The classic mystery from the one and only Queen of Crime. And it's "flawless" (New York Times).
"The King of Clubs" - (March, 1923) Valerie Saintclair, the famous dancer, has just been all over the papers, having discovered the murdered body of Henry Reedburn. Prince Paul of Maurania comes to Poirot, since he proposes to marry her, saying (in one breath), "We are living now in more enlightened days, free from the old caste prejudices," while *also* saying that 1) it'll be a morganatic marriage (i.e., the children would be out of the succession), and 2) it doesn't matter because she's actually the daughter of a Russian grand duchess. (He says that she's bound to secrecy, but has let him guess that much).
In other words, Prince Paul is a pompous idiot, who half-suspects Mlle. Saintclair of murdering Reedburn, based on her reaction to a fortuneteller's card reading turning up the king of clubs (a fearsome man holding her in his power), and he's hiring Poirot to find out what really happened. (If you have even a passing acquaintance with that method of fortunetelling, incidentally, don't let Christie's misuse of terms distract you from the facts of the case.)
"The Affair at the Victory Ball" - (March, 1923) The Victory in question was the end of WW I. Young Lord Cronshaw and his fiancee Coco Courtenay attended the ball with several friends, all dressed as characters from the Italian Comedy, he as Harlequin, she as Columbine, and both died that night, she from a cocaine overdose in her flat, he with a table knife through his heart at the ball. (There are no Quin or Satterthwaite appearances, incidentally, despite the Harlequin references.Read more ›
Agatha Christie wrote "Evil Under the Sun" in the early 1940s. It was a time when the second world war had brought widespread misery, pain and austerity. A welcome antidote, therefore was to devise a little budget-priced escapism, to depict a group of guests at a sea-side holiday resort relaxing and exchanging gossip and tittle-tattle as they overlook a beach and the bathers who are using it.
The inane gossip and the lack of suspense in the opening pages might wear your patience, but keep alert! Many significant clues are scattered here.
The subsequent murder and the possible motivation relate mainly to a context of human relationships. A drug smuggling racket is occasionally suggested. Hercule Poirot is present, of course, to lead police, readers, and everybody else to the solution of the mystery, even if he needs to ruin a good pair of shoes and risk seasickness during the hunt.
Addictive and ingenious as her books can be, Agatha Christie's prose and dialogue are not renowned for literary merit. All the more remarkable, therefore, is the contribution of David Suchet. Such is the reading of the great British actor that the banal is transformed into the brilliant, the commonplace into the courtly, and the mediocre into the memorable.
As is typical of many Christie stories, it's one of those secrets that is key to solving the mystery.
Classic Christie puzzle plot with engaging characters. Well-written and a very enjoyable read. Recommended.