What better way to celebrate Halloween and Dia de los Muertos than reading a spooky story featuring a gathering of murderers? It is bound to be a little more relaxing than taking kids out to trick-or-treat and telling them to stop eating so much candy! Whether you have little fairies or ninjas to take or just plan on providing the treats to them, this is a book that should have broad appeal to mystery and suspense lovers.
Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie takes a unique approach to the murder mystery genre. There are only four suspects, and they are all equally suspect! If you guess you have a 25% chance of being right. (I was wrong…) What makes this story so unique is the set up.
Hercule Poirot meets a man with whom he is slightly acquainted at a charity event, an exhibition of antique snuff boxes. Mr. Shaitana admits to being a collector of “interesting pieces”, but only the best of their kind. He offers to share his “criminal” collection with Poirot at a dinner party. The best of his criminal collection is a group of murderers who have gotten away with murder.
A few weeks later Mr. Shaitana gives a dinner party and invites eight guests. Poirot knows three of the guests. One is Superintendent Battle from Scotland Yard. One is Colonel Race from some secret agency. One is Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, the famous mystery novelist. The other four are unknown to Poirot. At dinner Shaitana refers to murders that appear to be accidents. After dinner the group splits in two to play bridge. Poirot’s group, all the detective type people, go into a different room to play, leaving Shaitana with the other group. And the fun begins….
In the foreword Agatha Christie wrote about mystery novels being like horse races, with people betting on the least likely person as the perpetrator. She warns that “there are only four starters and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime …. they are four widely divergent types; the motive that drives each one of them to crime is peculiar to that person, and each one would employ a different method. The deduction must, therefore, be entirely psychological, but it is none the less interesting for that, because when all is said and done it is the mind of the murderer that is of supreme interest.”
You can make your guesses. I did, but I backed the wrong horse. The solution is quite brilliant. I can see why Ms. Christie maintained that this was Hercule Poirot’s favorite case!