Death In the Clouds by Agatha Christie
The September sun beat down hotly on Le Bourget aerodrome as the passengers crossed the ground and climbed into the air liner Prometheus, due to depart for Croydon in a few minutes' time.
Jane Grey was among the last to enter and take her seat, No. 16. Some of the passengers had already passed through the centre door past the tiny pantry-kitchen and the two toilets to the front car. Most people were already seated. On the opposite side of the gangway there was a good deal of chatter--a rather shrill high-pitched woman's voice dominating it. Jane's lips twisted slightly. She knew that particular type of voice so well.
'My dear--it's extraordinary--no idea--Where, do you say? Juan Le Pins? Oh, yes. No--Le Pinet--Yes, just the same old crowd--But of course let's sit together. Oh, can't we? Who--? Oh, I see...'
And then a man's voice--foreign, polite:
'With the greatest of pleasure, Madame'.'
Jane stole a glance out of the corner of her eye.
A little elderly man with large moustaches and an egg-shaped head was politely moving himself and his belongings from the seat corresponding to Jane's on the opposite side of the gangway.
As part of my R.I.P. reading I knew I must listen or read at least one Agatha Christie book, and I selected one of my favorites, Death In the Clouds. This was narrated wonderfully by Hugh Fraser, who played Captain Hastings in the TV adaptations of Christie's books opposite David Suchet as Poirot. This book was originally published in 1935 and the air travel described was quite different in many ways to ours. It was more luxurious and also less, of course.
In this book, our intrepid detective is not quite as attentive as usual owing to his stomach troubles or airsickness. A woman dies during the flight from Paris to London, though she has been deceased for a while before anyone notices. It turns out the lady was a well-known moneylender. I love 'locked-room' mysteries and this one qualifies - only the passengers on the airplane could have killed the woman. Or could she have died of natural causes? Well, of course not. What would be the need for Poirot in that case? Lots of theories develop - stung by a wasp or poisoned by a thorn administered through a blowpipe? Each of these seems impossible, though a blowpipe is found. I enjoyed coming along for the ride as Hercule Poirot solves the case. A definite 'comfort' read for me (and yes, comfort reads can contain a murder!) - ha!
From seat No. 9, Hercule Poirot was ideally placed to observe his fellow air passengers on the short flight from Paris to London. Over to his right sat a pretty young woman, clearly infatuated with the man opposite; ahead, in seat No. 13, sat a countess with a poorly concealed cocaine habit; across the gangway in seat No. 8, a writer of detective fiction was being troubled by an aggressive wasp.
Yes, Poirot is almost ideally placed to take it all in, except what he did not yet realize was that behind him, in seat No. 2, sat the slumped, lifeless body of a woman. Murdered, and likely by someone in Poirot’s immediate proximity.