Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Hickory Dickory Dock – Agatha Christie

Hickory Dickory Dock
4*’s Crime Fiction

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.

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

20 thoughts on “Hickory Dickory Dock – Agatha Christie

  1. Cleo – I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I agree completely that as much as anything else, it’s a look at the times – at the era. Christie I think was very skilled at holding up a mirror to her society, and this is an example of it. I also like the way she builds tension as we find out more and more about the various residents of the hostel.

    1. It has been far too long since my last AG and because of my interest in social history I really loved the spotlight on the attitudes especially when it shows how different they are to sixty years ago. She was a master of pointing her sleuths in the wrong direction by revealing different aspects of the characters.

  2. This was one of my favorite Agatha Christie titles when I was in a serious Christie phase in high school–in fact, I still have my paperback copy! You’re right–this book is definitely a product of the times back then, which adds a whole separate dimension to the mystery aspect. (I was also a big Poirot fan, but never really got into Miss Marple too much!)

    1. My only gripe was the title link wasn’t quite as clever as some of the other nursery rhyme ones. I don’t think I ever noticed the time period standing out so much when I read these first (probably because they were just in the ‘olden days’ then!)
      It’s funny how the two sets appear to be so different to each other but Poirot is definitely the superior!

  3. One of my reading goals is to read some Christie! I never have, but I’ve been gathering recommendations.I’ll add this one to the list!

  4. This is one of those Christies that I enjoy for the atmosphere as much as the plot – as you and several of your commentators point out, it is a wonderful picture of foggy London in a certain era, and the whole boarding-house scene – the foreign students, the petty quarrels, the men and women trying to get together – is highly entertaining I think.

    1. You have got that spot on. I think AC paints an exceptionally good picture of the era, even though I was surprised by the mention of drugs, as well as the wide variety of inhabitants of the boarding-house. Human nature hasn’t evolved and we can all relate to the petty squabbles.

  5. I must put up a defence of Miss Marple here! I wonder if you would feel the same about them if you read them again now. I think her way of getting to the root of things through her knowledge of how people work is something that perhaps we can appreciate more as we…ahem…mature ourselves. I challenge you to read Murder at the Vicarage or The Moving Finger…

    PS The cats are very upset that no-one has mentioned Tommy & Tuppence.

    1. Hmm… perhaps you are right, I appreciated a whole lot more in this one than I did at the first reading (at a more tender age) so I will look out for one of your recommendations at the next book sale! I have to admit I don’t think I’ve read a Tommy & Tuppence 😉

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