Lord Edgware Dies
|Lord Edgware Dies|
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
|Publisher||Collins Crime Club|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||256 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The Thirteen Problems|
|Followed by||The Hound of Death|
Lord Edgware Dies is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie, published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in September 1933 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year under the title of Thirteen at Dinner. Before its book publication, the novel was serialised in six issues (March–August 1933) of The American Magazine as 13 For Dinner. The novel features Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp.
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Literary significance and reception
- 3 References to other works
- 4 References to actual history, geography and current science
- 5 Adaptations
- 6 Publication history
- 7 International titles
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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 Lady Edgware 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 informs Poirot. Numerous friends and acquaintances of Jane have described her as amoral, someone who only thinks and cares about herself and would certainly commit a crime if it would help her get what she wants. But in that morning's newspaper, they discover an article about a dinner party that was held the previous evening where Wilkinson was 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 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 Lord Edgware's murder is discovered, comedienne/actress Carlotta Adams, known for her uncanny impersonations, including one of Wilkinson herself, is found dead from 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, 10th Sweet Dreams". Poirot tries to decode this and arranges the evidence together. A few days later, Wilkinson makes an appearance at another dinner party where several guests talk about Paris of Troy. However, the Jane Wilkinson at this dinner party thinks that the guests, again including actor Donald Ross, are referring to the French capital. 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 to death at his home; but Poirot is on the verge of solving the case, anyway.
Poirot gathers the suspects and details the trajectory of the crimes (the three murders): With Carlotta Adams impersonating Wilkinson, the real Jane took a taxi to the Edgware house, where she murdered her husband. She was overseen by her husband's secretary, whose vision and impartiality were later called into question in court. Later, Jane (in the person of "Mrs Van Dusen", an elderly American widow) and Carlotta met up in a hotel, where they toasted Carlotta's successful "performance", and (ostensibly) so that Jane could pay Carlotta. However, Jane slipped a fatal amount of Veronal into Carlotta's drink. Jane discovers a letter Carlotta had written to her sister but not yet posted, and was initially panicked by Carlotta's disclosure of the arrangement, which enabled Jane to murder her husband. However, rather than destroy the letter, as she initially intended, Jane saw a way she could use the letter to her advantage. At the top left hand corner of the second page is the word "she" (referring to Jane); she tore off the "s", leaving the word "he", making it seem a man had hired Carlotta. Jane then put the remaining Veronal inside the gold case to make it seem Carlotta was addicted to Veronal. Jane had ordered the gold case the week prior (as "Mrs Van Dusen"), which Poirot discovered when he questioned the engravers. Poirot realiseed that "November" was engraved on the case specifically to throw him off. Carlotta had been knowledgeable about Greek mythology, so she talked about the subject with Donald Ross that fateful night. At the second dinner party, Jane realised she'd made a potentially very serious mistake, left the party, and headed to Ross's home to kill him before he could tell Poirot. Her motive for killing Lord Edgware was this: the wealthy Duke of Merton is an Anglo-Catholic and would not marry a divorced woman; a widow, however, is a different matter. In the last chapter, she writes a letter to Poirot, remarkably devoid of any animosity, which ends with her wondering why hangings are not done in public any more.
Literary significance and reception
The Times Literary Supplement of 21 September 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."
Isaac Anderson concluded his review in 24 September 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."
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."
References to other works
In chapter 7, Poirot mentions that he once found a clue, but since it was four feet long instead of four centimetres, 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 was used to disfigure the victim's face so that it would be unrecognisable. Nevertheless, the artefact was described in that novel as a piece of lead-piping only two feet long.
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.” 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, Chief 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 Lady Edgware was seen at a dinner party at the time that she was also seen visiting the victim; whereas in the Canning case the suspect, Mary Squires, was seen travelling during the time that Elizabeth Canning said she had her imprisoned.
John Moffatt starred as Poirot in a five-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation by Michael Blakewell directed by Enyd Williams and also starring Simon Williams as Captain Hastings and Nicola Pagett as Jane Wilkinson.
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. David Suchet played Chief Inspector Japp; Suchet would later play Poirot himself on the long-running ITV series.
