Cat Among the Pigeons
Cat Among the Pigeons: Agatha Christie, December 4—8, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
In Cat Among the Pigeons
, Agatha Christie combines many of her most successful elements in a very readable case. Set in a girls’ boarding school, the quaint middle class character base is a strong feature, and there is an international espionage subplot reminiscent of The Secret Adversary, Man in the Brown Suit
and They Came to Baghdad
. There is also something of a cameo from her iconic sleuth, Poirot.
The ensemble cast features the strong-willed headmistress Miss Bulstrode, co-founder of the school and formidable as they come. Supporting her are a slew of teaching staff and a select few students. One of the best features of the novel is seeing the school from the perspectives of different cast members and getting an insight into the different opinions represented.
There’s a few subplots running that are a little underdeveloped but entertaining enough to follow. The murder itself is less of a how-did-they-do-it, at which Christie often excels, and more of a straightforward whodunit based on the fact practically every character had the opportunity.
The investigation itself is unfocussed and quite ordinary. Inspector Kelsey, while cooperating with Special Branch’s “Adam”, also inexplicably takes Miss Bulstrode into his confidence when she should surely have been a suspect. Very little in the way of investigation actually takes place, with minimal interviewing and next to no seeking and gathering of clues, with instead a small amount of hypothesising forming the sleuthing scenes.
Although billed as a Poirot novel, the Belgian moustaches only arrive at the end after one of the schoolgirls fetches him (having heard of him via Maureen Summerhayes of Mrs McGinty’s Dead
fame). Sadly, his own workings appear to equally occur ‘off-page’, with only his trademark denouement, with the murderer being in this very room, is seen. He isn’t even afforded a chance to speak of his little grey calls or say “Ah bien!
Despite the criminally short shrift for Poirot, the world of Meadowbank School for Girls is a pleasant one to visit, and the story strands keep this short tale moving. There seem to be many missed opportunities for more; Poirot in an all girls’ school could have been comedy gold. This could have been a classic, but instead isn’t even a particularly clever murder mystery. It is simply a short and enjoyable read, and that is quite entertaining on its own merits.