Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot, #15) By Agatha Christie


    Agatha Christie Book Reading Challenge

    BOOK 19 :- JUNE 2020

    4 STARS
    Mystery, Crime, Thriller 3,5. The plot was awesome, but the book's conclusion wasn't good! Mystery, Crime, Thriller One of Agatha Christie's finest with four detectives, four murder suspects, and at least five murders. Poirot is at his best with his incroyable mustache and his little grey cells, magnifique! He decides who the murderer is by their bridge game that night and by their powers of remembrance. Mystery, Crime, Thriller “Cards on the Table. That’s the motto for this business. I mean to play fair.”

    So says the chief investigating officer in this novel, who also says he is a:

    “Great admirer of yours, Monsieur Poirot. Little gray cells – order and method. I know all about it.”

    Such a thought can be fervently echoed by millions of fans of the diminutive Belgian detective, Monsieur Hercule Poirot, worldwide. The 1936 novel, Cards on the Table, is the fifteenth novel by Agatha Christie to feature her perennially popular detective, and Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard is the investigator with a brain to (almost) match Poirot’s own.

    Superintendent Battle features in other stories by Agatha Christie, as does Colonel Race, who is a British secret agent. A third recurring character is Ariadne Oliver, an endearing crime mystery writer, who makes her first appearance in Poirot’s company here. However, this is not Mrs. Ariadne Oliver’s debut. She did have a brief earlier role in the Parker Pyne short story “The Case of the Discontented Soldier”. Sadly the amiable and ever-helpful Captain Arthur Hastings does not appear in this novel, but as can be seen, we do have plenty of other favourite characters to fill the gap.

    Amateur sleuths among Agatha Christie’s readers will have realised that we already have four detectives in the novel, which is surely curious. In fact they form part of a carefully chosen set of guests, invited by the mysterious Mr. Shaitana, who is hosting an unusual dinner party. Mr. Shaitana seems to be a bit of a dandy:

    “The whole of Mr. Shaitana���s person caught the eye – it was designed to do so. He deliberately attempted a Mephistophelian effect. He was tall and thin; his face was long and melancholy; his eyebrows were heavily accented and jet black; he wore a moustache with stiff waxed ends and a tiny black imperial. His clothes were works of art – of exquisite cut – but with a suggestion of the bizarre”

    Interestingly, “Shaitana” is a Hindi word, meaning “Devil”. Mr. Shaitana does seem to be universally disliked:

    “Every healthy Englishman who saw him longed earnestly and fervently to kick him!”

    Is this because of his extravagant sense of style? Or his supreme confidence? Or is there perhaps a touch of envy in those who know him?:

    “He existed richly and beautifully in a super flat in Park Lane … and gave wonderful parties – large parties, small parties, macabre parties, respectable parties and definitely “queer” parties.”

    Nevertheless, “He was a man of whom nearly everybody was a little afraid. Why this … was so can hardly be stated in definite words. There was a feeling, perhaps, that he knew a little too much about everybody. And there was a feeling, too, that his sense of humour was a curious one.”

    Ah, there we have it. Each invited guest must be wondering why they have been given such preferential treatment, and perhaps too, they also might wonder what Mr Shaitana knows about them.

    In her foreword, Agatha Christie has told us the sort of detective story she does not like:

    “Spot the least likely person to have committed the crime and in nine times out of ten your task is finished …

    “I prefer to warn them beforehand that this is not that kind of book. There are only four starters, and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime. That knocks out forcibly the element of surprise … They are four widely divergent types, the motive that drives each one of them to crime is a peculiar to that person, and each one would employ a different method. The deduction must, therefore, be entirely psychological, but it is none the less interesting for that, because when all is said and done it is the mind of the murderer that is of supreme interest.”

    This could almost be Poirot thinking. And so, we see the author’s thoughts made concrete, for our entertainment.

    Mr. Shaitana was a man of great taste, and he was also a great collector of rare objects. When he met Hercule Poirot, seemingly by accident, he mentioned that one of his strangest collections was of people who had committed murder. Moreover, because he only collected “the best”, he only collected the ones who got away with it. “The successes!” An idea suddenly occurred to Mr. Shaitana. He would host a dinner party, where Poirot would be able to meet these “exhibits” for himself. Was Poirot interested?

    How could Poirot resist? What an opportunity to get his little grey cells working. And so we move to the actual dinner.

