Mrs McGinty's Dead (by Agatha Christie)

I only started reading Agatha Christie books a few years ago. I was pleasantly surprised - they're light, they're mostly very cleverly written, and they're not as gory as I had expected. I don't enjoy them sufficiently to buy them new, but when I see one in a charity shop which we don't already have, I usually buy it.

Hence the arrival of 'Mrs McGinty's Dead' on my to-be-read bookshelf a week or so back. I wanted a short, light read a couple of days ago, so picked it up.

It's a standard mystery novel. Hercule Poirot is asked to investigate the death of a charwoman some months previously. Someone has been tried and convicted, but the police officer involved in the case is convinced that the wrong person is in prison. So Poirot gets to know the residents of the village, and - of course - eventually figures out 'whodunit'.

Agatha Christie's primary skill is in her plotting, along with the laying of false clues to lull the reader into a false sense of confidence about the perpetrator of her crimes. However, I'm always less impressed with her characters, who tend to be two-dimensional and sometimes hard to distinguish from each other.

Lack of characterisation doesn't matter in a plot-based book where there are only a few people. But in this one, there are more individuals than I could remember, and I frequently lost the train or logic when Poirot was having discussions or making deductions.

Moreover, I worked out who was the guilty party about half-way through the book. I thought I had probably followed a neatly laid false clue, only to find that I had in fact spotted a real one. I haven't read a Christie for quite some time, so was surprised to get it right.

It was all right for a light read for anyone who is a fan of this genre or author, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it. Agatha Christie has written much better books. Still, it's evidently popular with many since it's still in print, over 50 years after it was written, in several versions in both the UK and USA. There's even a new edition that's a facsimile of the original.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 9th February 2009

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