The elderly Emily Boynton rules her family with an iron fist, not allowing them any liberties and making all decisions for them. This affects the four children very badly, some worse than others. And when the Boynton family take a trip to the Middle East, things come to a head as they meet new people and gain new influences. One day outside Petra, when Mrs. Boynton is alone in the camp and everyone else is out hiking, she is murdered by what might be a lethal injection. Fortunately, Hercule Poirot is not far away, and he is asked to take a look just to see whether he can find the culprit.
I still love this a lot. There are some drawbacks to this story - the first half features almost no Poirot at all, and then the final half is just our Belgian detective realising exactly how events developed over the fateful afternoon by interviewing every witness who met the deceased.
But Christie has managed to create some wonderfully memorable characters - it's perhaps not coincidental that the adaptations do not manage to portray the Mrs. Boynton of the novel, instead replacing her with someone who is Mrs. Boynton in name only. One of the main clues - the syringe - is also clever in how it points to the murderer.
I would argue that this is one of Christie's most Carr-ian culprits. Those who know my pet peeve with Carr's villains will probably know what I'm referring to here...
Some nostalgia will also factor in my rating, which is a strong 87 out of 100.
Early on, the Swedish translation was supposed to feature a literal translation of the title and early ads featured this title (Möte med döden), but this was changed to the above title. Which is nice, because you can't have too much of the genitive case in your titles. It is this genitive case (which is only possible with very, very few words in Swedish) that makes it impossible to make a direct translation back into English. It would be something like "Death to meets", which I realise makes no sense to someone who didn't grow up with Old English as their mother tongue...
Wake up! It's time for covers now. The first Swedish edition has a cover where I can't really make out what is supposed to be depicted. Perhaps a very narrow gully? When it's this hard to see what the cover is supposed to show, it's arguably not the best cover ever. Delfinserien gives us the next cover, and it's much better, with Mrs. Boynton in the middle of the image and the cave openings made to look like a skull. I'm happy to say that this is the edition I own.
The next two covers are obviously more or less the same one. I feel that the 1985 version is better than the 1983 one, because the Agatha Christie name doesn't dominate the whole thing so much. Otherwise, the focus on the malevolent Mrs. Boynton is understandable. Though you can have too much of a good thing, as the book club edition (also from 1985) shows. Depicting that dominating lady with cats' eyes is perhaps a bit too on the nose?
1987 gives us a pretty good cover with some focus on the murder weapon and the by now almost ubiquitous Poirot outline in the background. The later cover from the turn of the century focuses on the desert landscape, which is a pretty good choice. One of the best covers from this edition.
The cover from 2001 belongs to a large print edition, but I can't remember any menorahs in the novel, so one has to wonder where that inspiration came from. (I know that a small part of the early bit of the novel takes place in Jerusalem, but the menorah seems like a strange choice anyway.) The latest edition again features a very non-descript cover which doesn't tell the reader much more than the barest minimum. What's with all the skulls and crossbones? It's not a pirate adventure!