Thursday, April 14, 2022

Agatha Christie - Third Girl

Three young women share a London flat. The first is a coolly efficient secretary. The second is an artist.
The third interrupts Hercule Poirot’s breakfast confessing that she is a murderer—and then promptly disappears.
Slowly, Poirot learns of the rumors surrounding the mysterious third girl, her family, and her disappearance. Yet hard evidence is needed before the great detective can pronounce her guilty, innocent, or insane.

Comment: I finally managed to pick up this book. There aren't many left, out of the ones mrs Agatha Christie wrote featuring the detective Hercule Poirot, for me to read and I wish I could wait and savor one from time to time, but that will end at some point anyway...

In this story we become as baffled as Hercule Poirot when a young woman arrives at his office and is uncertain of how to say she thinks she might have committed murder. Not giving herself enough time to explain, she leaves and upon some investigation, Poirot follows some clues about her and her family. That is how we learn that the girl is called Nora Restarick and she has shown some erratic behavior, perhaps due to the company she keeps. Something we also learn is that is a "third girl", meaning she shares a flat with two other girls, being her the third one invited. This might not be important but one of the other girls works for Norma's father and recently, someone in the building jumped or was pushed out of a balcony and Norma suspects she might have done it... but she can't remember anything...
Will Poirot be ale to help her or to solve the mystery?

Again, I was immersed in the cleverness of this author and how she planned such a complex story. I do think that for a modern reader, some things are just a little too much implied for we don't have access to all information until the very end and while this doesn't matter in some stories, such is the plot, I think in this book there is one or two key elements we miss and what is given might not be enough to guess the secret...but then again, I suppose it depends on one's ability to connect all the dots.

The book is very focused on Norma's character, described as a fragile young woman whose mental issues seem to be obvious and often she finds herself not aware of what she has been doing or what she should remember. I think the author's style is clearly elusive, and we are not given all the important clues at once, but it hard not to notice how Norma's lack of attention and cons«fused state in one or two scenes felt rather induced. With this I mean that she felt too confused and there was some talk of drugs she might have been given by her boyfriend, someone we see is not a good person right away.

At this point, I kind of guessed what this meant but the full explanation at the end of the book was not one I envisioned. Well, the reasons weren't very surprising but the wonder of Agatha Christie's plots is that, even though they seem unlikely at first, the explanation is perfectly plausible. Hercule Poirot was his confident self in this book, obviously thinking of himself as someone who can and should guess the truth and unlike one or two other novels (that I can remember now), he didn't seem to show any specific emotion...I do recall one or two books where his was rather sad, discouraged...

As for the secondary characters, they were portrayed ambiguously on purpose, so that we didn't guess right away what was happening, but I must confess one or two weren't that easy to "read" in the sense we barely registered they mattered and when we learn the truth, I still feel their roles weren't done in the best way. Well, for me it felt so, and comparing to other books - especially the ones I liked best - there was something lacking in their composition that failed to engage me.

This didn't make the plot any less impressive on its own, but some plot points weren't as easy to accept if the characters weren't up to match its complexity. When the final explanation comes and Poirot gives the reader the missing piece to solve the puzzle, I think everything was indeed clever but I also think it could have been even more impressive. 

I know there is a TV series with David Suchet as Poirot and I've seen some episodes and I must say the adaptation is often very well done, except in one case which changed the plot too much. I'm now eager to see the episode of this book, to compare, but something tells me that, if the plot points weren't changed, this might come across as more captivating visualizing it.
Grade: 7/10

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