Tommy and Tuppence have moved into a new house. As they are putting everything in order Tuppence finds a coded message in one of the books left behind by former tenants - "Mary Jordan did not die naturally. It was one of us. I think I know which." Naturally, Tuppence immediately becomes interested and starts investigating what might have happened.
Another title that I had very little memory of - obviously I've been aware of its reputation, but I had it in the back of my head that I didn't remember it as being THAT bad. Unfortunately, it more or less is. There's maybe enough plot here for a short story - not a great one, but passable, at least - but here it's stretched out beyond its breaking point.
But that's really not the main problem - there are quite a few mystery novels that would have been better as short stories. What makes this such a tough read is that while the plot is stretched out, the filler material is extremely drawn out. People talk, talk, talk and then talk a bit more, and what they're saying is hardly ever relevant, and the conversations skip from one irrelevant subject to another (sometimes with a relevant plot point scattered among the tangents). Had this been an earlier novel, it could have been Christie hiding clues in the text, but it just doesn't work here.
Even more problematic is the ending. It turns out that almost everything was irrelevant and the whole story is instead recounted by Mr. Robinson (who had the ignominious disfortune of becoming a regular character in Christie's later works), who tells us a lot of things that we should have been told much earlier.
Also, there are entire passages that follow on previous paragraphs and directly contradict them. For example, after Tuppence has been attacked, Tommy phones his old friend, Colonel Pikeaway, and explains that he cannot meet with him because he needs to take care of Tuppence. Then in the next paragraph, he's at Pikeaway's place discussing what happened. No explanation how this came about.
Or when T&T have been advised not to hire any new gardener who doesn't give them a codeword first - then in the next scene, there they are hiring a new gardener who suspiciously turns up. For this inconsistency, there's the feeble excuse that Tuppence forgot. I mean, come on. This is Tuppence! The advice came just days before!
Now, mind you, I don't regret having read this novel again, even though it was
worse than I remembered it. There's always the odd passage that reminds
you of Christie's golden years, and they always feel bittersweet.
But yeah. This is strictly for the Christie completist. It's a pity that Christie felt it necessary to give T&T a final outing - as I mentioned above, it had only been six years since their latest adventure in By the Pricking of My Thumbs, which admittedly wasn't great but at least serviceable. There's very little to recommend about this novel, and though it pains me, I can't give it more than 3 out of 100.