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, 19 February 2000 as a special episode in their series Agatha Christie's Poirot. This version is very faithful to the novel, however some minor changes were made such as:
- The character of Miss Felicity Lemon added.
- The inscription of the box edited.
- The name of Jenny Driver changed to Penny Driver.
- A side plot was added, regarding the disappearance of some francs from Lord Edgware's safe.
Adaptor: Anthony Horowitz
Director: Brian Farnham
- David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
- Hugh Fraser as Captain Arthur Hastings
- Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp
- Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon
- Helen Grace as Jane Wilkinson/Lady Edgware
- John Castle as Lord Edgware
- Fiona Allen as Carlotta Adams
- Dominic Guard as Bryan Martin
- Fenella Woolgar as Ellis
- Deborah Cornelius as Penny Driver
- Hannah Yelland as Geraldine Marsh
- Tim Steed as Ronald Marsh
- Lesley Nightingale as Miss Carroll
- Christopher Guard as Alton
- Iain Fraser as Donald Ross
- Virginia Denham as Alice
- 1933, The American Magazine, serialised in six issues (March–August 1933) as 13 For Dinner
- Illustrations by Weldon Trench
- 1933, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1933, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1933, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1933, Hardcover, 305 pp
- The US edition retailed at $2.00.
- 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 0-85456-479-9
- 2007, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1933 UK first edition), 5 February 2007, Hardcover, 256 pp; ISBN 0-00-724022-8
The dedication of the book reads:
To Dr. and Mrs. Campbell Thompson
Reginald Campbell Thompson (21 August 1876 – 23 May 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 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 Woolley'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.
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". 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 own memoir was that three pounds was the sum.) 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'. 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(See External Links below).
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."
- Czech: Smrt lorda Edgwarea (The Death of Lord Edgware)
- Dutch: Lord Edgware sterft (Lord Edgware Dies)
- Estonian: Lord Edgeware'i surm (The Death of Lord Edgware)
- Finnish: Lordin kuolema (Death of the lord)
- French: Le couteau sur la nuque (The Knife on the Nape of the Neck)
- German: Dreizehn bei Tisch (Thirteen at the Table)
- Hungarian: Az áruló szemüveg (The Glasses That Tell), Lord Edgware rejtélyes halála (The Mysterious Death of Lord Edgware), Lord Edgware meghal (Lord Edgware Dies)
- Italian: Se morisse mio marito (If My Husband Died)
- Indonesian: Matinya Lord Edgware (The Death of Lord Edgware)
- Japanese: エッジウェア卿の死 (The Death of Lord Edgware)
- Norwegian: Tretten til bords (Thirteen at the table)
- Polish: Śmierć lorda Edgware'a (The Death of Lord Edgware)
- Portuguese (Portugal): A Morte de Lorde Edgware (The Death of Lord Edgware)
- Portuguese (Brazil): Treze À Mesa (Thirteen at the Table)
- Romanian: 13 la cină (13 at Dinner)
- Russian: Смерть лорда Эджвера (=Smert' lorda Ejvera, Lord Edgware's Death), Смерть лорда Эдвера (=Smert' lorda Edvera, Lord Edware's Death)
- Spanish: La Muerte de Lord Edgware (The Death of Lord Edgware)
- Turkish: Lord Edgware'i kim öldürdü (Who killed Lord Edgware)
- Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (p. 14)
- John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (pp. 82, 86) Scholar Press. 1994; ISBN 0-85967-991-8
- American Tribute to Agatha Christie
- The Times Literary Supplement, 21 September 1933 (p. 633)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 196). Fontana Books, 1990; ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography (p. 437). Collins, 1977; ISBN 0-00-216012-9.
- An Autobiography. (pp. 451–52)
- An Autobiography (p. 454).
- Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie, A Biography (p. 201) Collins, 1984; ISBN 0-00-216330-6
- An Autobiography (pp. 454–55).
- An Autobiography (p. 460).
- Lord Edgware Dies at the official Agatha Christie website
- Lord Edgware Dies (1934) at the Internet Movie Database
- Thirteen at Dinner (1985) at the Internet Movie Database
- Lord Edgware Dies (2000) at the Internet Movie Database
- British Museum webpage on the Mallowans' work with Dr and Mrs Campbell Thompson