    There are eight guests. Four are people who had once been suspected of murder, and four are the detectives. All the guests are pleasant and charming. There is Doctor Geoffrey Roberts, a cheerful and successful middle aged medical practitioner, and Mrs Lorrimer, a widow of sixty, who is an expert bridge player. There is Miss Anne Meredith, a shy young woman who used to work as a companion to various elderly ladies, and Major John Despard, a lean handsome man who is an explorer and safari hunter. The conversation seems varied enough, covering conventional topics such as films, books and politics, but also – and perhaps more significantly – poisons, and how to cure sleeping sickness.

    After dinner, the guests retire to play contract bridge. All the four sleuths play cards in one room, while the others play in another room. Mr. Shaitana declines to play, and meanders between the rooms following the games of bridge being played. He finally settles down to relax, in a big chair by the fireplace in the smoking room, where the suspects play their game, as the light gradually fades at the end of the day. After the sleuths’ game has ended, Colonel Race goes through to where Mr. Shaitana is sitting in the shadows, and then quietly calls Poirot over.

    Poirot and Colonel Race see that the flamboyant Mr. Shaitana has been silenced for ever: stabbed in the chest, with a weapon from his own collection. Mr. Shaitana had tempted Providence, and he had lost.

    As Poirot said:

    “Shaitana was a man who prided himself on his Mephistophelian attitude to life. He was a man of great vanity. He was also a stupid man – that’s why he is dead.”

    As Ariadne Oliver had noticed, Mr. Shaitana mentioned “the black angel” which Inspector Battle picked up:

    “A neat little reference to poison, to accident, to a doctor’s opportunities, to shooting accidents. I shouldn’t be surprised if he signed his death-warrant when he said those words.”

    The blurb tells us the name of the victim in the first sentence, which is not usually something we would welcome knowing in advance. However, Agatha Christie’s set-up for this murder mystery is both audacious, and yet brilliantly simple:

    “In the opinion of Mr Shaitana, each of these four people had committed murder. Had he evidence? Or was it a guess.”

    Surely the host would not have expected himself to be a victim? Suicide whilst putting the blame on another, also seems to be precluded, by the vicious method of the crime. It is an intriguing murder puzzle in itself – and then the many layered complexity of this case hits us. We realise that we also have four other possible murders to solve, and that these are reverse murders, where we know the identity of the murderer, but not necessarily the victim, or the crime.

    We have been subtly invited by the Queen of Crime to solve five murder mysteries in one!

    The four detectives agree to take one each of the other four guests, to investigate as the possible murderer one-to-one. Since each happens to suspect a different guest, the allocation of guests is straightforward. As Ariadne Oliver herself remarks:

    “The four murderers and the four sleuths – Scotland Yard. Secret Service. Private. Fiction. A clever idea.”

    To help his own part of the investigation, Poirot decides to take the score sheets which each of the guests made in their bridge game, in case it should reveal something untoward. His approach, as he says, is always from the psychological angle; looking for the motive and psychology behind the murder, to ascertain the truth. Yet he knows others might think some of the details he focuses on to be foolish:

    “I never think your questions foolish, M. Poirot,” said Battle. “I’ve seen too much of your work. Everyone’s got their own way of working.”

    and when he is asked by Poirot to describe his own style, Inspector Battle replies:

    “A straightforward, honest, zealous officer doing his duty in the most laborious manner – that’s my style. No frills. No fancy work. Just honest perspiration. Stolid and a bit stupid – that’s my ticket.”

    But Major Despard sees through his act, and when another guest describes the Inspector as “rather stupid”, comments:

    “That, I should imagine, is part of Battle’s stock-in trade … He’s an extraordinarily astute man. A man of remarkable ability.”

    This is, in my opinion, one of the best Poirot novels. Even the title is a riddle, with a double meaning. Superintendent Battle says that Cards on the Table was to be their motto, but the entire plot of novel is based on the theme of playing cards. All the potential murderers played the card game, contract bridge, as the main murder was actually committed. A third interpretation of the title is another metaphor. To play contract bridge demands a certain level of skill, and ability to take risks. This also forms part of Poirot’s method: a close analysis, and study of the psychology of each individual.

    Cards on the Table is multi-layered, with at least five separate possible murders to solve. Yet because it is so well structured, it is straightforward to read. As Agatha Christie herself remarked, we have a small set of characters to choose from, and each is completely different in their personality and motives. We readily engage with each, and because they are attached to different sleuths, we follow their cases without difficulty. This is not to say, however that they are easy to solve. Quite the reverse.

