29 October 2012

Review: AFTER THE FUNERAL, Agatha Christie

  • first published 1953
  • aka FUNERALS ARE FATAL
  • this version: Hamlyn Publishing AGATHA CHRISTIE CRIME COLLECTION 1970
  • length: 173 pages
  • source: my personal library
Synopsis (Agatha Christie.com)

When Cora is savagely murdered, the extraordinary remark she made the previous day at her brother's funeral takes on a chilling significance.

At the reading of Richard's will, Cora was clearly heard to say, "It's been hushed up very nicely, hasn't it...But he was murdered, wasn't he?"  In desperation, the family solicitor turns to Hercule Poirot to unravel what happened next ...

Published in 1953, and appearing in the United States under the title Funerals are Fatal, Christie dedicated the novel to her nephew, James Watt III "in memory of happy days at Abney", her sister’s family home.
The novel  formed the basis for MGM‘s Murder at the Gallop, although they chose to swap Poirot for Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple and took ‘artistic licence’ with the book’s plot!  It was broadcast in 2006 with David Suchet as Poirot

My take

"Nobody had felt any deep grief for Richard Abernethie's death since none of them had had any close ties with him".

But when his sister Cora makes the suggestion that Richard was actually murdered, and is then viciously murdered herself on the day after his funeral, the long-time family solicitor Mr Entwhistle is upset at the possibility.

At the beginning of the novel the reader is provided with a copy of the Abernethie family tree, indicating who was at Richard's funeral. Once Hercules Poirot is engaged by Mr Entwhistle to investigate any possible connections between Cora Lansquenet's murder and her claim that her brother was murdered, then we are taken fairly systematically through how members of the family will benefit from either death. In the long run it is a very tidy plot.

It is not the first time I have read this novel, but I found that I had only a vague idea of the final resolution. Red herrings abound and as usual and Poirot does not share all his suspicions. The novel ends with his usual collective revealing of the culprit.

As I have been doing with most of the Christie novel I have read so far, I was also looking for the author's commentary on British social life. The novel is set after World War II and and Enderby, the Abernethie family home, once the scene of a privileged life, will have to be sold so that the proceeds of the estate can be divided up amongst Richard Abernethie's heirs. Yet another sign that the old social order is collapsing.

My rating: 4.2

My reviews of Agatha Christie novels can be found here.
This brings my count in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge to 45 novels and 12 short story collections.

3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - I liked this one a lot actually, and I think partly it's because there is this commentary about the new generation as well as the sub-plot of Enderby having to be sold. I see it especially in Susan's determination to make good in her business and her resentment about her uncle's unwillingness to back her.

Marce said...

I haven't heard of this one at all but sounds like I will enjoy it.

She has so many, it is hard to keep up.

Clothes In Books said...

I think this is one of her best ones: the plot might be unlikely, but it is very well-worked-out, the clues are excellent. I have heard people complain that the motive is 'insufficient'(can't say too much for spoilering) but I think she does it so well it is totally convincing!

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