When Mr. Shaitana, a flamboyant yet slightly sinister collector and party host, reveals to famous detective Hercule Poirot his newest “crime collection” – that of criminals who have evaded justice – Poirot naturally has some misgivings. These suspicions come to a head during an evening bridge party with the “collected” people, when Shaitana is murdered in full view of the entire room, all of whom have a reason to want their host dead.
The interesting aspect of Shaitana’s bridge party was the even matching of detective to murderer – four of each. The former group consisted of the previously mentioned Hercule Poirot, the mystery writer Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, and secret serviceman Colonel Race. In the latter group, Shaitana had “collected” Dr. Roberts, Mrs. Lorrimer, Anne Meredith, and Major Despard, each one with a criminal past.
Lacking a clear suspect, the detectives are forced to go far back into each person’s history to find the psychological connection between previous crimes and the murder of Shaitana. However, it quickly becomes clear that the murderer has only grown bolder with time, and as red herrings abound, the killer is not afraid to strike again…or again.
Cards on the Table is certainly a departure from Agatha Christie’s usual affair, but the plot is no less tightly woven, nor the end less surprising for it. Christie keeps the reader guessing throughout the novel until the dramatic final reveal. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Christie, or investigative novels in general, because it provides a new perspective to crimes and motives.
Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.