When I was doing the audit of the tea gardens of M/s Jayshree Tea and Industries Ltd. in Cachar (Lower Assam) alongwith other members of the audit team, I happened to stay for quite a long period (in March 1991) at Jellalpore Tea Estate where coincidentally my friend and ex-senior during the C.A. course, Mr. Sudarshan Agrawal was posted as the Chief Accountant. Being friends, we (myself, my two more colleagues and Mr. Sudarshan Agrawal) were enjoying our time in full swing alongwith the audit routine. In that period those tea-gardens were having no guest houses and the auditors were accommodated in the homes of the officers of the company. Naturally I was residing with my friend, Mr. Agrawal only in his residential quarter. Being a book-worm, I used to read many Hindi novels during my leisure. By that time, I had not read any English novel.
One day, I found my senior audit team member, Mr. Deb-brata Khoshonabis, reading an English novel – titled as ‘Peril at End House‘. Since that novel was the property of Mr. Agrawal, he had already read it. Through their discussion regarding the novel, I came to know that it’s a murder-mystery authored by Agatha Christie. Mr. Agrawal challenged Mr. Khoshonabis to guess the murderer’s identity before the climax and he guessed correctly. All these things aroused a curiosity in me to read that novel because I have always been a mystery-fan. And fortunately, it was also a relief for me that the novel was not thick and the number of pages was quite reasonable for a person like me who was going to read the first English novel of his life.
So, after my senior was finished with the novel, I took it. And as the story progressed for me, I found myself being lost in the narrative, forgetting to eat or go out or talk to companions or even to work. Though I could also guess who the murderer was, still the great authoress was able to maintain my curiosity through her magical pen. I was very much impressed by the detective hero of the novel – Hercule Poirot. His attitude and activities sounded quite no-nonsense to me and he stood before me like a true detective who meant business. After the book was finished, I found myself in the form of a fan of Ms. Agatha Christie and her brain-child, Hercule Poirot.
In later years, when I read novels like A Holiday for Murder and Death on the Nile, I realized that Peril at End House was not one of Christie’s best novels and in fact, it’s a cut below her best. However first crush is, after all, first crush. That’s why this novel has a special place in my heart because it only made me a Christie fan, ever ready to dive into the ocean of mystery created by her pen.The title of the novel is as such because the main protagonist of the novel, Ms. Nick Buckley resides in a ramshackle house named as End House. Hercule Poirot who is spending his holidays at St. Loo where the End House is situated, stumbles upon Ms. Buckley only to find that someone is after her life with consecutive murderous attempts being made at her. And then, a murder actually takes place. Now our detective cannot just enjoy his holidays and he has to get to his task of not only saving Ms. Buckley from the unknown killer but also unmasking the culprit. Some letters written by a lover to his sweetheart prove to be the key for him through which he is able to unlock the mystery.Why at all does a the murder take place? The motives behind the maximum of the murders made by sensible people (not lunatics) can be counted on finger-tips – some ideal or mission (of cleansing the system or the society or the world), revenge (or hatred), getting the love of some person of opposite sex, saving the life of a very dear one from some wicked person and finally, greed of wealth or property. The last one applies to this novel. The oldest principle of murder-investigation is considered as the best one – find the motive, catch the murderer. And that’s what Hercule Poirot exactly does in Peril at End House.Peril at End House works mainly because of the mesmerizing writing style of Agatha Christie. She possessed the rare knack of first folding and then unfolding the mystery on a layer-by-layer basis. The reader may be able to know the identity of the murderer before the climax through intelligent guesswork and deductive reasoning. However Ms. Christie has left no stone unturned in confusing the reader (and the investigator in the story) by introducing many suspects. There is no dearth of curiosity as to who did it and how did it. Since it is a Hercule Poirot novel, Poirot’s investigating activities become more interesting than the murder-based plot of the novel. The way Poirot unravels the mystery and reaches the bottom of the truth is something that converts ordinary stories into extra-ordinary ones. The witty dialogues of Poirot are the icing on the cake.
Ms. Christie did not believe in writing excessively thick novels. Her novels are compact in size and she gets to business right from the word ‘go’, cutting all the crap and undue length. That’s why once the first twist in the tale arrives, there is no looking back for the reader and the pace of the narrative does not slacken anywhere. The narrative flows the reader away to the climax like a swift water-stream.
I recommend this novel wholeheartedly to not only the Christie fans but all the mystery-fans. It’s not a great novel considering the high standards set by Ms. Christie for herself. All the same, it renders an engrossing reading and wholesome entertainment to the reader. You won’t regret after reading it.
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