Cards on the Table

Rating: ****
Mr. Shaitana is no ordinary personality. He is a collector. Approaching Poirot one day, the Mephistopheles-like character invites him to a dinner party in which he will show case his unique collection - a collection of murderers; those murderers who have gotten away with their crimes.

Four crime experts; four supposed criminals; that is Mr. Shaitana's idea of a dinner party. Hercule Poirot meets Mrs. Oliver, the celebrated detective writer, Colonel Race, a Secret Service Agent, and Superintendent Battle from the Scotland Yard, all representatives of law and order. The other mysterious guests include murderers Dr. Roberts, Mrs. Lorrimer, Miss Anne Meredith, and Major Despard. At the end of a game of bridge, the crime experts come to take their leave of Mr. Shaitana, only to find him murdered. The only four in the room with Mr. Shaitana were the other four guests playing bridge. It is up to the others to find the murderer from within the murderers.

Some thoughts
The interesting thing about this case was that the authorities had absolutely no evidence to go upon. The deduction had to be purely psychological and Hercule Poirot is the king of psychology. The motive is obviously a previous murder that one of the guests thought Mr. Shaitana had discovered. Poirot reveals the purpose of the party to his law-enforcement friends and now they must discover the guests' previous murders as well as Mr. Shaitana's murderer.

This case also has the interesting feature of including four of Agatha Christie's most famous characters: Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle, Ariadne Oliver and of course Hercule Poirot. Each have starred in other novels but this is the only time when they all come together.

I was so tempted to rate this five stars. The only reason I didn't, was, that although the case was one of the best (even better than some five stars), none of the characters really moved me. It was psychologically intriguing but the story was not as touching as it was in Murder on the Orient Express or Death Comes as the End. But as I said, I'm tempted........

4 comments:

Abhishek Ghoshal said...

I agree with your Review completely ,especially the "none of the characters" moved me part. It was the one thing that was needed to make it a masterpiece. [Just like "The mysterious affair at Styles",which has one of my favourite plots,but fails a tad bid shy of being a masterpiece because of the shallow characterization. ] I've read 45 Christie's till now and I think many of her books were just a bit shy of being a classic because of her "novel MUST be around 300 pages " dogma. If only the books were a bit longer and had better characterization...

Sarah said...

Thanks!

Yes, I was so disappointed in Cards on the Table because of the characterisation. Yet I have to say that in most novels, I do enjoy that unique character portrayal of hers. It's the one thing I usually enjoy about her books. That and the intricate plots.

Abhishek Ghoshal said...

Oh yeah,her characters and her way the characters keep up a conversation is splendid. And the best part is,most of her characters are believable persons who,for better or for worse,have inherent flaws unlike most authors who like to create the perfect protagonist [ *cough* Robert Langdon *cough*] . I would say 5 of her books are masterpieces,30-45 are awesome,25-30 are good and 1 is bad(seriously bad) :- "Postern of Fate" if you havent read it,do NOT do it! I cant believe Agatha Christe,a Goddess of fiction,could write that book! :/

Sarah said...

Oh, I've read ALL her books. But yes some aren't as good as the others. My favs are the ones without a detective - Ordeal by Innocence, Crooked House, Towards Zero - great reads