A woman dies in her seat in an airplane en route to London from Paris. If not for Hercule Poirot’s quick eyes, her death may have been attributed to a wasp sting. Luckily, though, Poirot spots a half-hidden venom-tipped dart, and accident turns into murder. A search of the plane reveals a South American blowgun. Suddenly, everyone on board is a suspect. Surprisingly, however, no-one has seen a thing. How could the sight of a dart blown out from a blowgun have escaped everyone’s eyes?
This audiobook version of Death in the Clouds, by Agatha Christie, is narrated by Hugh Fraser, who is a wonderful narrator for Christie’s Hercule Poirot books. While Fraser has played the part of Captain Hastings, Poirot’s sidekick (who doesn’t appear in this particular mystery) on television, in audio format he is a perfect Poirot, and also handles the voices of all the other characters very well, both male and female.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Christie’s works in audio lately, and it’s very clear that her focus on dialogue in her books translates very well into audio. The mysteries are always entertaining and with a superb narrator like Fraser, the action is easy to follow.
Having read all of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries back when I was a teenager (Christie was a love handed down to me by my mother – I have memories of being sprawled on my mom’s bed, both of us deep into a Christie mystery), I usually remember who-dunnit at some point in the telling of the story, but that never takes away from my enjoyment. In Death in the Clouds, I had a vague intuitive sense about the murderer fairly early on, but even when I was certain of it, I couldn’t remember the how. Christie’s mysteries are great, I find, because of this – even if I remember the who, I don’t always remember the how or the why.
According to the Agatha Christie site, “In 1935, the year this novel was published, a regular London-Paris air service began – using converted bombers for the aircraft.” It was interesting to learn, from the descriptions of the murder scene in the book, that back then airplane interiors were designed more like train compartments, with people seated facing each other – another reason why it was puzzling that not a single person had seen the murderer killing the victim.
Death in the Clouds deals with exotic things like blowguns and venom-tipped darts, but at the core is, as always, Poirot working his little gray cells. Of course, in our day and age, forensics would be miles ahead of Poirot, but sometimes one craves a nice cozy mystery where the detective uses only his brain. The road to the murderer’s identity, motive and means is intricate, with lots of red herrings thrown in. And of course, at the end there’s the famous Poirot denouement scene.
I wouldn’t say that Death in the Clouds is one of Christie’s better Poirot mysteries; some things get a bit too convoluted and credibility is stretched somewhat. If you haven’t read the book before, the unveiling of the murderer will probably come as quite a surprise. All in all, (and especially with Hugh Fraser narrating), this was a very entertaining listen.
Where to buy:
Review copy details: published by Audio Partners, 2005, CD