Alas, but current events have rendered this week most taxing, n’est ce pas? On the bright side, none of us are Lord Edgware, who really should have been on his guard as soon as he saw the title of the episode. Given that all further episodes are of the two-hour variety, I’m experimenting with a new format for these recaps – let me know in the comments what you think!
Lady Edgware, a stunningly gorgeous actress trapped in a marriage to the obnoxious Lord Edgware, wants out – and so enlists Our Belgian to… er… press her husband for a divorce, which seems, you know, odd, but apparently this is the sort of thing Rich Folk did for each other back in the day. Oh, and a friend of hers – one Carlotta Adams – is in town, and Carlotta is a performer who specializes in impersonations, not that that will have any bearing on Events To Come in any way, wink wink.
Poirot visits Lord Edgware, who claims he sent Lady Edgware a letter a month ago granting her the divorce, and appears just as baffled as I am as to why she would send a famous detective to do this. Also, he’s got a zillion francs in cash lying around because he’s going to Paris in the morning. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, Our Man Hastings returns from Argentina! Having lost all his money in a business venture (of course he did), he’s back in London casting about for a new home, while wife Bella – last seen making googly eyes at Our Man on the beachfront in Murder On The Links – has remained behind to sell the farm. Better than buying one, I suppose, knowing how things usually turn out when Poirot is around.
After Poirot gives Lady Edgware the good news, she attends a dinner party with some other Rich Folk, and on that same evening someone looking and dressing like her visits Lord E, then someone makes him the newest benefactor in their Dagger Relocation Program, courtesy of his neck (it’s actually pretty much what happened to Roger Ackroyd last week). Clearly one person can’t be in two places at once (or can they?!?), so naturally it doesn’t take long for Poirot (or, frankly, the viewer) to twig to the fact that someone hired Carlotta Adams to impersonate Lady E to either kill the big E or throw suspicion on Lady E for the murder.
The fact that master impersonatrix Adams herself comes down with a bad case of rigor mortis via overdose of veronal (again, seen previously in L’affaire d’Ackroyd) soon thereafter points to both a remorseless killer and some really, really lax pre-war English regulations on sleeping powders.
Well, there’s Lady E, of course, who has a rock-solid alibi but a dearth of motive, what with the divorce being granted and all. There’s the Shady Butler, who is seen searching Lord E’s study after his death and who disappears – along with the million francs – with a quickness. There’s a spurned ex-lover and his flame with possible revenge against Lady E on their minds, a stage producer in need of cash, and a daughter who didn’t like dad at all. Really, it’s sort of a buffet of plausibility here, which is nice.
Adams wasn’t hired (or rather engaged in a practical joke, as she was led to believe) to go to Lord E’s house, she was the one at the Rich Folk Dinner Party establishing Lady E’s alibi (none of the people at the party had ever spent much time with Lady E prior to this). Lady E then went to her own house, knifed hubby, then returned to her hotel and poisoned her partner in turns-out-it-was-a-crime to tie up the loose end.
She did it because she really wanted to marry the Duke of Merton’s Money, but being a faithful Catholic he couldn’t marry anyone who’d been divorced – hence her pretending she’d never gotten Lord E’s letter and needing to kill him instead. Seeing as how murder is considered a diriment impediment to marriage in Catholicism, odds are they can cancel the reception anyway.
Oh, about two-thirds of the way in an innocent young playwright becomes yet another selfless volunteer in that Dagger Relocation Program, thanks to him realizing that the Lady E at the party wasn’t the Lady E everyone else knew via a clever little gaffe regarding the fact that Paris was both the name of a city and a figure in the Trojan Wars. It’s the little things that’ll get ya killed in this series, I tells ya.
Increasing the death count in this episode to 4, it turns out the Shady Butler stole the zillion francs, and he meets his end when Japp and company chase him down at the airport and he falls to his death from a balcony. It’s OK, none of us liked the Shady Butler anyway.
Wot I Liked:
Honestly, this is a fun little episode, with misdirection, disguises, and clues to spare. It moves with a quickness, and it’s good to see Our Belgian, Our Man, Our Inspector, and Our Lemon all back together again (I particularly liked the bonhomie of Poirot hosting a dinner for all of them, with Japp remarking that the only thing missing was a dead body, an oversight that is remedied quickly).
The score is particularly good here as well, especially as the crime takes place – quite tense as the events at Lord E’s house, an opera and the Rich Folk Dinner Party crosscut between each other. Too, a lovely stylistic touch during the Denouement with Lady E the center of attention dressed in a striking red ensemble while everyone else wears the customary English Upper Class uniform of greys and browns.
Neat to see Fenella Woolgar playing the role of Lady E’s maid – Woolgar would end up playing no less than Dame Agatha herself in the Doctor Who pastiche of Chrisie episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp”!
The clues are clever (particularly a bit about a letter sent to Adams’ sister that, thankfully, did not revolve around what time the postman delivered it), the Suspect Farm is ripe for harvesting, and the motive is… well, not exactly stunning, but I’ll give it points for being at least a scenic route to Because The Money.
Our Man gets a fair bit to do, too! In addition to unwittingly sparking Poirot’s grey cells with the key to the crime, Hastings is back in all his glory with pronouncements about how now he understands women completely, and needling Poirot about being twitterpated with Lady E. I can’t overemphasize how nice it is to see the gang all back together at Whitehaven Mansions.
Wot I Not Liked:
Not much! If anything, I could quibble with the fact that some things are introduced a little too obliquely (the Rich Folk Dinner Party, a hat shop where nefarious conversations are held, pre-existing relationships that are casually introduced before meeting the people in them) that can cause a bit of “wait, who was that, again?”.
I also didn’t quite buy Poirot’s semi-smitten demeanor when it comes to Lady E – not because she wasn’t alluring, but because by this point it feels like Poirot’s come to terms with romance and his own personal history. Suchet tries to sell his seeming attraction as curiosity about Lady E’s psychology, but it still felt a bit… off.
And there’s a fair amount of Blandy McBlanderson casting in the White Dude suspects, which is disappointing given the recent run of excellent supporting casts.
Hastings: We’re still as much in love as the day we met.
Poirot: When, if I remember correctly, you thought her to be guilty of murder, n’est-ce pas?
Hastings: Yes, well, since then I think I’ve learned what makes women tick.
Poirot: Ah, yes, the ticking of the women.
Japp: It’s funny, you know. Here we are, the four of us, all together again. But, of course, there’s one thing missing. The body. That’s how we normally meet.
Poirot: No, but it is true.
Japp: Oh, well, never mind, Poirot. As soon as word gets round you’re back, I’m sure one will turn up.
Poirot: No, you must be my eyes and my nose.
In Two Weeks, on Poirot: And that’s a wrap on Series 7! Series 8 – which aired a full three years after this series – is also only two episodes long, and it kicks off with yet another vacation for Poirot and Our Man. How will a resort full of innocent guests cope with the fact that almost assuredly their dinner plans will be ruined because some Belgian has reserved the dining hall for the evening to unmask a murderer? Find out in… “Evil Under the Sun”!