    Despite the genuine clues, Agatha Christie deftly leads us along false trails and feeds us many red herrings. There are bodies galore, with several murders in the past as well as the present one – plus a future murder, a future suicide and a future accidental death. There is romance – and deceit. A hired actor is employed by one of the detectives, to great effect. And, astoundingly, the entire plot turns on the game of bridge, and the bids made, alongside the guests’ memories of the room they were in. Poirot’s bases his theory upon the murderer’s recollection of the bridge game. The solution to the murder is an analytical one – quite brilliant and a complete surprise.

    The writing is subtle, and the humour is delightful. Poirot is as vain as ever, and we love him for it:

    “The question is,” he said, … “can Hercule Poirot possibly be wrong?”
    “No one can always be right,” said Mrs Lorrimer coldly.
    “I am,” said Poirot. “Always I am right. It is so invariable that it startles me. But now it looks, it very much looks, as if I am wrong. And that upsets me!”

    All the detectives spark off each other, and we get in-jokes which refer to other Poirot novels (which I will not quote, for fear of “spoilers”). We get a good impression of Mrs. Ariadne Oliver’s detective novels, with her hero “Sven”. She has authored thirty-two detective novels, and the part where she describes the difficulties of her craft is very droll. Take this exchange:

    “Women,” said Mrs. Oliver, “are capable of infinite variation. I should never commit the same type of murder twice running.”
    “Don’t you ever write the same plot twice running?” asked Battle.”

    And Poirot proceeds to identify two of her novels which are essentially the same plot. There is a good-humoured teasing relationship which exists between her and Poirot, which is a joy to read about. I feel there is part of Agatha Christie herself in both of these characters.

    Cards on the Table was adapted by Leslie Darbon as a stage play in London’s West End in 1981, although without Hercule Poirot! Gordon Jackson played Superintendent Battle and the cast included Derek Waring, Belinda Carroll, Mary Tamm and Patricia Driscoll. Agatha Christie herself had liked to adapt her novels as plays, but never included Poirot as the detective, as she did not feel that any actor would be able to portray him successfully. It is a shame she did not live long enough to see David Suchet’s incarnation, which seems well nigh perfect.

    David Suchet starred in the entire canon of Poirot stories for ITV, over many years, and the adaptation of Cards on the Table was broadcast in 2006. As usual, David Suchet starred as Hercule Poirot and Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver. However, Nick Dear’s adaptation differs from the novel in so many respects, that it is like a completely different story. The method of the murder, and who committed it, are the same, but otherwise it is really only loosely based on the novel. Several motives are different, two of the detectives are replaced, and there are even different deaths.

    However Cards on the Table has also been adapted for radio by BBC Radio 4, featuring John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot, Donald Sinden as Colonel Johnny Race, and Stephanie Cole as Ariadne Oliver. This adaptation is much more faithful to the plot of the novel.

    Agatha Christie had warned us in her foreword that the novel has only four suspects and the deduction must be purely psychological. Amusingly, she also said that this was one of the favourite cases of Hercule Poirot, while his friend Captain Hastings found it very dull. She then wonders how her readers will feel.

    I find myself agreeing with Hercule! Mystery, Crime, Thriller I'm done! It feels like I am finishing books up so slowly lately - June wasn't a strong reading month.

    Thanks to Hercule Poirot, it ended well - the Belgian detective dominates the story from start to finish. That may sound like it's something needless to say, but Agatha Christie did tend to have some Poirot books where the beloved detective didn't even show up until the second half or toward the end. In this case we open up with him at a party and end with him entertaining survivors.

    The story was fascinating. While it wasn't her strongest mystery, who cares because I loved the general concept. Poirot was invited along with three other detectives of sorts (one mystery novelists, a Scotland Yard Detective, etc) to have dinner with four murderers who had gotten away with it. When the party host is found dead in front of all the guests, they had four suspects.

    Blending the past murders with the present was interesting enough, but it was the time Christie took to dig into various motivations and personality traits that was the actual winner here. Sometimes her story takes so much focus that characters play mere backdrop counterparts, but in this case the paper people are individually drawn and convincingly motivated.

    It may not be the most exciting in her library, but so far it's one of my many favorites. The story speeds by and it stays intriguing from start to finish. The ending line was just hilarious too - have to love the people who dare to tease the detective.
    Mystery, Crime, Thriller

    I credit Agatha Christie with spawning my early love of the dark, hidden psychology that lurks in all of us. I started reading her at the age of nine (explains a lot, doesn't it?). I have, therefore, a soft spot in my heart for her. This particular time in my life called for a comfort read - something akin to macaroni and cheese or a plate of brownies - and marks the first time in decades that I've revisited this particular work.

