A famous Irish author of children’s mysteries announces that she’s just disinherited her family before a gathering that includes those very family members—along with Hercule Poirot.
Invited for unknown reasons to spend a week in Lady Athelinda Playford’s home, Lillieoak, in County Cork, Poirot and his new Watson, Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool, can only watch in astonishment as she tells her dinner guests that she’s leaving her entire estate to Joseph Scotcher, her secretary. Viscount Harry Playford, his wife, Dorothy, his older sister, Claudia, and her fiance, pathologist Randall Kimpton, are all aghast at the news that they’ll be cut off without a farthing. But Poirot and Catchpool are even more surprised that Lady Playford has disinherited them all in favor of a man with Bright’s disease who’s been given only a short time to live—a man who greets the news of his unexpected windfall by instantly proposing marriage to his nurse, Sophie Bourlet. Whatever the reason for Lady Playford’s quixotic decision, her children and their significant others, it turns out, have nothing to worry about, for Joseph Scotcher is murdered within hours of the disclosure, leaving the guests, one of whom immediately claims that she saw another one actually committing the murder, in the bullying grasp of Inspector Arthur Conree, who maintains that he hasn’t sought this job but that he’ll brook no interference in conducting it, setting the stage for a dizzying series of surprises that will reveal that everything anyone ever thought about Scotcher was wrong.
As in The Monogram Murders (2014), Hannah provides both less and more than Agatha Christie ever baked into any of her tales. But the climactic revelation that establishes the killer’s motive is every bit as brilliant and improbable as any of Christie’s own decorous thunderclaps.