Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie

261 pages
Published 1937, reprinted 1984
by Penguin Group
New York, NY

I am constantly amazed at the number of Agatha Christie novels that I've never heard of -- that is to say, while I knew I have not read all of Christie's mysteries I did think I knew of them all. And yet Dumb Witness, published in 1937 (both in the UK and USA), is yet another totally new-to- me mystery. (And yes, that's very exciting news for me.) Dumb Witness is Christie's 21st detective novel and the 14th with Hercule Poirot as lead detective.

The Plot:
"Everyone blamed Emily’s accident on a rubber ball left on the stairs by her frisky terrier. But the more she thought about her fall, the more convinced she became that someone was trying to kill her. On April 17th she wrote her suspicions in a letter to Hercule Poirot. Mysteriously he didn't receive the letter until June 28th… by which time Emily was already dead." (Summary courtesy of

My Thoughts:
No surprise here, Dumb Witness is another enjoyable "who-dunnit" by the Queen of Crime. I was pleased to find Hastings once more at the side of Hercule Poirot, but likewise saddened to know this is the second to last novel in which the two pair up to solve a mystery.

From the start I found the story fast paced and engaging. As usual with any Christie mystery I challenged myself to solve the crime ahead of Poirot... and as usual I only nearly did. I had the who, but not the why or the how and in the end I had to admit I'd been thrown by a few red herrings and plot twists and had lost again to the genius of the Belgian's little grey cells. But you know, I don't mind. If I can't solve the case then I want to be challenged and entertained and Dumb Witness did just that. The plot was clever and challenged my mental skills. The characters were quirky, lovable, and mysterious; the conversation witty and interesting -- all elements of an entertaining story.

Of course one can not overlook the "dumb witness" in the story, Miss Emily's lovable wire-haired terrier, Bob. It's no surprise that this novel is a favorite amongst mystery and dog lovers. And a fun little fact is that Agatha Christie actually dedicated the novel to her own wire-haired terrier, which she called "A dog in a thousand."

While I can't say that Dumb Witness was my all-time favorite Christie novel, it is definitely up there and made #4 on my top 10 Best Crimes Stories Read in 2009 list. If you haven't read Dumb Witness I encourage you to check it out the next time you're looking for a good ol' who-dunnit.

Next to review: Death On The Nile. Stay tuned!


Caniad said...

Very interesting. When I first read your summary, I thought it sounded a lot like the movie adaptation of How Does Your Garden Grow? But then I realized that there's also been a movie adaptation of Dumb Witness, so I guess Christie just recycled basic plot ideas once in a while.

I think I have the movie version of Death on the Nile (which I read several years ago) winging its way to my house now :)

Nan said...

I can't wait to read this! Thank you for a great review. What a wonderful cover.