Review: Dumb Witness (Agatha Christie)

Emily Arundell is a rich woman whose fortune will go to her nephew and nieces on her death. When they come visiting their aunt, Emily falls down the stairs in what is apparently an accident, but she suspects otherwise and writes to Hercule Poirot, asking him to meet her. The letter gets delayed by some time and by the time Poirot visits her, she has already died of natural causes. When her will is read out, everyone is shocked to find out that Emily had changed it so that all her wealth went to her companion, Mrs Lawson and the relatives get nothing. Poirot's investigation leads him to believe that the "accident" was caused by a string tied across the staircase to trip Emily who was in the habit of walking around the house at night.

The title Dumb Witness refers to Emily's dog, Bob who was supposed to have left a ball at the top of the stairs which caused Emily to trip (Poirot later proves that this wasn't the case). The dog has very little to do with the story except for this incident and is there in the book for little more that for displaying Hastings' great affection for dogs -- Bob becomes Hastings' pet at the end of the book.

Rich old lady, young relatives desperate for money, so-called accidents, poisoning -- it's a typical Agatha Christie story, but one that perhaps fails to maintain the high standards that we have come to expect of Christie. The book seems too slow and the solution a bit too obvious. There are a couple of details that don't fit in. For example, how is it that Mrs Lawson can notice the initials on the suspect's brooch and still not be able to see that she was hammering a nail onto the staircase? And how could Hastings -- or anyone for that matter -- forget something that we were all taught in primary school -- that a mirror always interchanges the left and right sides of the image? This slight on Hastings' intellect -- in spite of its ridiculously low standards ;-) -- isn't something that can be explained that easily.

My Rating: 5/10


cj said...

Well, that's interesting. I'm a big Christie fan and thought I'd heard about most of her books, if I haven't actually read them all. I've never heard of this one. I'm sorry to hear it's not up to snuff, but given how many books she wrote, I guess she was entitled to be off her game every once in awhile.

Thanks for the review.


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