Archive for September 30, 2014

12BMSI have got into the habit of putting aside any long heavyweight book with an exotic foreign setting when we go on our mini-breaks in England. I take a shorter very English book for instance  a Reginald Hill, Colin Dexter and Agatha Christie on our trips taken over the last year. So last week I read Agatha Christie’s One , Two, Buckle My Shoe  published in 1940 in which Hercule Poirot’s dentist Mr Henry Morley is found shot dead in his surgery only hours after treating the famed Belgian detective. 

Chief Inspector Japp believes it is a suicide, a theory that seems to gain justification when one of his patients that morning, Mr Amberiotis, a mysterious character involved in espionage, later that day dies of an overdose of novocaine and adrenaline. Did Mr Morley kill himself in remorse over a professional error? Poirot doubts that and suspects murder. 

Miss Christie introduces the reader to a large cast of suspects. The female grenadier Georgina Morley, the dentist’s sister, Gladys Nevill, his young attractive P1050222secretary, Frank Carter, her unsuitable unemployed young man, Reilly, Morley’s business partner, a dentist with a drink problem, Alfred Biggs, the page boy; and Morley’s patients, the dowdy Mabelle Sainsbury Seale, Mr Barnes, a secretive civil servant, Alistair Blunt, a distinguished banker, and Howard Raikes, a young man with revolutionary ideas. We later learn that Raikes hopes to marry Jane Olivera, the daughter of Julia, Blunt’s niece by marriage. We are taken on a journey littered with red herrings, and when a character disappears we suspect a body will turn up soon.

P1050199Along the way the Queen of Crime scatters some snippets of social commentary that could have been written yesterday suggesting that her books contain a little bit more than just clever puzzles.

He glanced at the paper and remarked that the Government seemed to be passing from a state of incompetence to one of positive imbecility!

Of course England was a very different country when this book was written, but some things never change.

‘Blunt is the kind of man who in private life would always pay his bills and live within his income-whether he’d got twopence a year or several million makes no difference. He is that type of felllow. And he thinks that there is no reason why a country shouldn’t be the same! No costly experiments.

No frenzied expenditure on possible Utopias.’

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is not in the top drawer of Miss Christie’s books but it is a pleasant enough read, with a very minimum of the attitudes of the time, and with a typical Christie surprise at the end. 

[photos taken at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, where you can imagine you are back in the England of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.]