Lord Edgware Dies: Wikis

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Lord Edgware Dies  
Lord Edgware Dies First Edition Cover 1933.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Lambart
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date September 1933
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN NA
Preceded by The Thirteen Problems
Followed by The Hound of Death

Lord Edgware Dies is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in September 1933[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year under the title of Thirteen at Dinner.[2][3] The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6)[1] and the US edition at $2.00.[3] The novel features Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp.

Contents

Plot summary

Jane Wilkinson, an actress, is suspected of murdering her husband, the fourth Baron Edgware, so that she can marry the Duke of Merton. The plot begins with Jane asking Poirot to convince her husband to agree to a divorce. When Poirot reluctantly does so, Edgware says that he has already agreed to a divorce and written a letter to Jane informing her of the fact. When Poirot reports this to Jane, she denies ever having received such a letter.

On the night of the murder, Wilkinson supposedly goes to the Edgware house, announces herself to the butler, and goes into her husband's study. The next day, Lord Edgware is found murdered and Chief Inspector Japp tells Poirot all about it. But in that morning's newspaper, they discover an article about a dinner party that was held the previous evening where Jane Wilkinson was reportedly a guest.

At the party, there were thirteen guests at the dinner table. One guest mentioned that thirteen people at table means bad luck for the first guest to rise from the table (hence the alternative title of the book Thirteen At Dinner) and Jane Wilkinson was the first to rise. Among the guests is an actor named Donald Ross, who spent a lot of the evening speaking with Jane. So the police are, at first, baffled with the case, as is Poirot.

On the same morning as Lord Edgware's murder, comedienne/actress Carlotta Adams, who is known for her uncanny impersonations, is found dead due to an overdose of Veronal. A mysterious gold case with the sleeping powder in it is found among her possessions. The case bears an inscription reading: "From D, Paris, November". Poirot tries to decode this and arranges the evidence together.

A few days later, Jane makes an appearance at another dinner party where the guests talk about Paris of Troy. However, the Jane Wilkinson at this dinner party is thinking that the guests, again including actor Donald Ross, are referring to the city in France. Ross can't understand this because, at the party on the night of the murder, Jane was speaking knowledgeably about the mythological Paris. Ross goes to ring up Poirot about his discovery, but before he can say what he discovered, he is stabbed.

In the conclusion to the book, Jane Wilkinson really is the murderer, having paid Carlotta Adams to impersonate her at the party on the night she killed Lord Edgware. Jane's motive for killing Lord Edgware was because the Duke of Merton was an Anglo-Catholic and didn't want to marry a divorced woman. In the last chapter, she writes a letter to Poirot before her execution and tells him how she committed the crime.

With her made up alibi in place, Jane simply takes a taxi to the Edgware house and murders her husband. Later, she and Carlotta meet up in a hotel where they toast Carlotta's successful "performance" and ostensibly so Jane can pay Carlotta. However, Jane slips Veronal into Carlotta's drink, effectively killing her. Jane also discovers a letter Carlotta has written to her sister and is panicked by how Carlotta talks openly in the letter about their arrangement. However, Jane believes she sees a way she can use the letter to her advantage. At the top left hand corner of the second page is the word "she" (referring to Jane paying Carlotta to take her place at the party). Jane tears off the 's' leaving the word 'he'. (Though Poirot initially wonders about the torn corner during his investigation, using his "little grey cells" he eventually figures it out.) Jane then puts the remaining Veronal phials inside the gold case to make it look as if Carlotta was a Veronal addict. Jane ordered the gold case the week prior, which Poirot discovers when he questions the engravers. He further realises that "November" was engraved on the case specifically to throw him off. Unbeknownst to Jane, Carlotta had been knowledgeable about Greek Mythology, so she talked a lot about the subject with Donald Ross. At the second dinner party, Jane realizes she's made a mistake about Paris and has to kill Donald Ross to prevent him from telling Poirot about his discovery that the Jane at the party (on the night of the murder) was not really Jane, but Carlotta Adams.

