This is one of my finds from the book sale chosen because although I’ve read many of her books I don’t actually own any.
Hickory Dickory Dock was first published in the UK in 1955 and was the first full length story to feature Hercule Poirot’s ultra-efficient secretary Miss Felicity Lemon, although she had previously appeared in some of short stories featuring the Belgium detective.
When Miss Lemon makes an uncharacteristic mistake, or three, in a letter Poirot realises that something is amiss with his usually precise secretary. His questioning leads him to discover that Felicity Lemon has a life outside her work, and she is troubled by a problem her sister is having. The delightfully named Mrs Hubbard is the warden of a boarding house in Hickory Road, London. Items have gone missing and others have been destroyed.
Fortunately, Poirot doesn’t have any murders to solve and is at a bit of a loose end so he decides to lend a helping hand. When he meets Mrs Hubbard he congratulates her “unique and beautiful problem.” As in the best Christie tradition the number of suspects is contained to those living or working in the house and as their lives are gently probed by the detective secrets are revealed. Soon there is a death and as tensions in the house reach fever-pitch Poirot is determined to find the perpetrator.
As much as I enjoyed the story, I found this book equally fascinating as a snapshot of the time it was set in. The boarding house is home to a number of students, both English and foreign with the house split in half to ensure proprietary between the sexes although they all mixed on the communal ground floor. There are frequent references to communists and the way some of the foreign residents are portrayed made me wince at times, not just because of what was said but because the author was clearly writing for her audience and the prevailing views of the times. However this book also features more modern crimes with the police grappling with drug smuggling which I hadn’t realised was a concern in the 1950’s.
This is a clever little puzzle with the clues available for the amateur sleuth to attempt to compete with the brilliant mind of my favourite detective, Poirot.