I’ve heard about this Christie’s book during a brainstorming session with my colleagues in the film industry many years ago. Last year, I got hold of an e-book version and recently, I read this using my cellphone’s text reader.
Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie, 1959
Prince Ali Yusuf, the liberal ruling monarch of Ramat, gives a small bag of jewels to his pilot, Bob Rawlinson, for safekeeping. The prince fears that some coup plotters are after him. So Bob devises a plan for their escape.
Bob’s sister, Mrs. Joan Sutcliffe, and her daughter Jennifer, are in Ramat for a vacation. But with the revolution coming, they have to leave for London immediately. So Bob goes to their hotel and secretly conceals the bag of jewels into their travel belongings. Unknown to Bob, a Spanish dancer hides at the balcony next door and sees him. Later, Prince Ali and Bob die in a plane crash.
Three months after, in London, the prestigious Meadowbank School for Girls starts their school term. Miss Bullstrode, the headmistress, just hired four new staff. They are Miss Ann Shapland, her secretary, Miss Blanche, the French teacher, Miss Springer, the gym teacher, and Adam Goodman, the gardener.
On the first day of school, Miss Bullstrode welcomes parents and students. Jennifer returns to school and Mrs. Sutcliffe mentions about their trip to Ramat, his brother’s death, and a recent burglary at home.
Princess Shaista, cousin of the late Prince Ali Yusuf, arrives as a transferee from Switzerland.
During the welcome, Mrs. Upjohn, a parent who just happened to have worked in military intelligence, looks out the window and recognizes someone whom she knew and whose presence at the school surprised her.
Miss Bullstrode dismisses Mrs Upjohn’s comment as she was thinking of her retirement. Everyone assumed that Miss Vansittart will succeed Miss Bullstrode. Although Miss Bullstrode has other things to consider.
One night, someone shoots Miss Springer dead in the school’s new Sports Pavillon. Inpsector Kelsey interviews everyone. Adam Goodman reveals himself to a select few as an undercover agent for the British intelligence.
Meanwhile, Jennifer, a tennis player, writes to her mother for a replacement of her racquet. Julia Upjohn, her classmate, offers to exchange racquets instead. Later, a woman comes and gives Jennifer a new racquet from her Aunt Gina and takes the old one. Jennifer thanks the woman and says that she’ll write back to her Aunt Gina.
But Aunt Gina denies sending anything to her.
One weekend, Miss Bullstrode attends a dinner and leaves the school under Misses Vansittart’s and Chadwick’s care. Also, the school receives an information that the Emir will be fetching Princess Shaista.
So the Princess enters a car that arrives as everyone thought that it was the Emir’s car and chauffeur. The princess doesn’t return that night and in a separate incident, someone hit Miss Vansittart on the head.
Julia, thinking about the two previous deaths, locks herself in her room and inspects her racquet which was originally from Jennifer. She finds a small bag with jewels. The next day, she flees from the school and meets Hercule Poirot. At that time, the police are focusing on Miss Blanche, the new French teacher because she seems to have an idea who killed Miss Springer. Unfortunately, by the time Julia returns to school with Mr. Poirot, Miss Blanche is dead.
Mr. Hercule Poirot is late!
So Poirot appears on Chapter 17, past the story’s midpoint. And I found it unusual. Again, everyone in the school becomes a suspect. Somehow, given the situation in Ramat, it looks like a spy thriller without Tommy and Tuppence. Well, this time I was correct with my hunch on who killed Miss Vansittart.