Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    Death on the Nile is a book of detective fiction by British writer Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 1 November 1937 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence and the US edition at $2.00. This full length novel was preceded (in 1937) by a short story with the same title, but with Parker Pyne as the detective. The details of the short story’s plot are substantially different, though the settings and some of the characters are very similar.

    The book features the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The action takes place in Egypt, mostly on Nile River.

    While on a holiday in Cairo, Hercule Poirot is approached by successful socialite Linnet Doyle. She requests for his help in deterring her friend Jacqueline de Bellefort from hounding and stalking her. Linnet had recently married Jacqueline’s fiancé, Simon Doyle, which has made Jacqueline bitterly resentful. Poirot refuses the request, but attempts unsuccessfully, to dissuade Jacqueline from pursuing her plans further. Simon and Linnet secretly board the steamer Karnak, set to tour along the Nile to escape her, but woefully discover, she had learnt of their plans and boarded Karnak ahead of them. Apart from them, Poirot too travels on the steamer, while the other passengers include Linnet’s maid Louise Bourget, her trustee Andrew Pennington, romance novelist Salome Otterbourne (a thinly-disguised portrayal of Elinor Glynn) and her daughter Rosalie, Tim Allerton and his mother Mrs. Allerton, American socialite Marie Van Schuyler, her cousin Cornelia Robson and her nurse Miss Bowers, outspoken communist Mr. Ferguson, Italian archaeologist Guido Richetti, solicitor Jim Fanthorp, and physician Dr. Bessner.

    While visiting an ancient temple, Linnet narrowly avoids being crushed by a falling rock. Jacqueline is initially suspected, but she is found to have been aboard the steamer at the time of the incident. During the return voyage, Poirot finds his friend Colonel Race has joined the steamer. He reveals to him that he is looking for a murderer among the passengers. Later that night in the steamer’s lounge, Jacqueline’s resentment of Linnet boils over, leading her to shoot Simon in the leg with a pistol she possesses. She is taken back to her cabin by those who witness this, where she is confined, while Simon is treated for his injury; in that time, Jacqueline’s pistol, which she dropped, disappears. The following morning, Linnet is found dead, having been shot in the head, while her valuable string of pearls disappears. But no one in the cabin on the opposite side heard or saw anything. Poirot notes two bottles of nail polish in the victim’s room, one of which intrigues him. Jacqueline’s pistol is later recovered from the Nile. It is found wrapped in a stole belonging to Miss Van Schuyler, which was stolen the previous day, and which has been fired through.

    While interviewing maid Louise in the cabin in which Simon is resting, Poirot notices an oddness in the words she uses. Soon afterwards, she is found stabbed in her cabin. Mrs. Otterbourne later meets Poirot and Race in Simon’s cabin, claiming she saw who killed the maid. Simon exclaims loudly his surprise at this. But before she can even reveal who it is, she is shot dead from outside the cabin. Poirot soon confronts Pennington over his attempted murder of Linnet at the temple—he came to Egypt upon learning of her marriage to Simon, to trick her into signing documents that would exonerate him of embezzling her inheritance. However, he did not murder Linnet on the steamer, despite his gun having been used in Mrs. Otterbourne’s murder. Colonel Race later arrests Richetti, the man he sought. Poirot recovers the missing pearls from Tim Allerton, who substituted an imitation string of pearls for the real ones. The imitation pearls were later stolen by Miss Van Schuyler, a kleptomaniac, and returned by Miss Bowers.

    When alone with Simon, Poirot reveals him to be his wife’s killer. The murder was not his plan, but Jacqueline’s; the pair were still lovers. Their scheme was to steal Linnet’s money – the pair staged their break-up, whereupon Simon married Linnet. On the night of the murder, Jacqueline deliberately missed Simon, who faked his injury with red ink. While everyone in the lounge was distracted by Jacqueline, he took her gun that she had deliberately discarded, went to Linnet’s cabin, and shot her. He then returned to the lounge and shot his own leg, to give himself a genuine injury. Louise and Mrs. Otterbourne were murdered by Jacqueline, who was warned by Simon when the plan was going awry – Louise witnessed Simon entering Linnet’s cabin that night, and gave him a coded message when Poirot was interviewing her. Mrs. Otterbourne witnessed Jacqueline entering Louise’s cabin before stabbing her.

    Poirot reveals what led him to his theory. It was the ink that was contained in a bottle of nail polish he noticed in Linnet’s cabin. Simon reloaded the gun with two spare cartridges before he disposed it off, as Poirot realized that three shots were fired that night. The stole was used to silence the gun when Simon shot his own leg. Poirot suspected pre-meditation for the murder, because he slept deeply through that night’s events – he had been drugged through his wine that evening. As the steamer arrives back in Cairo and the passengers disembark, Jacqueline shoots Simon and herself with another gun she possessed, so they may escape the gallows. When pressed, Poirot reveals he had known she had a second gun, but had sympathetically chosen to allow her to take her own life.

    It’s an excellent book. Written in simple language but to the point for a detective novel. I would give the book eight out of ten. Incidentally there is also a very interesting movie based on this book.

By Kamlesh Tripathi



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