2020-08-24

Agatha Christie 100 - After the Funeral

Poirot returns for a story revolving around another Christie family. By this time, Poirot was no longer Christie's main character, but this might be her final excellent mystery.


Richard Abernethie has just passed away, and the family has gathered to send him off to his final resting place. At the gathering afterwards, awkward younger sister Cora Lansquenet commits another of her many faux pas, saying that "surely he was murdered?" But when she turns up murdered just a couple of days later, perhaps there was something in what she said? Luckily, the family solicitor is friends with a certain Belgian detective...

As I said above, this is an excellent mystery. Sure, there's just the one real misdirection, and if that is seen through, there are very few suspects available, but I don't see many readers seeing through this particular Christie trick.

Poirot doesn't appear until around halfway through the novel, but is very active afterwards, even though his advanced age is alluded to several times. His investigations mainly consist of him chatting with the different suspects, but there's also an appearance by the efficient Mr. Goby, who can procure information about almost anyone, and who provides background on many of the suspects.

While this may not achieve the excellence of several of her 30s novels, this is still a very strong story that any other mystery author would have been proud to have written. I'll rank it 78 out of 100, and simply hope that one of the later novels that I still have to re-read will at least approach this level of greatness.

1955 1968 1980 1986
1990 2000 2001 2014

For being a fairly late title - and not generally one of Christie's most celebrated stories - this has had an awful lot of Swedish editions, but that is justified by it being so strong. The Swedish title is a variation of the American title (Funerals Are Fatal). A direct translation of the Swedish title would be Funerals Are Dangerous.

The first cover from the mid 50s features the Abernethie family (at the reading of the will?), which seems a fairly fitting image, and more or less the only one here that doesn't focus on the funerals of the title or the sinister axe (or both). So some extra points for originality there.

Delfinserien's first cover from '68 is of course a work by Per Ã…hlin. I like the depiction of the funeral here - it's not at all an obvious picture, considering what could have been done. Though perhaps they weren't happy with that, because for a later edition in 1980 Delfinserien featured the Fontana cover.

1986 gives us a book club cover featuring an axe buried in a painting. Not the image I would have chosen to represent this novel, really - and while I complain about some later covers being too dark, this is way too much of the opposite. The 1990 cover buries the axe in every aspect - in the coffin and under the ground. This is perhaps my favourite cover here.

With the turn of the millennium we get an image of a churchyard, which is a fairly obvious cover, all things said. I wish the colour scheme wasn't so dark, because otherwise I like that blue tint. The cover from 2001 belongs to a large print edition. I can't say I like those ornaments much.

The cover for the latest edition isn't one of their best. There's the silhouette of a bottle - if that's supposed to be poison, that doesn't really connect with the contents of this story.

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