Review: Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie


My Interest

I’m slowly reading or listening my way through Agatha Christie’s books. It was time for another audio book and nothing I’d requested was in at the library so I took the first AC that was available. It sounded good.

The Story

“…her rocking horse nostrils…”

An extremely sheltered and isolated American family is abroad for the first time. The mother, once a warden in a women’s prison seems to have a hypnotic control over her adult children (really her step-children, but they remember no other “mother”). Two of her children are overheard talking about “she’s got to be killed.” One son has managed to marry, but only by sneaking out at night. Once caught, Mother arranges for a distant cousin to come stay and “allows” him to marry her. She has not lived in the same way as her husband’s family.

Meanwhile, a peeress–the American-born wife of a peer not a peeress in her own right, is a Member of Parliament is one of the group visiting and staying in the same location as the family.

“Lady W. was a very well-known figure in the English political world….When Lord W, a middle-aged, simple-minded peer whose only interests in life were hunting, shooting, and fishing, [met her on an ocean voyage and then married her] the match was often cited as one of the examples of the danger of ocean voyages. The new Lady W lived entirely in tweeds and stout brogues, bred dogs, bullied the villagers, and forced her husband piteously into public life. It being borne in upon her that politics were not Lord W’s metier, she graciously allowed him to resume his sporting activities and stood for parliament [throwing herself into political life–especially at Question Time]. Cartoons of her soon began to appear–always  a sure sign of success.”

A French doctor is also part of the group. Naturally, sleuth Hercule Poirot just happens to be in the group as well. When one day the [step]mother is found dead, the usual suspects are rounded up and several red herrings are disposed of with quick dispatch. In due course (as no doubt Lady W would say) the real murder is revealed in Poirot’s usual fashion.

My Thoughts

Aside from loving the wonderful description of Lady W–who naturally brought Lady Astor instantly to mind, I found the uber-sheltered adult children chillingly reminiscent of some of the similarly sheltered or intentionally totally isolated very far-right homeschooling families in the USA today. [The family in the book had been educated by a succession of governesses]. I can think of two families I have knowledge of whose adult children are even up to the mid-40s in age and still all live at home and work only in their family business–I am reliably informed there are many others

The two popular huge t.v. homeschooling families, the Duggars and the Bates, before being on tv kept their kids almost that isolated. The near-cult to which they belong stresses “right response” training so that children learn to obey parents instantly and completely. The response of the adult children in Agatha Christie’s story are as “programmed” as that. They exhibit a nearly hypnotic response to their step-mother’s admonitions. They year for freedom, but like their real-life counterparts, have been raised to fear everything outside the family, so can’t muster the courage to just leave. The new wife (daughter-in-law) knows there is another world. This is why marriage is a risk to such families and why so many of the marriages are arranged. But, like in this book, even the most carefully arranged marriages can open a new window and let in fresh air. Or, would that be open Pandora’s Box or a can of worms?

This was easily my favorite Agatha Christie book due to the family’s isolation and Christie’s foreshadowing today’s far-far-right parenting. Eerie, spooky, even creepy-real. Like Cathy Ames in East of Eden–that voice! That creepy, controlling voice. Dear old Ags nails it yet again! I listened to the audio version.

My Verdict


Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie



Historical Fiction

7 thoughts on “Review: Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie

Add yours

  1. This is one of the most compelling Poirot novels, and at the same time, not one of my favorites. The (step)mother is absolutely horrific, and the family so deeply dysfunctional that it makes me shudder. Still, now that you have reminded me of the book, I may be headed for a reread, because the mystery is pretty well-constructed.

    I hadn’t thought about the parallel with a certain of homeschooling families, since when I last read this book, I didn’t know about that subset of homeschoolers. (I do feel I ought to mention here, for the benefit of any readers unfamiliar with homeschooling in general, that this type of homeschooling family is not typical, and usually holds a deeply fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity [or occasionally other faiths]; they do not represent the majority of either Christians or homeschoolers. I speak from experience, as a liberal Christian who homeschooled my high-schooler for secular reasons, not religious ones.)


  2. I’ve listened to a few Christies over the last couple of years and I actually really enjoy them as audio books, better than reading them with my eyes. They just really work and the narrators are great.


  3. Oooh, I have enjoyed the few AC’s I’ve read, and the Duggar/Bates tie-ins make this one sound like a winner. Thanks for putting it on my radar!


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