Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, published in 1975, was the last book put out before Agatha Christie’s death. It was, in fact, written some thirty years prior, in the mid-1940s, intended to be published after her death.
It is probably because of this intentional gap between when it was written and published that the story feels a little superficial.
Reading it, you can hardly tell which twentieth century decade it is set, what the characters wear, which social class they belong to — everything a reader today demands to correctly place a story in context.
Agatha Christie could not have known in 1945 when she wrote this book what the world would look like at her death. So, she chose to skimp on details and scene creation to keep her story timeless and undateable. This leaves the story a little vague and me as a reader in 2021, unsatisfied.
Yet, despite my seemingly negative tone, I did enjoy the book and decided to break it down along four axes for the purposes to this analysis.
- Plot and story development
- Atmosphere and scene setting
- Characters and character development
- Readability and immersion
Plot and story development
Usually, the detective in a murder mystery only appears after the murder is committed but not so here. Here, Poirot appears from the very first pages. In fact, he is at the scene of the story anticipating a murder. How cool is that? You, the reader, are dropped into an emerging crime scene!
In effect, Agatha Christie invites the reader into the mind of Hercule Poirot. We are given most of the same information that Poirot and his assistant, Captain Hastings, are given. Are we clever enough to identify the killer and the victim before Poirot does?
The other interesting outcome of anticipating a murder is that it gives the reader two payoffs — one, will Poirot be able to prevent the murder? Two, if the murder happens, will he catch the killer?