Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

January 10, 2011

Plot summary (with spoilers): There’s a revolution taking place in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Ramat, which forces Prince Ali Yusuf to flee the country. Before leaving, he gives his best friend/pilot Bob Rawlinson for safekeeping a small bag containing nearly a million dollars in precious stones to smuggle out of the country. Since Bob will be flying the Prince himself, he decides to hand the stones off to his sister, Joan Sutcliffe. But she’s not at the hotel when Bob goes to visit her, so he hides the jewels in her belongings. This action is witnessed by a mysterious woman in the next room.

Soon we learn that both Prince Yusuf and Bob Rawlinson died in a plane crash as they were trying to escape from Ramat. We further learn that Mrs. Sutcliffe’s belongings were searched at a hotel, and her home was ransacked — which brings British agents onto the scene. They figure Bob Rawlinson planted something in his sister’s luggage, but they’re not quite sure what it is. As a result, they plant an agent, Adam Goodman, at the prestigious Meadowbank School where Mrs. Sutcliffe’s daughter Joan is a student.

The scene then changes to the girls’ prep school, where we meet some of the instructors and students. Just as the term gets underway, the new gym teacher, Ms. Springer, is found shot to death in the Sports Pavilion. This brings Inspector Kelsey on the scene, and he starts the usual questioning of everyone involved. Shortly thereafter, another murder is committed, and then another. Finally, one of the students, Julia Upjohn, gets Hercule Poirot involved.

The rest of the novel then consists of Poirot gathering information and piecing the puzzle together for himself. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out what really happened, and he manages, in his usual way, to unmask the killer in a roomful of people.

Liked:

  • I don’t usually like Christie’s espionage novels, but Cat Among the Pigeons was actually pretty good. There was sufficient action throughout, and it helped that the reader had more information about the hidden jewels than the major players did.
  • I was able to figure out that the jewels were hidden in Joan’s tennis racket before the reveal was made. I knew there had to be a reason Christie focused on the rackets and Joan switching with Julia. When the mysterious woman showed up with a new racket for Joan, that merely confirmed my suspicions.
  • I love it when Poirot gives his grand speech in front of all the assembled players! I don’t think that happened in the last Poirot novel, so I was glad to see Christie go back to this kind of scene once again.
  • I thought having the second murder be entirely unrelated to the first was pretty clever. I’m not sure how Poirot was able to figure that out so easily, though!

Disliked:

  • I kinda thought Ann Shapland, the dangerous spy posing as a secretary, provided a rather cheap solution to the crime. She was able to get a job at Meadowbrook just three months before the school year started? I can’t remember if she did anything to the previous secretary in order to make that position open up, but still… it felt rather contrived to have her be the killer.
  • Not enough Poirot! He didn’t show up until two-thirds of the way through the book. What was up with that?!

Rating:

It’s been a long time since I thought an Agatha Christie book was better than average, but I enjoyed Cat Among the Pigeons quite a bit. I would have preferred more Poirot scenes and some insight into his deductive reasoning, but the end result was still pretty good. I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

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