Review: Murder in Mesopotamia, 1936 (Hercule Poirot #12) by Agatha Christie

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HarperCollins, 2016, Format Kindle Edition. File Size: 1280 KB. Print Length: 355 pages. First published in Great Britain by Collins 1936. ASIN: B004APA542. eISBN: 97800074222500.

9780008164874Synopsis: When Amy Leatheran travels to an ancient site in the Iraqi desert to nurse the wife of a celebrated archaeologist, events prove stranger than she has ever imagined. Her patient’s bizarre visions and nervous terror seem unfounded, but as the oppressive tension in the air thickens, events come to a terrible climax – in murder. With one spot of blood as his only clue, Hercule Poirot must embark on a journey across the desert to unravel a mystery which taxes even his remarkable powers.

More about this story: Full of rich detail from Christie’s own travels in the Middle East, Murder in Mesopotamia sees Poirot on an archaeological expedition, not unlike those her author attended. It isn’t long before a murder interrupts the progress of the dig and Nurse Leatheran requests Poirot’s assistance. By 1936, Christie had frequently travelled with her husband Max Mallowan on his archaeological digs. The cast of characters in Murder in Mesopotamia is largely derived from the people she met, including the fierce and determined Katherine Woolley, who first introduced the couple, and whose tempestuous nature is likely to have inspired the victim in the novel. Robin Macartnay who acted as draughtsman on the Mallowan’s own digs, illustrated the jacket for the Collins Crime Club edition.

My take: Amy Leatheran, a professional nurse, on a recommendation from Dr Giles Reilly is hired by Dr Erich Leidner, a Sweden American archaeologist, to assist his wife Louise who, in her husband’s words, has ‘fancies‘. This Dr Leidner is digging up a mound out in the desert somewhere for some American museum. The expedition house is actually not very far from Hassanieh in a place called Tell Yarimjah. Mrs Leidner, a lovely lady, is subject to frequent changes on her mood. Her husband honestly believes that she fears for her life for some unknown reason. A few days after the nurse arrival to Tell Yarimjah, Mrs Leidner is found dead in her room, murdered by a violent blow to the head with a blunt object. However, an object of this kind is nowhere to be seen. Moreover all the windows are barred an the only door to the room opens on to a central yard at plain sight of everyone. And, even worst, it all points out to an inside job. Several members of the expedition ensure that nobody from the outside has entered or left the site at that time. It is therefore a locked room mystery or, as I prefer to call it, an impossible crime. Fortunately Hercule Poirot is in Syria at the time and will be passing through Hassanieh on his way to Baghdad tomorrow. Poirot is a close friend to Dr Reilley, who is sure that Poirot won’t turn down an invitation to investigate given the peculiar characteristics of this case. The story is told by nurse Leatheran herself, who also performs the role of Poirot assistant in the story. 

Murder in Mesopotamia is the twelfth novel in the Poirot canon. I first read it, probably over fifty-five years ago. Given the time elapsed, I couldn’t remember anything of the plot. What I do remember is that it left me with quite favourable impression. Unfortunately the story has not fulfil my expectations at present. Puzzle Doctor, in his blog In Search of a Classical Mystery Novel, sums it up very well, in my view, saying ‘dull characters, unlikely method and really stupid motive’ Fairly disappointing..  

My rating: C ( My expectations have not been met)

Murder in Mesopotamia has been reviewed at Joyfully Retired, Mysteries in Paradise and  In Search of a Classical Mystery Novel among others.

Harper Collins UK publicity page

Harper Collins US publicity page

Agatha Christie Official Website

Notes On Murder in Mesopotamia

Pezzati, .Alex”Murder in Mesopotamia” Expedition Magazine 44.1 (March 2002)


Asesinato en Mesopotamia de Agatha Christie

Sinopsis: Cuando Amy Leatheran viaja hasta un antiguo emplazamiento en el desierto iraquí para cuidar a la mujer de un célebre arqueólogo, los acontecimientos resultan más extraños de lo que ella jamás haya imaginado. Las extrañas alucinaciones  y el intranquilo temor de su paciente parecen infundados, pero a medida que aumenta la opresiva tensión en el ambiente, los acontecimientos llegan a su terrible clímax con un asesinato. Hercules Poirot debe embarcarse en un viaje por el desierto para desentrañar un misterio que grava incluso a sus considerables facultades, con una mancha de sangre como única pista..

