The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

The Thirteen Problems


Rating: 4 Stars


About

A group of people gathers on a pleasant evening. Before long, each of them tells the story of a crime, one they know the conclusion to. The others have to guess at the solution of the story. They tend to forget the elderly lady sitting with them, knitting peacefully. But Miss Marple unerringly comes to the right conclusions.


Review

Agatha Christie knows how to tell a story. And she knows how to weave a plot and throw suspicion so that it’s difficult to guess who did it.

What I love about these stories, however, is that we get a chance to guess. We have all the information the other members of the Tuesday Club have, trying to solve the problem. Yet it still is marvellously difficult to guess correctly.

The Tuesday Night Club

The first story of the night is told by Sir Henry, who used to be with Scotland Yard. Am man, his wife and her companion sit down to a dinner of, among other things, tinned lobster. All of them get ill, but it is the wife, Mrs Jones, who died. And it wasn’t an accident.

The Idol House of Astarte

Close to a lonely house on the moor, a close grove of trees is planted. In the middle, the owner, Sir Haydon, built a temple: A house of idols, dedicated to the goddess Astarte, for whom he believes the trees were planted a long time ago.

When he shows it to the people at his house party, everyone agrees there is a peculiar atmosphere there. What no one guesses is that soon after, Sir Haydon is dead, seemingly struck down out of nowhere.

Ingots of Gold

Raymond West, Miss Marples nephew, visits a friend in Cornwall. John Newman is there to try to get the gold of a sunken Spanish ship. A police inspector from London is also there, looking for gold, but it is the gold of a wreck sunk a mere week before.

When Newman does not come back after his walk, the whole village searches for him and finally finds him, bound. He tells a peculiar story of people bringing something heavy into one of the caves before he was struck down

The Bloodstained Pavement

Joyce Lemprière, a young artist, tells the story of how, one time, she went to a village by the sea to sketch. It was then she noticed a couple arriving and shortly afterwards, a flamboyant woman. A woman greeted by the husband as Carol. They go off bathing together, but only the couple comes back. And Joyce notices some odd bloodstains on the pavement.

Motive v Opportunity

Simon Clode, lost his son and shortly afterwards his granddaughter, whom he loved very much. He took in his brother’s children, but was not as close to them as to his dead grand-daughter. Old, his health failing, he falls for the wiles of a medium and decides to leave all his money to her. But when the will is opened, the paper is blank.

The Thumb Mark of St Peter

Miss Marple tells the story of how her niece Mabel called her for help. She lived in a house with her husband, some servants, his elderly, mad father and the nurse who was there to care for him. Mable’s marriage was not a happy one and they fought often. So when her husband dies of poison, the village suspects Miss Marple’s poor niece.

The Blue Geranium

Colonel Henry Bantry relates the story of a friend of his, George Pritchard. Pritchard was married to a woman who enjoyed being sick and made his life difficult. She had a nurse to look after her and a fondness for fortunetellers. When one of them warns her that her life is in danger and that she will die if she sees a blue geranium, she grows hysterical. And before long, the prophecies of the fortuneteller come true and Mrs Pritchard is dead.

The Companion

On Gran Canaria, Dr Lloyd observes two English gentlewoman: Miss Barton and her companion, Amy Durant. He doesn’t expect to hear anything else, but the next day, Amy Durant is dead. Drowned. And he is not sure there was no foul play. Miss Barton acts oddly and he later discovers that she drowned herself, presumably over guilt of having murdered her companion. But what motive did she have?

The Four Suspects

Dr Rosen has taken refuge in England after he has destroyed a criminal organization called the Schwarze Hand. He is sure they will come after him sooner or later. And in fact, he dies from a fall down the stairs. The only suspects are those that were in the house with him: His niece, his servant of many years, a local gardener and his secretary. One of them had to be in league with the criminals, but who?

A Christmas Tragedy

Miss Marple tells the story of the time she spent at a Hydro. When she sees a young couple, she is immediately sure that the man, Sanders, will murder his wife. And indeed, the young woman is found dead in her room – but her husband has a solid alibi.

The Herb of Death

Mrs Bantry tells of the time she and her husband were guests at Sir Ambrose Bercy’s. After dinner of a duck stuffed with sage and foxglove, all of them feel sick, but Bercy’s young ward, Sylvia, died. She was soon to marry Jerry, but he kissed her friend Maud that same evening. However, it was Sylvia herself who picked the herbs.

The Affair at the Bungalow

Jane Helier, a beautiful actress, narrates a strange story. A young playwright is called to a bungalow, where a woman that says she is Jane Helier wants to talk to him. He accepts a drink from her and wakes up much later, drugged, in a hedge, when he is arrested by police and accused of burglary.

Death by Drowning

This is the one story that is not told to the club but instead happens right in St Mary Mead.

Rose is a beautiful village girl for whom Joe Ellis has had feelings for a long time. Rose, however, gets pregnant from a young architect. Presumably because she couldn’t face her father, she throws herself into the river and drowns. Except it wasn’t suicide. It was murder.


Conclusion

A short story collection full of fun, interesting stories. And it is really interesting to guess along.

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