Dumb Witness (1937, Agatha Christie)
This is one of those books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf and I just finished reading it over the weekend. Years ago, I’ve read in The Strand magazine that this was first published as a short story but eventually became the novel we are all familiar of.
Hercule Poirot received a letter from someone named Miss Emily Arundell from Market Basing. The letter was dated 17th of April but he received it on the 28th of June. Poirot already found it strange, and its content disturbing. So he and Captain Hastings went to Market Basing only to find out that Miss Arundell died on the 21st of May and as per her last will and testament, all her assets will go to her “trusted” companion, Miss Minnie Lawson. The relatives and even the townspeople were surprised and talk had spread around town about the circumstances surrounding her death.
Knowing Poirot, he wanted to get to the bottom of this. So he devised ways to get a few information from those who knew Miss Arundell and her family. It all started that Easter, when relatives came to visit Miss Arundell. She was known to be an old school, Victorian, rich, old woman, and had no children. Everyone knew that her heirs were Charles, Theresa, and Bella. Charles was single but a black sheep, had done forgery and petty little crimes even abroad. Theresa was the beautiful, fashionable, sociable, and about to be married to Dr. Donaldson, a poor doctor. Bella was married to a Greek doctor, Dr. Tanios, and had two children. All three of them would like to ask their share of inheritance from their rich aunt. Miss Arundell, Victorian as she was, despised the behavior of her nephew and nieces and didn’t approve of Drs. Donaldson and Tanios. So when they tried to give a hint about or even asked Miss Arundell directly for money that Easter, each of them were rejected.
On the night before these relatives were about to leave, Miss Arundell fell down from the stairs. She was not seriously injured but had a little bit of a shock. Everybody blamed Miss Arundell’s dog, Bob, for leaving its rubber ball on the stairs. The incident baffled her that she wrote two letters: one for her lawyer and one for Poirot.
As usual, when reading an Agatha Christie novel, anyone starts guessing who did it only to end up disappointed that the guess was wrong. No wonder Agatha Christie was dubbed the Queen of Crime.