Review: Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie


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HarperCollins Publishers, The Agatha Christie Signature Edition published 2001. First published in 1940. ISBN-10: 0007120710.

sad-cypress

Elinor Carlisle is brought before the judge accused of having poisoned Mary Gerrard. After a few minutes of silence, during which her lawyer fears that she could declare herself guilty, Elinor pleads not guilty. The story had begun about a year ago when Elinor received an anonymous letter warning her that someone was determined to take her place in the affections of her aunt Laura Welman. Mrs Welman suffered from reduced mobility due to a stroke and lived in her own house with the assistance of her housekeeper Mrs Bishop, a couple of nurses, nurses Hopkins and O’Brien, and under the care of Dr. Peter Lord, a young doctor. In addition, Mary Gerrard, the daughter of a lodge keeper, was in the habit to pay her a visit every day. Mary was extremely grateful to Mrs Welman for having paid her studies. Elinor, in turn, was planning to marry Roddy Welman, whom she knew since childhood. Roddy was the nephew of the late Mr Welman, the husband of her aunt. Both had assumed they were going to inherit her fortune, as they were her closest relatives. But one day, during a visit of Elinor and Roddy to their aunt, Roddy falls in love with Mary Gerrard and breaks her engagement to Elinor. As from that moment events take an unexpected turn. Mrs Welman dies intestate and Elinor, as next of kin, becomes her sole heir. Shortly after, Mary dies poisoned and Elinor seems to be the only person who has a motive, the opportunity and the means for having done so. Dr. Lord, who is attracted to Elinor, resorts to Hercule Poirot to unmask the real culprit in order to prove her innocence.

Sad Cypress has quite an original structure. The story is being told in three parts. The first one relates the facts that end up with the death by poisoning of Mary Gerrard and with the subsequent imprisonment of Elinor Carlisle considered the main suspect of the crime. The second revolves around the investigation carried by Poirot, mainly through his conversations with those involved in the plot. Finally, the third part takes place almost entirely in the courtroom. All these make it possible to maintain the attention of the reader and, in essence, the novel ends up being quite entertaining. Likewise its resolution turns out fairly convincing. Probably the biggest drawback of the story, in my view, has to do with the way in which Poirot arrives to solve the mystery. It has very much reminded me the way a magician pulls a rabbit out of his top hat. Maybe for this reason Sad Cypress is not ranked among Agatha Christie’s best novels.

My rating: B (I really liked it)

Sad Cypress has been reviewed at Reactions to Reading (Bernadette) In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel (The Puzzle Doctor), Mysteries in Paradise (Kerrie), BooksPlease (Margaret), Clothes In Books (Moira Redmond),

HarperCollins publishers

Agatha Christie Official Website 

Notes On Sad Cypress

Un triste ciprés de Ágata Christie

un triste cipres Elinor Carlisle comparece ante el juez acusada de haber envenenado a Mary Gerrard. Después de unos minutos de silencio, durante los cuales su abogado teme que pudiera declararse culpable, Elinor se declara inocente. La historia había comenzado hace aproximadamente un año, cuando Elinor recibió una carta anónima advirtiéndole que alguien estaba decidido a ocupar su puesto en el afecto de su tía Laura Welman. La señora Welman sufría de movilidad reducida debido a un derrame cerebral y vivía en su propia casa con la ayuda de su ama de llaves la señora Bishop, un par de enfermeras, las enfermeras Hopkins y O’Brien, y bajo el cuidado del doctor Peter Lord, un joven médico. Además, Mary Gerrard, la hija del portero de la finca, tenía la costumbre de hacerle una visita todos los días. María estaba muy agradecida a la Sra Welman por haberle pagado sus estudios. Elinor, a su vez, tenía la intención de casarse con Roddy Welman, a quien conocía desde la infancia. Roddy era el sobrino del fallecido Sr. Welman, el marido de su tía. Ambos habían asumido que iban a heredar su fortuna, dado que eran sus parientes más cercanos. Pero un día, durante una visita de Elinor y Roddy a su tía, Roddy se enamora de Mary Gerrard y rompe su compromiso con Elinor. A partir de ese momento los acontecimientos toman un giro inesperado. La señora Welman muere intestada y Elinor, como pariente más próximo, se convierte en su única heredera. Poco después, Mary muere envenenada y Elinor parece ser la única persona que tiene un motivo, la oportunidad y los medios para haberlo hecho. El doctor Lord, que se siente atraído por Elinor, recurre a Hércules Poirot para desenmascarar al verdadero culpable con el fin de demostrar su inocencia.

Un triste ciprés tiene una estructura bastante original. La historia está contada en tres partes. La primera se refiere a los hechos que terminan con la muerte por envenenamiento de Mary Gerrard y con el posterior encarcelamiento de Elinor Carlisle considerada la principal sospechosa del crimen. La segunda gira en torno a la investigación realizada por Poirot, principalmente a través de sus conversaciones con los implicados en la trama. Por último, la tercera parte se desarrolla casi por completo en la sala del tribunal. Todo esto hace que sea posible mantener la atención del lector y, en esencia, la novela termina siendo bastante entretenida. Del mismo modo su resolución resulta bastante convincente. Probablemente, el mayor inconveniente de la historia, en mi opinión, tiene que ver con la forma en que Poirot llega a resolver el misterio. Me ha recordado mucho la forma en que un mago saca un conejo de su chistera. Tal vez por esta razón Un triste ciprés no se encuentra entre las mejores novelas de Agatha Christie.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó mucho)

9 thoughts on “Review: Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

  1. It’s certainly not the most convincing solution Christie devised, José Ignacio. I agree that she did others more successfully. For me, one important appeal of the book is in its portrayal of someone accused of murder, and what that person might be experiencing.

    1. Thanks for your comment Margot. What I found extremely interesting about this book is the fact that, the main character, Elinor feels that she is guilty. Undoubtedly she would have like to kill Mary herself although she would have been unable to do it. Her guilty conscience is evident from the first lines when her defence lawyer is afraid she’s going to lose her nerves and plead guilty. And certainly Christie provides an excellent portrait of her. Maybe I should have emphasized this point.

  2. Like you, this is a book I remember admiring more than liking – it is an interesting one, but not a favourite. The TV version with David Suchet is one of the better 2-hour adaptations he made of the Poirot books (which were mostly rather variable, especially in the later years).

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