We begin our story as Hercule Poirot is attending an exhibition of snuff boxes with many London society people. He meets an acquaintance, Mr. Shaitana, and has an interesting little discussion about collectibles and murderers. Mr. Shaitana, who is famous for wonderful and interesting parties, invites Poirot to dinner and promises that the evening will showcase a 'collection' of a very different kind.
Poirot arrives for dinner and finds himself not the only guest that is connected with crime in some way. There are four 'crime solvers' - Poirot, Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, Colonel Race - Secret Service or MI6 or whatever that branch is called in the 1930's, and also Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, crime fiction writer. In a few minutes, the other guests arrive - Dr. Roberts, Mrs. Lorrimer, Miss Meredith, and Major Despard. These people represent the other side of the coin. Mr. Shaitana has hinted to Poirot that he collects 'murderers' - the ones that got away with it.
Dinner is served and afterwards, the guests divide up to play bridge - sleuths in one room and possible criminals in the other. Mr. Shaitana sits in a chair by the fire and as the evening goes on, well, Mr. Shaitana is murdered. Who did it and how can no one have seen? Our task as readers is to go along with the investigation in which all of our crime solvers take a part. They have to suss out not only the murderer of Mr. Shaitana, but also decide if his suspicions were correct. Were their fellow guests murderers?
I listened to this book, but I have read Cards On The Table in print as well. Christie uses the bridge scores to assist in solving the crime and the book shows those scores as a visual aid. I know nothing about bridge, but it's not hard to follow Poirot as he questions people using the score sheets. Each sleuth has their own method. Battle appears slightly slow and dull, and he is anything but that. Colonel Race is the one shown least, as befits a spy, I suppose. I love Mrs. Oliver and love the books where she appears. Her character is humorous and shrewder than one might expect. It's not hard to surmise that the author put a bit of herself into the character. I've always wondered if Christie liked apples as much as Mrs. Oliver. She wrote in an introduction to the book:
Spot the least likely person to have committed the crime and nine times out of ten your task is finished.
Since I do not want my faithful readers to fling away this book in disgust, I prefer to warn them beforehand that this is not that kind of book. There are only four starters and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime....The deduction, therefore must be entirely psychological...
So, if you'd like an Agatha Christie book that will keep you guessing, pick up Cards On The Table. It a good 'un!