Name: Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot #17)
Author: Agatha Christie
Number of Pages: 320 (Kindle)
Published: July 5th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published November 1st 1937)
Genre: Mystery, Crime
Beloved detective Hercule Poirot embarks on a journey to Egypt in one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries.
The tranquility of a luxury cruise along the Nile was shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway had been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. A girl who had everything . . . until she lost her life.
Hercule Poirot recalled an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: “I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.” Yet under the searing heat of the Egyptian sun, nothing is ever quite what it seems.
A sweeping mystery of love, jealousy, and betrayal, Death on the Nile is one of Christie’s most legendary and timeless works.
All aboard the S. S. Karnak for murder and mystery with Hercule Poirot. All he really wanted was a holiday, but somehow the great detective manages to find himself onboard a steamer on the Nile accompanied by murderers and more. There’s no rest for this detective, not at this point anyway.
Plot-wise we have many tried-and-tested ingredients. Take one famous detective. Add one extremely wealthy heiress, her new husband, and her former friend. Sprinkle in hints of betrayal, jealousy and resentment. Blend with a varied group of travelling companions and a number of concealed secrets and allow to simmer under the heat of the sun on a river cruise along the Nile.
The result? A perfect portion of Death on the Nile.
Initially this is a leisurely paced story. It was about a quarter of the way through before the group boarded the Karnak. Instead, the scene is set at a hotel in Egypt where various parties gather and spend their days, living their own dramas and observing their companions do the same. There’s also the build-up to Linnet’s marriage, which comes as something of a surprise to more than one person. More shocks are in store as Linnet and her new husband Simon set out to enjoy their honeymoon, much to the annoyance of her former friend Jacqueline, who has a strange knack of turning up in whichever location the would-be happy couple visit next.
This leisurely scene-setting allows for some sightseeing for the reader too, which brings me on to…
The setting, which was rich and immersive. I thought you could tell from the descriptions that it was a place Christie had experienced and enjoyed and she captured a real air of it in these pages. The vastness of the place provided a great contrast with the setting of the Karnak. Even in such an idyllic setting it’s possible to feel trapped and closed in, on board a boat with a group of people who may wish you ill, as Linnet comes to believe as the journey progresses.
The pace picks up after the central event, as Poirot sets to work trying to identify the killer, and as always there are plenty of tangled threads to unpick, and a number of red herrings to throw the reader off the scent. There’s a great air of mystery surrounding so many people on this boat, and plenty of intrigue amongst the clues.
I liked Poirot a lot in this novel, and the way he interacted with various passengers, especially the central trio, Linnet and Simon Doyle, and Jacqueline de Bellefort. All three of these characters were intriguing, as were many of their travel companions, some of whom know the newlyweds, some of whom happen to be onboard the Karnak by chance. There’s a vulnerability to some of them that ignites Poirot’s sympathy and compassion, and I liked this side of the character.
The central mystery surrounds who killed Linnet Doyle, but there are many other things going on aboard the boat as well. Imagine all those various people, so many things they would rather remain unknown, all gathered together in one place, at the time of a murder, and in the presence of the great Hercule Poirot. What are the chances?! And how many have something to fear from the presence of the detective and his ‘little grey cells’? It made for some very entertaining reading as I tried to work out who had done what, who was concealing something, and whether everyone was as they initially appeared to be. Many of them had motive for something, but was it for murder?
I wish I could go into this more but it would spoil it (if spoiling such a well-known and well-adapted story can be possible). I knew little of the story going on beyond the obvious ‘death on the Nile’, so was pleasantly surprised.
Reading Death on the Nile was some great escapism and very entertaining. I enjoyed this just as much as Murder on the Orient Express. I hope that whichever Poirot story I choose next (and there remain plenty that I haven’t read yet) I enjoy it as much as this one.