Publisher: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1935
Genre: Cozy Mystery
My Rating: C+
Murder In Three Acts (or Three Act Tragedy) is considered one of Hercule Poirot’s stories but I think it’s quite a different role for him. He’s always been the keenest observer of little details, but that’s to be his major function in this story. Well, that as well as solving the mystery.
Mr. Satterthwaite, who I first met in The Mysterious Mr. Quin, is also a good observer and student of human nature. He manages to play a key role in this drama. And, I really mean drama. The story is set in three acts and the action would be well suited to the stage.
Mr. Satterthwaite is a guest at a house party given by the stage actor, Sir Charles Cartwright. On the first night, as guests are sipping cocktails, the local minister suddenly becomes ill. Within two minutes he is dead. Everyone present, with a couple of exceptions, believes he died from natural causes.
A few weeks later, at another house party, another man dies. Sir Charles, Mr. Satterthwaite and M. Poirot were not at that party, but some of the other guests were at both parties. Since Sir Charles and Mr. Satterthwaite were two of the people who thought the first death was suspicious, they are now convinced the second death is related and that both were murders. Sir Charles takes on the role of lead detective and actually stage manages all the drama. But, in Act Three, M. Poirot solves the crime.
I must confess that this story is not one of my favorites from this beloved author. I’ve actually been trying to read it for over two months. I thought, at one point, that perhaps I was burned out by reading so many Agatha Christie novels all at once. I hope it’s just this story. It was very slow going throughout most of the middle two-thirds of the book. I couldn’t get excited by all the high drama.
The one thing I loved was the character of Mr. Satterthwaite. He’s quiet, unassuming, and there’s even a bit of rascal in him. Mrs. Christie often shows his thoughts and I could say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking.” Unfortunately, he only appears in one more short story.
So, am I giving up on my challenge to read all of Agatha Christie’s books in order of publication? No way. I still have some great ones left to read, or re-read. Up next month is Murder In the Air. This is one I’ve read before and is one in which Agatha Christie made a mistake. Stay tuned.
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For a copy of Murder In Three Acts, check your local library, local book store or Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)