Cards on the Table – Agatha Christie

My Mum's copy - complete with damage on spine and very yellow pages inside.
They were second-hand when my mum got them 35 years ago

There are four suspected murderers in one room playing Bridge.

There are four investigators in one room playing Bridge.

There is one host, Mr Shaitana not playing Bridge.


He has been murdered.

And so starts The Cards on the Table, any one of the four of the suspected murderers could have done it. But there are no clues.

So Hercule Poriot must use all his little grey cells to come to the correct conclusion without being prejudiced by the fact they have all committed a crime before. Eventually he will lay his cards on the table and give his conclusion.

Agatha Christie cleverly weaves the tale and takes us through each individual suspect, as he questions them about their Bridge playing and what they observed in the room, whilst Superintendent Battle uses more police procedural methods.   The other two investigators, Colonel Race uses his connections to get background on one of the suspects. Whilst Ariadne Oliver, the famous author, jumps from conclusion to conclusion but her fame is the way one of the suspects acquaintances reveals something that has been kept hidden.

And so with all the evidence. Truths are revealed, accusations are bandied about and the perpetrator of the crime is caught all within 200 pages. What more could a fan of crime want?

A rattling good read, which has a foreword from the author in the book;

There is an idea prevalent that a detective story is rather like a big race – a number of starters – likely horses and jockeys. “You pays your money and you takes your choice!” The favourite is by common consent the opposite of a favourite on the race-course. In other words he is likely to be a complete outsider! Spot the least likely person to have committed the crime and in nine times out of ten your task is finished. 

Since I do not want my faithful readers to fling away this book in disgust, I prefer to warn them beforehand that this is not that kind of book. There are only four starters and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime. that knocks out forcibly the element of surprise. 

Already the scene is set for this book before you have even been introduced the characters or locations, Christie builds up the psychological suspense in the way she does best.

The only criticism of the book and that is nothing to do with the writing, characters or plot, is actually my complete ignorance of the card game bridge. It sounds so wonderfully clever, and perhaps if I understood such terminology as dummy, bids, defenders, etc I may have got even more from the book. Although I know I have always been better at the card game Patience (Solitaire to US readers). 

I came to this book, after seeing the television adaptation many times already. The book is nothing like the programme as is the case in so much of adaptation. Deviation from the storyline and plot. I will not give anything away in case any reader has not read the book. However, despite the deviations I do find the adaptation one of the more watchable. If only for the wonderful Ariadne Oliver who is played by Zoe Wanamaker. More about Ariadne I feel when the Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge starts.

Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver

6 thoughts on “Cards on the Table – Agatha Christie

  1. I love Agatha Christie novels. I devoured them all (or nearly all) when I was at school. I can remember also wishing I understood Bridge when I was reading this at the time.

  2. I’m not sure I should own up to this considering I love crime fiction, but I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel! It’s shocking, I know! I do love the TV programmes though.

    1. Of course you can admit something like that! One day you will read them in the meantime enjoy them on the television!

    1. I would start with either The Body in the Library, 4.50 from Paddington for Miss Marple and Cat Among the Pigeons for Poirot.

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