Cat Among the Pigeons
by Agatha Christie

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

a Hercule Poirot mystery

Collins: London, 1959
255 pages

Dodd, Mead: New York, 1960

224 pages

March 2009


There's a striking juxtaposition in Agatha Christie's book Cat Among the Pigeons, one of her Hercule Poirot mystery novels. On the one hand we have Meadowbank School, a rich and exclusive girls' school in England, pleasant and very well run. But the teaching, sports, and character-building at the school are sharply affected by the imminence of revolution in a small Middle Eastern country whose hereditary Moslem ruler has a sister beginning the new term at Meadowbank.

Competent police and assorted secret operatives are at hand throughout, but the international murder mystery that develops is quite a tangle of opposing motives and mutually interfering actions. Teachers, administrators, and students; police and spies; English travelers and workers in foreign lands; and lost jewels: all have parts to play, now apparently clear, next abruptly dubious or obscure. Although some action is in the Sheikdom of Ramat, and a little in London, most of the novel describes the pleasant girls' school caught in a squeeze, tightening and unpredictable. Christie's famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, is brought into the case only rather late in the narrative, but (as we safely may foresee), his consultation proves decisive.

After a nicely teasing contents page, Cat Among the Pigeons provides an extensive and annotated cast of characters, twenty-six names, as a lead-in (at least in the copy I read). I avoided this list as I generally avoid publisher's cover blurbs if I intend to read the book anyway. I strongly recommend you do likewise, as the list of people is stuffed full of plot spoilers. The characters as we encounter them in the fiction proper are nicely delineated and not hard to keep track of. Far better to read Agatha Christie's careful and subtle developments as and when she chooses to present them.

As a mystery-novel, Cat Among the Pigeons is rather good Christie. I particularly liked the details of Meadowbank School and its inhabitants, and the tangled collision of school and Sheikdom. Hercule Poirot is, of course, always enjoyable. A good novel.


© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson

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