Curtain by Agatha Christie is an unusual novel for my 60 books from 60 years challenge because, although it was published in 1975, it was actually written in the 1940s. It is the final book feathering the author’s famous Belgian Detective Hercule Poirot and it is set in the location of the first The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It is good that the author had written it much earlier in her career because the novels published in her last years were not as good as the earlier ones – I am thinking particularly of Postern of Fate which probably wouldn’t have been published at all had it been written by anyone else.
I have read Curtain before but it was over 25 years ago and I only remembered whodunit and not how and why it was done. I really enjoyed this story which is cleverly written although not really plausible, in my opinion.
Captain Hastings, Poirot’s friend for many years, joins the detective at Styles which is no longer a country house and has become an hotel. Poirot is ill and immobile and wants Hastings to be his assistant one last time. He outlines for his friend a number of recent murders and is clear that they have all been committed by one person who is currently staying as a guest. Poirot won’t tell Hastings who the murderer is but needs him to watch what is happening and for them both to prevent another murder.
Most of the book consists of Hastings watching the other guests and their relationships and trying to work out who the murderer is. Events happen which might be mysterious but might not. Hastings’ daughter is also staying and he is worried because she is involved with a man who he feels is dangerous to her.
This is a typical Agatha Christie puzzle with lots of red herrings and diversions. It doesn’t feel like a book written in the 1970s, for obvious reasons, and the motives and morality of the characters belongs to an older age. I think that Captain Hastings comes out of this story better than in many of the others I have read but Poirot is typically annoying (he is not my favourite Agatha Christie detective).
I am currently reading my way through this author’s books in chronological order (see reviews here, here and here) but am still among the earliest. They are always good for a quick and easy read and the author has to be admired for her ingenuity. Curtain is as good as any of hers I have read and reminds us what a huge talent she had and how very popular she was, and remains.