Publication Date: 1944
Length: 288 pages
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
This is the April selection for the Read Christie 2023 challenge. I just love the cover and the title, it is such a contrast of festive and celebratory with the sinister. Having many other books to get through right now and being a teacher in the middle of testing season I wasn't sure I was going to add another Christie book to my TBR pile. But I am glad I didn't skip this one. It was a quick, easy read but with a fun premise that kept me intrigued. I think I'm becoming a Christie fan after all!
One year ago Rosemary Barton died suddenly at her birthday party, ghoulishly falling over at dinner, blue and gasping from the poison she ingested. It is assumed that she committed suicide due to her depression after recovering from a serious bout of flu, however her younger sister Iris Marle is not so sure. Living under the guardianship of her widower brother in law, George, Iris has discovered that Rosemary was having an affair prior to her death and was planning to leave her husband. Evidence that she was deserted by her love leads Iris to think this was the true cause of her depression. As more unfolds, it begins to seem as if Rosemary's death may in fact not be suicide at all, but rather, murder.
In the first part of the story we are introduced one by one to the other guests at the table. There is Ruth Lessing, George's faithful, hard working secretary, Anthony Browne, the American who appears unscrupulous and having had a previous affair with Rosemary, quickly tired of her. The married Farradays, Stephen and Sandra, who are part of the upper crust, Stephen in Parliament and Sandra an heiress of the powerful Kidderminster family, and finally George, who comes across as a rather boring, dutiful, cuckolded husband. When George arranges to recreate the dinner a year later, hoping to expose the possible murderer of his former wife, he is in fact poisoned in the same way, at the same table, in the exact same restaurant. It seems highly unlikely that this a coincidence and now all the members of the dinner party are bewildered and concerned about who might be next.
The detective for this story is neither Hercule Poirot nor Miss Marple, but rather one I'd never heard of before....Colonel Race. He is a former military fellow and astute to the goings on around him, trying to warn George not to take things into his own hands. I didn't feel like I got to know him very well here but I see he appears in other books (had no idea!) and might need to read one to get a better idea of his personality.
I enjoyed this book and liked how the first part went through each main character and their link to Rosemary. I was kept guessing throughout and although I was ultimately correct about who the murderer was, I was way off as to the why they did it. It was very cleverly crafted and with details I only saw after finishing the story, a hallmark of so many of Christie's books I now notice. It is amazing how the pieces all end up fitting together in the end.