Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
|Author Agatha Christie|
Cover artist Lambart
Country United Kingdom
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date September 1933
Media type print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by The Thirteen Problems
Followed by The Hound of Death
Jane Wilkinson, an actress, is suspected of murdering her husband, the fourth Baron Edgware, so that she can marry the Duke of Merton. The plot begins with Jane asking Poirot to convince her husband to agree to a divorce. When Poirot reluctantly does so, Edgware says that he has already agreed to a divorce and written a letter to Jane informing her of the fact. When Poirot reports this to Jane, she denies ever having received such a letter.
On the night of the murder, Wilkinson supposedly goes to the Edgware house, announces herself to the butler, and goes into her husband's study. The next day, Lord Edgware is found murdered and Chief Inspector Japp tells Poirot all about it. But in that morning's newspaper, they discover an article about a dinner party that was held the previous evening where Jane Wilkinson was reportedly a guest.
At the party, there were thirteen guests at the dinner table. One guest mentioned that thirteen people at table means bad luck for the first guest to rise from the table (hence the alternative title of the book Thirteen At Dinner) and Jane Wilkinson was the first to rise. Among the guests is a writer named Donald Ross, who spent a lot of the evening speaking with Jane. So the police are, at first, baffled with the case, as is Poirot.
On the same morning as Lord Edgware's murder, comedian/actress Carlotta Adams, who is known for her uncanny impersonations, is found dead due to an overdose of Veronal. A mysterious gold case with the sleeping powder in it is found among her possessions. The case bears an inscription reading: "From D, Paris, November". Poirot tries to decode this and arranges the evidence together.
A few days later, Jane makes an appearance at another dinner party where the guests talk about Paris of Troy. However, the Jane Wilkinson at this dinner party is thinking that the guests, again including writer Donald Ross, are referring to the city in France. Ross can't understand this because, at the party on the night of the murder, Jane was speaking knowledgeably about the mythological Paris. Ross goes to ring up Poirot about his discovery, but before he can say what he discovered, he is stabbed.
In the conclusion to the book, Jane Wilkinson really is the murderer, having paid Carlotta Adams to impersonate her at the party on the night she killed Lord Edgware. Jane's motive for killing Lord Edgware was because the Duke of Merton was an Anglo-Catholic and didn't want to marry a divorced woman. In the last chapter, she writes a letter to Poirot before her execution and tells him how she committed the crime.
With her made up alibi in place, Jane simply takes a taxi to the Edgware house and murders her husband. Later, she and Carlotta meet up in a hotel where they toast Carlotta's successful "performance" and ostensibly so Jane can pay Carlotta. However, Jane slips Veronal into Carlotta's drink, effectively killing her. Jane also discovers a letter Carlotta has written to her sister and is panicked by how Carlotta talks openly in the letter about their arrangement. However, Jane believes she sees a way she can use the letter to her advantage. At the top left hand corner of the second page is the word "she" (referring to Jane paying Carlotta to take her place at the party). Jane tears off the 's' leaving the word 'he'. (Though Poirot initially wonders about the torn corner during his investigation, using his "little grey cells" he eventually figures it out.) Jane then puts the remaining Veronal phials inside the gold case to make it look as if Carlotta was a Veronal addict. Jane ordered the gold case the week prior, which Poirot discovers when he questions the engravers. He further realises that "November" was engraved on the case specifically to throw him off. Unbeknownst to Jane, Carlotta had been an expert on Greek Mythology, so she talked a lot about the subject with Donald Ross. At the second dinner party, Jane realizes she's made a mistake about Paris and has to kill Donald Ross to prevent him from telling Poirot about his discovery that the Jane at the party (on the night of the murder) was not really Jane, but Carolotta Adams.
Thanks & Enjoy!!![/color]