Más sobre esta historia:  Lleno de ricos detalles de los propios viajes de Christie por el Medio Oriente, Asesinato en Mesopotamia nos muestra a Poirot en una expedición arqueológica, no muy diferente de aquellas en las que participó su autora. Poco tiempo después de que un asesinato interrumpe la marcha de una excavación, la enfermera Leatheran solicita la ayuda de Poirot. Antes de 1936, Christie había viajado frecuentemente con su marido Max Mallowan a sus excavaciones arqueológicas. El elenco de personajes en Asesinato en Mesopotamia proceden en gran medida de las personas que conoció, incluyendo la apasionada y determinada Katherine Woolley, que inicialmente presentó a la pareja, y cuyo tempestuoso carácter  es probable que inspirara a la víctima de la novela. Robin Macartnay, que participó como dibujante en las propias excavaciones de Mallowan, hizo las ilustraciones para la cubierta de la edición publicada por Collins para el Crime Club.

Mi opinión: Amy Leatheran, una enfermera profesional, por recomendación del Dr. Giles Reilly es contratada por el Dr. Erich Leidner, un arqueólogo estadounidense de origen sueco, para ayudar a su esposa Louise, quien, según las palabras de su marido, sufre de “fantasías“. Este Dr. Leidner está excavando un montículo en algún lugar del desierto para algún museo americano. La casa de la expedición en verdad no está muy lejos de Hassanieh en un lugar llamado Tell Yarimjah. La señora Leidner, una señora encantadora, sufre frecuentes cambios en su estado de ánimo. Su marido cree honestamente que teme por su vida por algun motivo desconocido. Unos días después de la llegada de la enfermera a Tell Yarimjah, la señora Leidner es encontrada muerta en su habitación, asesinada por un violento golpe en la cabeza con un objeto contundente. Sin embargo, un objeto de este tipo no se encuentra por ninguna parte. Además, todas las ventanas están cerradas y la única puerta de la habitación se abre a un patio central a la vista de todos. Y, peor aún, todo apunta a un trabajo interior. Varios miembros de la expedición aseguran que nadie del exterior ha entrado o salido del sitio en ese momento. Por lo tanto, es un misterio de habitación cerrada o, como prefiero llamarlo, un crimen imposible. Afortunadamente Hercules Poirot se encuentra en Siria en ese momento y pasará por Hassanieh de camino a Bagdad mañana. El Dr. Reilley cree que no podrá rechazar una invitación para investigar este caso, dadas sus peculiares características. La historia está narrada por la propia enfermera Leatheran, a petición del Dr. Reilly. Miss Leatharan también colaborará como asistente de Poirot en el caso.

Asesinato en Mesopotamia es la duodécima novela en el canon de Poirot. La leí por primera vez, probablemente hace más de cincuenta y cinco años. Dado el tiempo transcurrido, no podía recordar nada de la trama. Lo que sí recuerdo es que me dejó una impresión bastante favorable. Desafortunadamente la historia no ha cumplido mis expectativas en la actualidad. Puzzle Doctor, en su blog In Search of a Classical Mystery Novel, lo resume muy bien diciendo ‘personajes aburridos, método poco probable y motivo realmente estúpido’ Bastante decepcionante.

Mi valoración: C (No se han cumplido mis expectativas)

Serie Negra

15 thoughts on “Review: Murder in Mesopotamia, 1936 (Hercule Poirot #12) by Agatha Christie”

  1. I agree, José Ignacio, that this is not Christie’s best work. I liked it, I think, better than you did. Still, I agree with you that it isn’t as involving as some of her other work.

  2. Haha, I seem to be alone in loving this. But then it was the first locked room I remember reading, and, well, my affinity for a locked room mystery is fairly well-documented by now. I also thought the setting was both superbly observed and yet also superbly false in that “country house” way — it would have been quite an exotic thing at the time, reading about these foreign climes, and Christie does a very, very good job of making it easy to picture and understand.

    I often wonder how much of that gets lost as the years pass — we now know what it’s like to (say) take an international flight or travel around a foreign country, and so we can look back at this kind of work with a faint disdain because it simplifies or mollifies aspects of that experience. But for Christie’s readers this would have been a completely new experience, and have added to the thril of the mystery. To make that background clear and familiar, and to not use the lack of familiarity to unfairly sneak some key aspect past your readers, shows someone doing excellent work, in my opnion.

    Sorry — didn’t mean to go on!

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