Literary significance and reception

The Times Literary Supplement of September 21, 1933 reviewed the book positively, commenting on the fact that "it was the chance remark of a stranger in the street that put him on the right track. Three such murders, however, are enough to tax the powers of the most superhuman sleuth, and we do not grudge him one stroke of good fortune."[4]

Isaac Anderson concluded his review in the September 24, 1933 issue of The New York Times Book Review by saying, "This story presents a most ingenious crime puzzle and a still more ingenious solution, all set forth with the consummate skill of which Agatha Christie is mistress."[5]

Robert Barnard: "Deals with a social/artistic milieu rather off Christie's usual beat: aristocrats, actresses, socialites, rich Jews. The anti-Semitism is more muted than in the early thrillers, but still leaves a nasty taste (this is the last book in which it obtrudes). Otherwise clever and unusual, with the Hastings/Poirot relationship done less crudely than usual."[6]

References to other works

In chapter 7, Poirot mentions that once he found a clue, but since it was four feet long instead of four centimeters nobody would believe in it. This is probably a reference to a situation which occurred in The Murder on the Links, where Poirot found a piece of lead-piping which he concluded will be used to disfigure the victim's face so that it would be unrecognizable. Nevertheless, the artifact was described in that novel as a piece of two feet long lead-piping, not a piece of four feet.

In chapter 25, Hastings tells Donald Ross that Poirot has left for an appointment relating to his investigation of another case, "the strange disappearance of an Ambassador's boots". When Poirot returns from the appointment, he tells Hastings that it was a case of cocaine smuggling, and that he had spent the last hour in a ladies' beauty parlor. This case sounds identical to the one in the Tommy and Tuppence story "The Ambassador's Boots" from "Partners in Crime", 1929, except that Poirot mentions a girl with red hair (Hastings is often described by Poirot as partial to redheads), while the girl in "The Ambassador's Boots" has blonde hair, or black hair when in disguise.

References to actual history, geography and current science

The character of Carlotta Adams was based on the American dramatist Ruth Draper (1884–1956). In her Autobiography, Christie says, “I thought how clever she was and how good her impersonations were; the wonderful way she could transform herself from a nagging wife to a peasant girl kneeling in a cathedral. Thinking about her led me to the book Lord Edgware Dies.”[7] In writing this, Christie forgot that she had previously used the Draper idea in the short story The Dead Harlequin, published in The Mysterious Mr. Quin (1930), where the character was called Aspasia Glen and was the murderer’s accomplice, rather than the victim.

In chapter 7 inspector Japp mentions the Elizabeth Canning case which was a real kidnapping case occurred in London in 1753. Such case created a lot of sensation in its time due to the inconsistencies of the victim's declarations and the alibis of the perpetrators. Japp mentions this case due to the particular fact that the suspect was seen at two places at the same time. In the novel the suspect, Lady Edgware, was seen at a dinner party at the time that she was seen visiting the victim; whereas in the Canning case the suspect, Mary Squires, was seen traveling during the time that Elizabeth Canning said she had her imprisoned.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

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Lord Edgware Dies (1934)

The novel was first adapted in 1934 as an eighty-minute film directed by Henry Edwards for Real Art Productions. The film was the third to star Austin Trevor in the role of Poirot after his appearances in Alibi and Black Coffee, both in 1931.

Thirteen at Dinner (1985)

The novel was then adapted for an eighty-seven minute TV movie in 1985 starring Peter Ustinov in one of his six appearances as Poirot. The production was made under the US book title of Thirteen at Dinner and co-starred Faye Dunaway in the dual role of Jane Wilkinson and Carlotta Adams. The story was updated to be set in contemporary times and not in the 1930s. Acting the part of inspector Japp of Scotland Yard was David Suchet.

Agatha Christie's Poirot (2000)

The book was adapted by Carnival Films as a one-hundred-and-twenty minute drama and transmitted on ITV in the UK on Saturday, February 19, 2000 as a special episode in their series Agatha Christie's Poirot.This version as extremely faithful to the the novel, only deviating by including series regular Miss Felicity Lemon.