    It's funny to observe Agatha Christie now, as a critical reader. The first thing I noticed was 99.5% of this book is dialogue. She also uses the adjective Mephistophelian about 17 times (approximately 16 times too many). There's almost no description of setting or mood, and her characters are more types than fully fledged beings.

    BUT. The plot is marvellous, ridiculous, and audacious, all at the same time. In short: Mr. Shaitana, a Mephistophelian man, in addition to being Mephistophelian, is a collector. He collects snuff boxes, various curios... and... murderers. The very best murderers, to be sure, which means, murderers who haven't been caught. Yet. After meeting the great moustachioed detective Hercules Poirot, Shaitana decides to host a party to show off his evil little collection. Well, you can imagine how THAT party goes.

    Even though the constant dialogue is a bit suffocating, the vocabulary somewhat lacking, and character development fairly limited, I have to say, Dame Christie knows her way around a mystery like none other. She keeps you guessing, right to the end. Thoroughly enjoyable. As enjoyable as a plate of brownies, minus the calories and inevitable self-loathing that comes with it.

    Now... on to a re-read of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.... Mystery, Crime, Thriller Another great Christie mystery.

    Colonel Race meets Hercule Poirot! Not only that but Ariadne Oliver arrives and crunches on a few apples, foreshadowing what happens in Hallowe'en Party. Another Christe regular, Superintendent Battle, also shows up to make this a pretty large party of recurring characters.

    When slimy collector, Mr. Shaitana, invites Poirot to his home to see a collection of murderers, our little Belgian detective can't resist. Colonel Race (secret service), Ariadne Oliver (mystery writer), and Superintendent Battle (police detective) are also all there as unwitting observers to Shaitana's impressive assembly.
    On the other side of the table are four seemingly respectable guests - Dr. Geoffrey Roberts, Mrs. Lorrimer, Major John Despard, & Anne Meredith.

    A few odd comments (taunts?) are made by the host to some of the guests at dinner, but as they retire to play bridge all seems well.
    That is, until Shaitana is found dead in his chair from a stabbed through the heart with his own stiletto at the end of the evening.
    Whodunnit and why?

    To solve the murder of Shaitana, Poirot & Co. will have to investigate the history of these four guests who may have gotten away with murder in the past.

    I don't want to ruin anything, so I'll just say this one is another great cozy mystery that any fan of Agatha Christie will probably love. Mystery, Crime, Thriller I consider this case, Hercule Poirot, book #15 as a modern classic. Four detectives and four murder suspects invited to a dinner party, with a predictable result... murder! A well crafted story with some great denouements towards the end. This case also saw the debut of the irrepressible detective fiction writer Ariadine Oliver. 8 out of 12.

    2013 read Mystery, Crime, Thriller Cards On The Table (Hercule Poirot #15), Agatha Christie

    Meeting by chance at an art exhibition, the flamboyant collector Mr Shaitana tells Hercule Poirot of his personal crime-related collection, and invites him to a dinner party to see it. Scoffing at the idea of collecting mere artefacts, Shaitana explains that he collects only the best exhibits: criminals who have evaded justice.

    Poirot's fellow guests include three other crime professionals: secret service man Colonel Race, mystery writer Mrs Ariadne Oliver, and Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard; along with four people Shaitana believes to be murderers: Dr Roberts, Mrs Lorrimer, Anne Meredith, and Major Despard. Shaitana taunts his suspects with comments that each understands as applying only to them.

    The guests retire to play bridge, the crime professionals playing in one room while the others play in a second room where Shaitana relaxes by the fire. As the party breaks up, Shaitana is found to be dead – stabbed in the chest with a stiletto from his own collection.

    None of the suspects can be ruled out, as all had left their places at the table during the evening. Leading the police investigation, Superintendent Battle agrees to put his cards on the table and to allow the other professionals to make their own enquiries. Poirot concentrates on the psychology of the murderer.

    The investigators look into the suspects' histories: the husband of one of Dr Roberts' patients died of anthrax shortly after accusing the doctor of improper conduct; and a botanist that Despard had been guiding through the Amazon was rumored to have been shot.

    Anne's housemate Rhoda Dawes tells Mrs Oliver in confidence about an incident that Anne has been concealing, when an elderly woman for whom Anne was acting as companion died after mistaking poison for syrup of figs. Mrs Lorrimer's husband had died twenty years earlier, though little is known about that. ...

    عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «ورقها روی میز»؛ «شیطان به قتل میرسد»؛ «اتفاق بعد از شام»؛ نویسنده: آگاتا کریستی؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: یکی از روزهای سال1993میلادی

    عنوان: شیطان به قتل میرسد؛ نویسنده: آگاتا کریستی؛ مترجم: جمشید اسکندانی؛ تهران، نشر روایت، سال1372، در535 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، ثالث، سال1392؛ در414ص؛ شابک9789643808860؛ موضوع: داستانهای پلیسی و کارآگاهی از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده ی20م

    عنوان: اتفاق بعد از شام؛ نویسنده: آگاتا کریستی؛ مترجم: محمدحسین عباسپور تمیجانی؛ تهران، تمندر، سال1374، در320 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، سبز آرنگ، چاپ دوم تا چهارم سال1378؛ در320 ص؛ شابک9649176888؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، راه کمال، سبز آرنگ، سال1385؛ در320ص؛ شابک9649686940؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، محیا، سال1390، شابک9789645577962؛

    عنوان: ورقها روی میز؛ نویسنده: آگاتا کریستی؛ مترجم: مجتبی عبدالله نژاد؛ تهران، هرمس، کارآگاه، سال1395، در278ص؛ شابک9789643639778؛

    آدم با چشم وجدان، خیلی چیزها را، به مراتب بهتر از چشم اصلی میبیند؛ پوآرو

    شیطانا، فردی ثروتمند، با حالت و چهره ای اهریمنی، که دوستدار گردآوری کلکسیون اشیای ارزشمند است، او در دیدارش به «پوآرو»، میگوید: «چه جالب بود اگه کلکسیونی از انسانهایی که جنایت کردند را گردآوری میکردم»؛ و «پوآرو» در پاسخش میگوید: «اینکار به نظرم جالب نیست»؛ شیطانا، هشت تن از جمله «پوآرو» را، به خانه اش دعوت میکند؛ سه کاراگاه، و رمان نویسی به نام خانم «اولیور»، و چهار تن دیگر که گمان میکند، یکی از اینها مرتکب قتل شده است؛ سپس چهار کاراگاه، و رمان نویس با هم، و چهار تن از افرادی که یکی از آنها مرتکب قتل شده، مشغول بازی بریج میشوند، و پیش از بازی؛ شیطانا، قاتل واقعی را، تحریک میکند؛ پس از بازی، جسد «شیطانا» پیدا میشود، و «پوآرو»، با یاری جستن از سلولهای خاکستری مغز خویش، پرده از راز جالبترین پرونده ی خویش برمیدارد؛ جالب اینکه هیچ چیز، که به قاتل مربوط باشد، پیدا نمی‌شود، و «پوآرو»، در آغاز، از امتیازات بازی بریج، استفاده کرده، و فکر قاتل را دنبال میکند، و سرانجام میفهمد، چه کسی به قتل دست زده است

    تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 02/10/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی Mystery, Crime, Thriller Well, how have I missed this one. I don't remember the book or the David Suchet TV version, and yet this was or should I say is, one of my all time favourite Poirot novels.

    The story is an excellent one, with all the twists and turns you can expect from the Dame and for the first time in a while, it also heavily features the enigmatic Poirot, as well as the delectable Ariadne Oliver.

    Without giving the game away, literally, the story is focussed upon a meal hosted by an unpopular man with 8 guests. Following the meal the guests split into 2 , with 4 people playing Bridge in one room, and 4 others (all detectives in their way) playing Bridge in the next door room. Mr un-Popular is sat by the fire relaxing through an evening of Bridge. At the end of the evening after many rubbers (!) Mr un-Popular is found dead.
    Poirot and Mrs Oliver being 2 of the detectives are ably joined by a Police Superintendent and a Secret Service operative (the other two players) in their investigation of the only 4 possible suspects.
    After many twists and turns, red herrings and blind alleys the denouement is a lot more than expected.

    This is truly a great detective story and could be held up as a paragon of the genre. Thoroughly enjoyed and thoroughly recommended. Certainly a big contender for my book of the month Mystery, Crime, Thriller

    Mr. Shaitana is famous as a flamboyant party host. Nevertheless, he is a man of whom everybody is a little afraid. So when he boasts to Hercule Poirot that he considers murder an art form, the detective has some reservations about accepting a party invitation to view Shaitana’s private collection.
    Indeed, what begins as an absorbing evening of bridge is to turn into a more dangerous game altogether. Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot, #15)

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