One of the first things that I did after quitting work, was to rearrange my library at the corner of my room; the space was teeming with random books. I had also purchased several novels from India and Dubai that I had not got around to reading as yet, and there were many illustrated children’s books that I wanted to keep safely, since I consider them to be a treasure trove of my childhood memories. It had taken me a few days to set everything straight and I am pretty glad that the library corner now looks well sorted. After having read Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice (2014) and a few classics, I needed a break from heavy reading. My first choice was to read a romance, but I got quickly bored after which I remembered that my bestie had gifted me a whole set of Agatha Christie novels while I was in India. It came as no surprise to me that I stopped reading the romance novel and quickly adopted Hercule Poirot’s superb sleuthing skills into my life…or at the least, I attempted to. Strictly speaking though, I loved reading Agatha Christie again; the last time I had read her books was during high-school. Well, what does the famous Belgian detective do this time around?
In Cards on the Table (1936), Poirot is comfortably retired and spends his time roaming around the chilly streets of London, that is until he is forced to commit to sleuthing again by his ‘frenemy’ Mr. Shaitana. Shaitana is the quintessential Mephistopheles who enjoys throwing fabulous parties with a twist; his aim in life is to study as to what makes his fellow beings tick, and his parties act as the perfect laboratories to observe his ‘subjects’. Shaitana invites Poirot to an interesting party, wherein half of the attendees are claimed to be sophisticated criminals who got away with near-perfect murders. Poirot and the other guests are thoroughly involved in a game of bridge, after which the detective and his good friend Colonel Race resolve to greet their host a good night before proceeding to their respective abodes. Lo and behold, Shaitana is found dead in his own home at his party! Poirot soon realises that Shaitana has set the perfect game, with four sleuths and four murderers as the party guests. What follows next is an intense evaluation of the psychological profiles of the latter four party guests, which makes for some really good murder-mystery reading.
The plot itself is quite common to Agatha Christie’s works; what differs though is the form of the murder and sleuthing in each tale of hers. In Cards on the Table, the point-of-view keeps going back and forth between the individual detectives who attempt to psychologically analyse each suspect. The story keeps pushing the reader forward into the proceedings, so that they may imagine themselves to be present during the formal and informal murder-suspect interrogations. All in all, the narrative is fast-paced and engrossing.
I will definitely be going back to my set of Christie books for some light reading in the future.