Book Review: Murder In Three Acts

Author: Agatha Christie

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.

My Opinion:

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.

If you are interested in joining the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, click the button or the title.

For a copy of Murder In Three Acts, check your local library, local book store or Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)

This entry was posted in Agatha Christie Challenge, C+ Book, Cozy Mysteries, From My Shelves, Vintage Mystery and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Book Review: Murder In Three Acts

  1. Good for you for persevering! :–)

  2. Tami says:

    I am reading an Agatha Christie this month as part of a challenge and I’m also having a tough time getting going. I know I loved her books when I read them in my youth, so I’ll try to follow your example and persevere. Can’t wait to hear about the “mistake” in your next Christie read.

  3. kaye says:

    nice review Margot. I’ve read a few Agatha Christie books and liked them very much.

    I was on the Amazon web-site last night, they were featuring a bunch of “foodie” books about love and eating.

  4. I do want to try one of Christie’s book and will be sure not to start with this one.

  5. Martha says:

    I haven’t read this one in a long time but I vaguely remember being disappointed in it as well. I am waiting with baited breath to find out what mistake she made.

  6. Staci says:

    Well you gotta figure with the number of books that she wrote that a few would be “middle of the road.” I’m sorry that you had a hard time finishing this one…I’ll keep your review in mind, when and if, I ever start reading the Christie books that I own.

  7. izzybella says:

    Mr. Satterthwaite is one of my favorite characters in Christie’s books. Next to the Man in the Brown Suit, The Mysterious Mr. Quin is my favorite Agatha Christie, and it’s mostly because of Mr. Satterthwaite.

    Murder in the Air is one of the few I haven’t read, so I’m looking forward to your next review!

  8. I’m reading only Jane Marple now, then on to Hercule! I remain in awe that you are doing it in the order of publication and it will be interesting to read your observations when you complete the challenge about whether you feel she changed at all over all the years.

  9. Bumbles says:

    Oh – well now that is quite a tease isn’t it? A mistake? By Ms. Christie? Impossible!

  10. Beth F says:

    I’m pretty sure I haven’t read this one — and if it was hard for you get into it, then I think I’ll give it a pass. And I’m with Molly — what a tease! What was Christie’s mistake?

  11. Belle Wong says:

    I love the character of Mr. Satterthwaite, too. It’s really too bad there aren’t more novels or stories in which he’s involved. I’m really eager now to read your review of Murder in the Air – my first read of this one was in audio, last year (one of the very few Christies I didn’t read as a teen!) and I didn’t notice Christie’s mistake. It will be interesting to see what it is, and maybe pull out the audio for a reread.

  12. Pingback: Review: Three Act Tragedy, 1935 (Hercule Poirot #9) by Agatha Christie – A Crime is Afoot

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