Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Peril At End House (1932)

PLOT: Who could possibly want to kill the eccentric heiress of a ramshackle house?

Crikey. On one level this is a jolly murder romp with a neat twist ending. On another level this is a very dark game of cat and mouse - and Poirot's not necessarily the cat.

Superficially bright and sunny this is Poirot and Hastings on a seaside holiday taking strolls and, in between cups of tea, trying to save young Nick Buckley from some implausible plots against her life.

Actually, this is a complicated look at the Bright Young Things. We've seen them before in The Secret of Chimneys deftly mixing crime and cocktails, but this is a darker brew. Young Nick may seem like an untidy saint, but her friends paint a blacker picture of the society she mixes in, all involved in drug-smuggling, debt and dirty weekends.

We get Nick's best friend Freddie, who doesn't really like Nick, is off her head most of the time, and yet has a certain integrity. We get the honest naval officer who is anything but and the successful art dealer whose as fast as his car.

This contrasts with two dull cousins - honest Maggie and the lawyer, neither of whom are painted as particularly exciting, and yet both of them are revealed as having a lot more going on than first appears.

This is a book of fragile appearances and constant impersonation - only Poirot and Hastings are who they appear to be. We even reach a stage where Poirot meets some comedy Australians and remarks that they're a bit too comedy Australian to be believable.

By the end of the book, even Poirot is being impersonated as part of a plot involving chocolates that aren't what they appear to be and we've a corpse that isn't what it appears to be and ... oh my lord.

You won't be surprised to hear that this is a book with a good twist ending that sees Poirot more than justify his reputation - and a good job too, as the book has seen characters assuring Poirot that they've never heard of him. As it turns out, that isn't what it appears to be, either.


  1. Ooh, I saw the David Suchet version of this recently. Was fabtastic.

  2. Although the Suchet version leaves at least TWO attempted murders utterly unexplained. No, really - who fired at Nick? Who sent the poisoned chocolates that made her so very ill?

  3. Now I'm not so sad that you've never sent me a present.