Agatha Christie : Curtain – Poirot’s Last Case, 1975
Styles Court always had a certain importance for Agatha Christie.
Witness the set having 2 important novels in his writing career: The misterious affair at Styles, his debut as a writer’s career (1920), in addition to the character that made universally famous, Monsieur Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective; Curtain – Poirot’s Last Case (1975), Poirot novel farewell.
Curtain – Poirot’s Last Case begins when the first was over to Styles Court. Now Cavendish has become the home of a pension, and Poirot has a room for rent. He is worn out by arthritis, and lives in practice on a wheelchair. But Poirot to Styles is not out of nostalgia, but to prevent a murderess to continue to kill, as he wrote to his old friend Hastings. The show, alone, amazing coincidences, events which, taken individually, are of no value, and then, however, compared to each other and respect each and every one under certain circumstances, take on sinister side dishes.
In other words … there was a very strange series of deaths.
Leonard Etherington, dead apparently rotten food, after the autopsy was discovered to be killed with rat poison with arsenic. Accused wife, she had been acquitted. However the general opinion was unfavorable, and two years after the trial, had committed suicide with barbiturates.
Miss Sharples: died from an overdose of morphine. Insufficiency of evidence against the nephew, Clay Freda.
Ben Craig: Mrs. Riggs assassinated along with a gun belonging to her husband, Edward Riggs, jealous of the relationship between the two. Riggs was sentenced to life imprisonment, after being sentenced to death.
Derek Bradley threatened by his wife for his affair with a girl, was killed with potassium cyanide dissolved in beer. His wife was sentenced to death and hanged.
Matthew Litchfield tyrannical father of four daughters, killed by his eldest daughter Margaret, who would thus allow the sisters to start a new life: interned at Broadmoor because she was incapable of consent, there she was dead then.
Cases that do not appear to have had anything in common, too many to suggest a common matrix, identified only by Poirot. Mr. X is the common denominator of all cases. He too is in Styles Court, became a separate board. And Poirot is there.
He feels compelled to take action, because he suspects, based on all existing connections, another murder is about to take place at Styles Court, where fifty years earlier, had been killed Emily Inglethorp.
George Luttrell, retired colonel is the new owner of Styles Court. He administers the pension and lives there with his wife Daisy. Guests of the board, and so essentially characters in the novel, as well as Poirot, are, at the time when Hastings arrives with his daughter Judith, Sir William Boyd Carrington, Stephen Norton, Elizabeth Cole, John Franklin, the scientist (who has a laboratory ) and his wife Barbara, the waiter Poirot, Curtiss, and Miss Cafres nurse. All the characters, more or less, will have a role in the drama. Between these lies the murderess, Mr. X, and his victim.
Poirot would save the sacrificial lamb, who does not know who he is, and as such seeks the help of Hastings, who ran, together with his daughter, in aid of his friend. But soon there will be a homicide, based on the judgment of Poirot that if one swallow does not make a summer, a murderess makes a crime instead. But first there will be a failed attempt to kill the wife of Colonel Luttrell: he shoots to a rabbit and a bullet grazes his wife.
The bullet was apparently fired from the rifle of Colonel, but is it true or was fired from a rifle similar to the same caliber?
The fact is that, after a death occurs: Mrs. Franklin is poisoned with a lethal dose of physostigmine sulfate. The dose is from the laboratory of her husband, of which both as he as the assistant have a key. It clarifies that the victim suffered from depression, and there‘s more to an eye witness above all suspicion that he swears to have seen come out clutching a bottle: he is Hercule Poirot. The investigation of the coroner’s verdict was suicide. But Poirot has really seen what he has confessed? He knows that the woman was murdered, but since it has no evidence of X is the murderer, Poirot makes the investigation is closed so that he and Hastings are free to work “undercover”, we would say today. Moreover, he confesses that he testified, but “not under oath.”
Hastings is afraid that something else will happen. In fact, a second murder occurs, and this time under impossible conditions: Norton is found with a bullet in front of her room, locked from the inside, and the key is found in the pocket of his robe, once the door is forced . The window was found locked from inside. This can only be suicide.
Hastings swears to Poirot that he saw Norton (limping) wearing his robe, closed room. But despite Norton has been found with gun in hand, according to Poirot it was murder.
From who? And how?
Following are just fireworks.
And one of these concerns Poirot. That dies from a heart attack.
Then, four months after a letter delivered to Hastings will explain everything: how are the three deaths occurred, as there was an attempted murder, but two, as until to murder of Franklin, there were two murders and a real potential. After the murder of Franklin, there were a potential murderer and two real. After the murder of Norton, there were two killers. After the death of Poirot, only a murderer there was. However, he isn’t X but…
I do not know how others think, but I think the Queen had read and enjoyed The misterious affair at Styles, when they wrote The Siamese Twins Mystery. Agatha Christie was in fact the story of two brothers and a stepmother, who was then remarried to a younger man, and murder her, of which he is falsely accused one of the brothers, the Queen, the story of murdered a surgeon, and 2 twin brothers are falsely suspected. In both come into the picture two possible murders of spouses.
But, then, just as Christie would probably have read the works of Queen. For the last four words of the novel, Mark of Cain, we refer to Ellery Queen, to many of his works: the radio play The Adventure Of The Mark of Cain, the novel The King is Dead, a chapter of “Once Was a Woman” , which is called “The Mark of Cain“. but at the same “The Siamese Twin Mystery” to “X.”
X refers us to Dr. Xavier, but also to twice. A Janus-faced: and this, Curtain – The Poirot‘s Last Case, is another novel on the double, we could say the novel on double Christie‘s: because there are four murders, and these four until the end does not seem so. One has never killed, but killed many, and another killed one out of necessity, to save lives, but has not been indicted even praised, and now kills still need to save lives, but no one would think that killed and another still kills, but does not know who killed, and the fourth, which would kill another, ends up a mistake, not his, .. to kill himself.
We could call it, as for Ellery Queen, a “Tragedy of Errors“. It certainly seems that those who read the novel, because much more happens, and in this much, many other errors and misunderstandings and characteristic behaviors , that are explained in the cathartic final. Among the behaviors we point out, the “strange” resume the limp of Poirot, who limps as fifty years before.
The limp enters by force in final explanation.
Why to Styles Court, Christie decided to set his first and his last novel in the series of Poirot? I do not know, but certainly Styles Court, had to play in the Christie almost a symbolic value: there he began his fortune, there had to end.
Few people know that when she wrote her first Poirot, the house where she lived with her husband, Colonel Christie, was called Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire. And from the house before her husband went away in 1926 stating that he had a lover, then she ran away (the famous escape and temporary disappearance).
The melancholy of Poirot, in this last novel, is very strong: we see him suffering, and for the first time unable to make reasonable decisions in respect of a murderer who doesn’t dirty his hands ..
That of perfectmurder is a way that comes from afar, and that, through various shades, Agatha has explored several times, also engaging fictional experiments, which were not really peculiar, belonging to other British authors (Heyer, Crispin, Wentworth, eg.). For example, the possibility of spreading hate and resentment through the correspondence. For my part, I see a very strong similarity between these odious systems to bring the evil in the community (the weakest inducing killing or causing others to kill), and the system adopted by the assassin X present in this novel through a psychological sensitivity very strong, and doomed to evil, he causes certain people to kill others, touching the right time “some string“.
In short, a novel that seems to say so anything, but in reality is, in my opinion, a true masterpiece.
Pietro De Palma