Agatha Christie 100 - Hickory Dickory Dock

A mystery set in an urban setting, with modern young students being haunted by a vandal who's destroyed backpacks and lecture notes, and stolen things of no real value.

Poirot is flabbergasted when he discovers a couple of errors in the letter he just dictated to his secretary, Miss Lemon. It turns out that she is preoccupied because someone is committing several small crimes at the student home where her sister is the manager. Poirot's interest is awakened, and when he receives a list of the items that have disappeared or been destroyed, he is intrigued enough to secure an invitation to the student home.

This is probably Christie's first "modern" mystery, in an urban setting. Another few will follow - Third Girl, definitely, and The Clocks as well, and one could argue that while the setting is Miss Marple's village, The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side also belongs to this category, with its descriptions of the village's development.

So, an urban Christie mystery. But is it any good? Well... It's not bad, per se. It's just that there's not a whole lot of detection in this story. Poirot turns up at the student home, makes a declaration, and one of the culprits confesses almost immediately. 

Of course, this being Christie, there's more layers to the story, but hardly any of the real villains are found through fair play clues. Instead, they are just revealed in conversations during the course of the story. 

And just why did they have to pour green ink over one of the student's notes? This was not done by the first vandal who confessed, so there was no need for that, plot-wise.

But it's still an interesting novel, with a plot that is just about as twisty as you'd expect from Christie, and the characters in the student house can be likened to one of Christie's country house families - there's almost the same type of characters and their interactions are also quite similar.

This is also notable as the first novel where Miss Lemon appears as Poirot's secretary, though she'd been in a number of short stories with Poirot before.

On the whole, a passable novel, though nowhere near Christie's heights. I'd rate this a 47 out of 100.

1956 1966 1974
1988 1996

As you can see, this story originally kept the British title for the first edition, but after that we adjusted it. Mord klockan fem? means Murder at Five O'Clock, and I guess the title change came about from the very tenuous link to the nursery rhyme (coupled with the fact that this nursery rhyme is completely unknown in Sweden, of course). Not that the Swedish title really has anything to do with anything in the novel.

The first cover is another typical 50s cover. Semi-humorous looking and with a few of the missing items from the story. Not too bad, all things said. 
Then we have two different Fontana covers, both by Tom Adams. The first with the syringe is the one I own, and it belongs to the Zebra edition. I like the colour scheme and it looks suitably exciting. One drawback is that there is no syringe in the story itself. The second Fontana cover on the 1974 edition seems better linked to the original nursery rhyme, with a mouse squarely in the middle of the action. Though I don't know if that fits with the Swedish title...

A book club cover is the next thing we see. It's okay, with the clock face shown through the noose. Nowhere near as hideous as some of the early book club covers we've seen. The latest edition - almost 25 years old by now - has a cover by Leslie Quagraine, which features another one of his skulls, though it seems a little lazy. The link to this particular story isn't all that easy to find.


  1. I find it interesting that the Swedish title adds a question mark, almost like it's saying "Yeah, I'm not sure about this either..."

    I remember really liking this when I read it, and I seem to remember the explanation for one of the thefts (the stethoscope) greatly pleasing me at the time. Of course, I also remember very little else, so who knows?

    1. I can't say that I have any idea why they added that question mark...

      Yes, the theft of the stethoscope has a much better explanation than the green ink.