Adapator: Anthony Horowitz
Director: Brian Farnham

Cast:

Publication history

  • 1933, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1933, Hardcover, 256 pp
  • 1933, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1933, Hardcover, 305 pp
  • 1944, Dell Books (New York), Paperback, (Dell number 60 [mapback]), 224 pp
  • 1948, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 685), 251 pp
  • 1954, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
  • 1969, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover
  • 1970, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 255 pp
  • 1970, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 380 pp ISBN 0-85-456479-9
  • 2007, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1933 UK first edition), February 5, 2007, Hardcover, 256 pp ISBN 0-00-724022-8

The book was first serialised in the U.S. in The American Magazine in six installments from March (Volume CXV, Number 3) to August 1933 (Volume CXVI, Number 2) as 13 for Dinner with illustrations by Weldon Trench.

Book dedication

The dedication of the book reads:
"To Dr. and Mrs. Campbell Thompson"

Reginald Campbell Thompson (August 21, 1876 - May 23, 1941), married to Barbara, was an eminent British archaeologist and the second expedition leader to employ Christie's husband Max Mallowan to work on one of his digs. The offer of work came in 1930 when Mallowan’s current employer, Leonard Woolley, was proving difficult over his proposed marriage to Agatha and their wish that she should join her husband on the dig at Ur although the real opposition came from Leonard's difficult wife, Katharine (see the dedication to The Thirteen Problems).

Thompson’s dig was at Nineveh and Max joined the team there in September 1931 followed the next month by Agatha. The invitation was only confirmed after the Mallowans had joined Thompson for a weekend in the country near Oxford where they were subjected to a cross-country scramble on "the wettest day possible over rough country" followed by another test to ensure that neither Agatha nor Max were fussy eaters. These were to ensure that both could withstand the rigours of a season in the wilds of Iraq. Used to walking over Dartmoor and having a very healthy appetite, Agatha passed the tests with flying colours.[8] The relationship between the Mallowans and the Thompsons was far more relaxed than it had been with the Woolleys. The only source of contention was that Thompson was notoriously frugal with money and questioned every expense. Horses were a vital part of the expedition but Thompson only bought poor, badly-trained animals. He nevertheless insisted that Max ride them with skill as to fall off one would mean that "not a single workman will have a scrap of respect for you".[9] Christie’s clash with Thompson in regards to this facet of his character was over her insistence on purchasing a solid table to place her typewriter on in order that she could complete her next book. Not seeing why she couldn't use orange boxes, Thompson was aghast at her personal expenditure of ten pounds on a table at a local bazaar (although Max’s recollection in his Memoirs was that three pounds was the sum.[10]) and he took some two weeks to recover his temper over this 'extravagance'. After this though, he made frequent polite enquiries over the progress of the book, Lord Edgware Dies, which was dedicated to him and his wife. A skeleton found on the dig was named 'Lord Edgware'.[11] A singular honour that Christie bestowed on the Thompsons was to read aloud the manuscript of the book to them, something that she normally only ever did to her family[12] (See External Links below).

Dustjacket blurb

The blurb on the inside flap of the dustjacket of the first edition (which is also repeated opposite the title page) reads:

"Supper at the Savoy! Hercule Poirot, the famous little detective, was enjoying a pleasant little supper party there as the guest of Lady Edgware, formerly Jane Wilkinson, a beautiful young American actress. During the conversation Lady Edgware speaks of the desirability of getting rid of her husband. Lord Edgware, since he refuses to divorce her, and she wants to marry the Duke of Merton. M. Poirot jocularly replies that getting rid of husbands is not his speciality. Within twenty-four hours, however, Lord Edgware dies. This amazing story once more reveals Agatha Christie as the perfect teller of Detective stories. It will be difficult indeed to lay down the book until one learns the true solution of the mystery."

References

  1. ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 14)
  2. ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction - the collector's guide: Second Edition (Pages 82 and 86) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
  3. ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
  4. ^ The Times Literary Supplement September 21, 1933 (Page 633)
  5. ^ ''The New York Times Book Review September 24, 1933 (Page 25)
  6. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie - Revised edition (Page 196). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743
  7. ^ Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography. (Page 437). Collins, 1977. ISBN 0-00-216012-9.
  8. ^ An Autobiography. (Pages 451-2).
  9. ^ An Autobiography. (Page 454).
  10. ^ Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie, A Biography. (Page 201) Collins, 1984 ISBN 0-00-216330-6
  11. ^ An Autobiography. (Pages 454-5).
  12. ^ An Autobiography. (Page 460).

External links


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