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 back of jewels to his pilot, Bob Rawlinson, for safekeeping. The prince fears that some coup plotters are after him. So Bob devised 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 welcomed parents and students. Jennifer returns to school and Mrs. Sutcliffe mentioned 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 did not mind 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, wrote her mother for a replacement of her racquet. Julia Upjohn, her classmate, offered to exchange racquets instead. Later, a woman comes and gives Jennifer a new racquet from her Aunt Gina and took the old one. Jennifer thanked the woman and said that she’ll write back to her Aunt Gina. But Aunt Gina replied that she didn’t send 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 received an information that the Emir will be fetching Princess Shaista. So the Princess went into a car that came and everyone thought that it was the Emir’s car and chauffeur. That night, Princess Shaista doesn’t return. That night, 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 become a suspect. Somehow, given the situation in Ramat, it looked like a spy thriller without the likes of Tommy and Tuppence. Well, this time I was correct with my hunch on who killed Miss Vansittart.