Review: Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

I have set myself a mini challenge to ‘read’ all the Agatha Christie books that I can find in audio format narrated by David Suchet and the latest to find its way onto my iPod is Sad Cypress, a novel I can’t remember ever having read before though I often claim to have read all the Christie novels featuring Poirot. One of the joys of old-ish age is that old books become new again 🙂

Sad Cypress opens in a court scene at the trial of Elinor Carlisle for the murder of Mary Gerrard. In the dock Elinor starts to reflect on events which have led up to this moment and readers are taken back to when she received an anonymous letter suggesting that a young lady is ingratiating herself with Elinor’s bedridden Aunt Laura with the aim of being left the considerable fortune that Aunt Laura possesses. Elinor and her Aunt’s nephew by marriage, Roddy,  to whom she has just become engaged leave London for Maidensford and find that Aunt Laura has become very fond of Mary Gerrard, the lodgekeeper’s daughter. Although they leave things unresolved for the moment a further stroke leads to another visit during which Aunt Laura dies.  Activities involving the subsequent winding up of her estate ultimately lead to Mary Gerrard’s death and the arrest of Elinor for her murder. Hercule Poirot is called in by the village doctor, Peter Lord, who is somewhat smitten with Elinor and wants her acquitted.

As usual with the best Christie tales the intricate plot is the standout feature of Sad Cypress. Although one always knows that the obvious answer cannot be the real solution everything points to Elinor’s guilt and I did wonder how Ms Christie (or M. Poirot) would work their way out of this particular corner. The resolution is clever and, at least by me, unexpected. The final portion of the book took readers back to the courtroom where the case for the defense is laid out and we see what Poirot made of all the odd little facts he has accumulated with his seemingly random conversations with all the players in the drama. I did find the ending a bit drawn out with several unnecessary repetitions of key information.

I’m struck once again by the themes that recur in Christie’s work including her observations of how different classes of English society rub along together and her depiction of the damage that old family secrets can do. Although I sometimes find her characterisations a bit dated and stereotypical here she does an above average job of depicting interesting and believable people and Poirot seemed to be at his best: egotistical but not over the top.

Finally, I’ll admit that though I (alone) voted for Peter Ustinov as the best Poirot (but only in Death on the Nile) I am myself smitten with David Suchet’s narration of Christie books. He makes reading them a delight.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 3.5/5

Narrator: David Suchet; Publisher: Harper Collins [this edition 2007, original edition 1940]; ISBN:n/a; Length 6 hrs; Setting: England, 1940’s.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

For a far more professional and insightful look at Sad Cyrpess check out the excellent post from Margot Kinberg at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist who chose this book as her contribution to the letter S in the Crime Fiction Alphabet. The book has also been reviewed at Melissa’s Bookshelf .

The other books I’ve listened to so far in my mini-challenge of David Suchet narrated audio books are

and, for comparative purposes

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3 Responses to Review: Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

  1. Bernadette – Thank you so much for the kind mention : ). How very nice of you : ).

    Also, thanks for this terrific review; don’t sell yourself short! I, too, have always been struck by Christie’s commentary on some of the social issues she saw, and class is certainly one of them. It comes through distinctly in this particular novel, but also in several others; The Hollow (AKA Murder After Hours is one of them.

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