Fourteen guests-including Hercule Poirot-arrive for a lavish feast at an isolated estate. Only a few will be alive for dessert.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: Three Star Tragedy, December 28, 2001 Reviewer: pottermack from Chifley, A.C.T. Australia One of Agatha Christie's occasional flaws is that her desire to bamboozle the reader leads her to discard probability and possibility, to neglect the human side of the equation, and to produce a solution, which, although surprising, is nevertheless unconvincing. Three Act-Tragedy (1935) and Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) are examples of this-a pity because both books have interesting personages, well-drawn depictions of a particular society (here the demi-monde; an archaeological dig in the other), and a particular tone (light and amusing in the style of Anthony Berkeley in the one; in the other, an ominous atmosphere quite unlike anything else Agatha Christie ever wrote). But the solutions to both are wholly incredible: the reader of Murder in Mesopotamia is expected to believe that a highly observant and intelligent woman is utterly blind to the disguise adopted by her murderer; while Three-Act Tragedy offers an utterly murderer who commits three crimes, two of which are wholly superfluous, tripling the risk of detection to no benefit. The impossible murders themselves are by nicotine, "an odourless liquid, ...[of which] a few drops are enough to kill a man almost instantaneously", and which can be derived from rose-spraying liquid and from ordinary tobacco. The first victim is a particularly mild and benevolent parson, who is killed at a party given by the actor Sir Charles Cartwright (who suspects murder). The guests include the impoverished Lady Mary Lytton Gore and her daughter 'Egg', nee Hermione; the actress Angela Sutcliffe, Sir Charles' former lover; the dress-maker Cynthia Dacres (with whose salon L.W.T., maker of the POIROT televison series, would have a great deal of fun) and her drunken husband; the playwright Muriel Wills; and the journalist Oliver Manders, in love with 'Egg'. The regular reader of Christie, however, will recognise both Hercule Poirot, who is bored, only begins to function on p. 117, and is staying (for some unknown reason) at the Ritz; and Mr. Satterthwaite, known to the reader from the excellent short story collection The Mysterious Mr. Quin. Both of these sleuths, with the assistance of Sir Charles and 'Egg' Lytton Gore, assist in the detection of the crime-but it is, however, only Hercule Poirot who is not taken in by the stage trappings, who "see[s] only the facts without any dramatic trappings or footlights". The second victim is the nerve specialist Sir Bartholomew Strange, killed at a party in Yorkshire, attended by the same people (with the exception of Poirot, Sir Charles, and Mr. Satterthwaite, who are all in France); his butler goes missing, and the clue of an ink-stain on the floor of his room leads to the discovery of blackmail letters and the possibility of his murder. While certainly not one of Christie's best, the reader may still find entertainment in the book (and doesn't have to put up with Peter Ustinov's over-acting and a horde of bad actors loose in Mexico).