Agatha Christie 100 - Dumb Witness

One of the minor titles in Christie's output - perhaps the minorest of the 30s - little is generally said about this novel. At least I'll add a few words more here.

Poirot - with Hastings in tow - receives a letter from a distressed lady, Emily Arundell. Poirot picks up on the underlying threat (while Hastings is less impressed) and immediately travels to the nice little village where Miss Arundell lived, but finds out that she passed away from seemingly natural causes. Still, when a bloodhound has found a scent, he isn't so easily moved off it again...

Confession: I haven't actually read the short story that this novel was based on, since it was discovered fairly recently. (In the mystery genre, ten years is recently...) But I'm fairly certain that it's a better read. That doesn't mean that the novel is a dud, it just seems quite padded.

The general mystery is fine, perhaps even better than fine, but the story takes its sweet time to reach its conclusion. Those readers who complain about too many interviews with suspects in other novels - this is the one you should aim your ire at.

I would hazard a guess, without having read anything about the short story this novel was based on, that it was written quite some time earlier, since Hastings features here - he hadn't been in a novel for quite some time and won't appear again until Curtain, if I remember correctly.

I went in with no remembrance of who the killer was, which improved my impressions of this story. Though I did see through Christie's misdirection and managed to find the culprit before the final revelation. If that was because of some vestiges of memory in the back of my head or if I was just clever enough to see what Christie was doing, I can't say.

It seems that there is at least one difference between the Swedish translation and the English original - the passage in chapter 18 where Poirot lists a number of murderers from previous works does not exist in the Swedish translation at all. So kudos to the translator for not spoiling other novels.

How to rate this one? Well, it's one of the weaker 30s titles, but still a cut above almost everything else in the genre. I'll put it at 52 out of 100. But the run of Poirot titles that follows this one - ooh, how I look forward to them!

1961 1965 1978
1987 2014
Another example where the Swedish title is a direct translation of the British one, though we decided to use the definite form. (Det stumma vittnet = The dumb witness)

This is one of the minor Poirot titles, so perhaps it's not that unexpected that it had to wait almost 25 years before being translated. That first edition features what I suppose is the body of Miss Arundell after having fallen down the stairs. It's an acceptable cover, not fantastic.

I own the Zebra edition from 1965 which admittedly is worse. It sort of depicts the same scene, but makes everything look much cheaper. As usual, Sweden borrows the Fontana cover by Tom Adams, but this time it's neither the Zebra nor the Delfinserien edition. Instead it was for a special edition in the late 70s where eight of Christie's novels were included. The cover itself is fine and very typical for that edition.

The 1987 cover is from a book club edition, and is as bad as can be expected - featuring a dog of the wrong breed... And the 2014 edition returns to their nondescript covers - a mosaic and some bloodstains does not a good cover make.

We've had a couple of titles lately with very good to exceptional covers, but this is really a poor showing, in my opinion.

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