Stenographer Sheila Webb is called out to help a Mrs. Pebmarsh, but when she enters her house, what she finds is a dead man lying in a pool of blood, surrounded by a handful of clocks set to the time 4.13. When she screams and runs out of the house, she encounters Colin Lamb - luckily, he's a friend of Hercule Poirot's and will challenge him to solve the case.
As I mentioned above, Poirot acts mainly in a consulting role here, though it is he who puts together all the clues and reveals the solution. Instead, the main parts of the investigation are carried out by Inspector Hardcastle and Colin Lamb, who works in some kind of intelligence capacity and has his own reasons for being in the neighbourhood where the murder took place (and appears to be the son of good old Inspector Battle). Both these characters are quite likeable and it's a pity that we didn't get to meet any of them later.
The case itself is a bit so-so, as well as the narrative structure. There's a bit too much focus on Colin's search for foreign agents, and in the end it all becomes rather inconsequential.
As far as the main murder case goes, again I have to say that Christie is a bit skimpy on the clues. A lot of Poirot's solution is conjecture and based on things happening behind the scenes. The second murder sort of points the suspicion in the direction of the culprit, but only vaguely so. And don't get me started on those clocks - the explanation of the clue is one of the greatest disappointments of my Christie reading career.
But it's not a total loss - as I said, the characters are likeable, the investigations are generally interesting and the murder plot is a pretty good one. It's just unfortunate that Christie didn't focus more on the murder investigation and give us more clues. I'll give this a 37 out of 100.
A direct translation of the title of this novel - an arguably fairly dull title. Just two Swedish editions of this novel, both of them from around the time when it was first published. Which means that this particular title hasn't had a new edition for more than fifty years!
The first of these two covers makes the most of the clocks motif, but unfortunately also includes one of the most hideous depictions of Hercule Poirot that I've ever seen. Without that, an okay-ish cover, but now it really doesn't look good at all.
The second edition is from the Zebra series. Again a whiff of a cheap dime novel makes itself felt, but I suppose the whole thing is passable. There's a short extract from the novel and some clocks. Better than the first cover, but there's much room for improvement.
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