AGATHA CHRISTIE – Poirot Loses a Client. Dodd Mead, US, hardcover, 1937. First published in the UK by Collins, 1937, as Dumb Witness. Reprinted many times in both hardcover and paperback, including New Avon Library #10, 1945 (shown).

   This one starts out in much the same way as the previous Hercule Poirot novel reviewed by me on this blog, Funerals Are Fatal; that is to say, by introducing in some detail a family with a wealthy matriarch (in this case) and (also in this case) a younger set, all of whom can use some money. Needless to say, for at least one of whom, sooner is far better than later.

   Begun thus in similar fashion, the two books diverge from here. In Client, Poirot’s good friend, Captain Hastings is on hand to tell the tale, in first person. And Poirot is on hand much sooner, only 35 pages in. But not soon enough: the letter he receives from Emily Arundell, wishing to avail herself of his services, is too late. She has passed away, her death having occurred over two months earlier.

   Reading between the lines of the letter, Poirot takes it upon himself to investigate. By all accounts, Miss Arundell died of natural causes, although there is the matter of the near fatal accident she had had a week or so before.

   I think it helps to have Hastings along as a companion to Poirot on one of cases. Hastings is intelligent enough to tell the story carefully and well, with witty asides about incidents as they happen and the people they meet, but he’s not quite bright enough to put the facts together as swiftly as does M. Poirot. This is not an insult. Neither am I.

   Part of Agatha Christie’s success is how easily she makes it seem to describe people and who they are in a minimum of words. This is what makes it possible for Poirot to solve the case by relying almost solely on the conversations he has with all of the people involved. Some of whom are suspects, others not, but they all have different perspectives on the facts, and all are useful in determining who the killer or killers may be.

   Who this may be is revealed, in my opinion, too early, even before the family is gathered together for a final denouement. The solution is an anticlimax this time around, which is something not at all usual for Agatha Christie in my experience, but until then, there is plenty of story for the inveterate armchair detective to puzzle over. Those readers looking for lots of action, stay away.