure of her criminal status is the 'third girl' leasing luxury digs together with an executive secretary and an art gallery employee. Poirot feels sure that this set-up holds the clue to finding how and if a murder took place, but he struggles to uncover it.

Were it not for the help, albeit unasked for, of Poirot's compatriots in crime detection, he probably wouldn't have solved the mystery at all. Indeed, what makes this novel so delightful is its quirky cast of characters (a certain citrus-monikered secretary included among them).

There's Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, a prolific crime novelist herself, in between books, who insinuates herself into Poirot's investigations so far as to get koshed on the head.

Georges, Poirot's trusted valet, appears to make a few very helpful character assessments. And then there's Miss Lemon, "who was standing by, waiting to be efficient."

In all, Third Girl is a fun, fast-paced whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie -- no matter what the critics might say.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review
    Gosh I'd forgotten that one I'll have to go find it and reread it!