There is a gathering at Sir Charles Cartwright's, and among the guests are Hercule Poirot, Mr. Satterthwaite and Sir Charles's friend Sir Bartholomew Strange. But the person who dies from poisoning is the mild-mannered Reverend Stephen Babbington... However, some time later Sir Bartholomew dies at a similar gathering, in the same manner, and Poirot gets suspicious - surely these two deaths must be connected somehow?
As we've established, this comes in the middle of Christie's upwards trajectory. The previous Poirot was a masterpiece, and there are several novels of that ilk to come. I'm not sure I see this one quite at those high levels, but it's a very good mystery indeed. While the misdirection is somewhat familiar, there's a lot of good clueing and Christie does her best to befuddle the reader.
This might be the first instance where Christie allows a group of her characters to start investigating the crime for their own reasons, with Poirot acting like the grand armchair detective in the background and making the all-important connections towards the end. In previous stories, Poirot has always been at the centre of investigations.
I'll rank this a 66 out of 100. It's a middling 30s Christie mystery, but a middling 30s Christie mystery is better than almost everything else you might read in the genre.
The very first edition is another one of those that look very dull with the title plastered all over the cover. (Cf. Lord Edgware Dies and many more).
I've not actually managed to establish with 100 % certainty that the second cover is from the 1947 edition, but I haven't found any other edition that it could be from, so everything indicates that it is. It's a better cover, though the artist seems to suffer from the misconception that one of the murders takes place onstage.
I like the colours of the Zebra edition from 1970. If you look closely, that is in fact a man's shoe in the background, making the cover more sinister than it immediately appears. It's the one I own, so I'm happy it's the best one here.
For the two mid 80s covers, the artist seems to have focused on the Greek origin of the word "tragedy". None of the covers are bad per se, but there's nothing inherently Christie-y about them.
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