One gets infected, it is true, by the style of a work that one has been reading.The Clocks by Agatha Christie
When a young secretary, Sheila Webb, is sent to the home of a blind woman on an errand, she is horrified to discover a dead man behind the couch, surrounded by four clocks that have all been stopped at 4:13. The owner arrives home and denies that the clocks belong to her, the deceased’s business card turns out to be a fraud, and a woman shows up claiming to be the dead man’s wife. There is only one man who can unravel this complicated case: Hercule Poirot.
My love for Agatha Christie strikes again, and this time I decided to pick up “The Clocks”. While Hercule Poirot does appear in this book, he is really only a minor character, with most of the narration being undertaken by Colin Lamb.
The story begins with Sheila Webb, who works at the Cavendish Secretarial and Typewriting Bureau, being requested to help Miss Pebmarsh to take down some letters. Because Miss Pebmarsh is blind Sheila is advised to go into the house straightaway if the owner happens to be out. And that’s what she does, but on entering the house she is confronted by the dead body of a middle-aged man in a room with five clocks in it. Terrified, Sheila flees the house and runs straight into Colin Lamb, who is in town looking for someone (apparently an enemy agent) but he doesn’t know who or where and has only a cryptic clue from a former colleague to aid him in his search.
Colin becomes interested in the murder, taking advantage of his friendship with Inspector Hardcastle who is in charge of the police investigation to delve a little deeper into the people living on Wilbraham Crescent in the hopes of finding this agent. It’s Colin who brings Poirot to the case, though Poirot is elderly by now, so doesn’t take an active part in the investigation, instead relying on Colin bringing him information.
It’s clear that Christie had a lot of fun with this book: Poirot’s diversion, when Colin first visits him, is to read all sorts of detective fiction, and to critique them. The references used are a mix of real authors, like John Dickson Carr, but also fictional ones, such as Ariadne Oliver (one of Christie’s creations).
The characters are also very interesting and Christie provides us with glimpses into thoughts of several of Miss Pebmarsh’s neighbours.
Overall, it isn’t one of Christie’s best, but is still well worth a read for fans. It wouldn’t be one I would suggest as a starter to her work, though – there are glimpses of the old magic, but it doesn’t show her off as the genius of plotting she undoubtedly was. But it’s clever and entertaining nonetheless.