Monday, November 9, 2009

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

213 pages
Published 1935, reprinted 1985
A Bantom Book
published by arrangement with Dodd, Mead & Company
New York, NY

Published in the summer of 1936, both in the UK and the US, Murder in Mesopotamia is the 12th Hercule Poirot novel by Agatha Christie.

For those unfamiliar with the Middle East, the "Mesopotamia" in the title refers to the Tigris-Euphrates region in the eastern Mediterranean, which is largely composed of Iraq, northeastern Syria, and parts of Turkey and Iran. Ms. Christie spent some time in this area of the world with her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan, who was an archaeologist. And it is clearly evident that the Mediterranean had special meaning to Ms. Christie, for she dedicated Murder in Mesopotamia, the first of several novels set in and around the Middle East: "to my many archaeological friends in Iraq and Syria."

The Plot:
"When Amy Leatheran agrees to look after archaeologist Dr. Leidner’s wife at a dig near Hassanieh, she finds herself taking on more than just nursing duties – she also has to help solve murders. Fortunately for Amy, Hercule Poirot is visiting the excavation site. But will the great detective be in time to prevent a multiple murderer from striking again?" (Summary courtesy of

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed solving Murder in Mesopotamia. I found the story's setting to be both unique and interesting. I particularly liked it because I knew Ms. Christie drew upon personal experience when writing this novel. The narration style of this book was somewhat unique in that the narrator was a stranger to the reader and in that sense reminded me a little of The Man in the Brown Suit and The Mystery of the Blue Train. As I have found to be the case with most of her crime novels, the plot was fast moving and interesting, the characters were diverse, and the mystery a little tricky. But unlike several of Agatha Christie's early mysteries I actually managed to solve this one before it was revealed to the reader. I was so pleased with myself!

One fun note is that although Murder in Mesopotamia was published in 1936, the events occur three years in the past in 1933. Readers of Murder on the Orient Express will recall Hercule Poirot has just returned from Mesopotamia when he travels on the Orient Express and solves that murder. (Click on the title to read my review of the novel.)

As I've mentioned before, I used to dislike Hercule Poirot. I'm not sure why as I had not read many of the novels where he was featured. I think from the little I knew of his character I thought him vain and annoying, but I've since changed my opinion. Over the last year I've read twelve novels where he solves the crime and I've really come to admire the character Ms. Christie created as well as the detective. Perhaps he can be a bit vain, but I think within reason. Of course, ask me again when I reach the end of the Poirot mysteries if I've changed my mind. I read once that Agatha Christie was glad to be done with Poirot when she finished her final novel starring the Belgian detective.

For those interested in watching a film version this novel, David Suchet stars in the role of Hercule Poirot in the 2001 adaptation for the Agatha Christie's Poirot series. Suchet, in my opinion is the best actor to play Poirot. Although I have yet to see this movie I read that the character of Captain Hastings was added to the story (he does not make an appearance in the book), which resulted in reducing Amy Leatheran's character drastically.

In summary, on a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate Murder in Mesopotamia a 3.5. I really enjoyed it, but I missed Captain Hastings and the English setting. And while the setting was unique and interesting, I can't say it was a favorite, but still it's a definite must read for fans of Hercule Poirot. Borrow vs. buy this book, unless you intend to collect the complete works of the Queen of Crime, Dame Agatha Christie.

Up next: Another Poirot mystery, Cards On the Table, review to come later this month.

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